Days 4 and 5: Madrid

On Wednesday morning we took the metro to the Sants train station where we boarded the AVE high-speed train to Madrid. What a wonderful way to travel. We zoomed along at up to 187 miles/hour in total ease. The ride was smooth and the seats were comfortable. Two hours and forty-five minutes after leaving the station in Barcelona, we pulled into Atocha train station in Madrid, make connections to the metro, and walked three additional blocks to our hotel for the next several days, The Hotel Reyes Católicos (named for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon.) I must say I’m proud of the girls for their endurance and determination. Although, the AVE train ride was a breeze, getting to the train and from the train was not. We, of course, had our luggage with us, and, for the most part, we each had to handle our own. This entailed carrying it all up and down what seemed like endless flights of stairs in multiple subway and train stations as well as wheeling it up and down hills on uneven sidewalks in both Barcelona and Madrid. But, they made it fine and with minimal complaints.

The Puerta de Toledo near our hotel in Madrid - In centuries past, it has served as the main gate for roads leading to Toledo

The Puerta de Toledo near our hotel in Madrid – In centuries past, it has served as the main gate for roads leading to Toledo

The street on which our hotel is situated

The street on which our hotel is situated

We arrived at the hotel just after noon and decided the rest of the day would be a day of rest and recovery. If you go on vacation with me, it will be jam-packed with sight-seeing, which entails a lot of walking. So, this was much needed. I got a chance to work on some blogs and we got a chance to play a few card games in the hotel. We did go out for a nice evening meal to a wonderful tapas place called Juana La Boca which sits on the Plaza Puerta de Moros. Juana La Boca (Juana the Mad) was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Her marriage to Phillip the Fair united the kingdom of Spain with the Holy Roman Empire. Her son became Charles V, who as Holy Roman Emperor, became the most powerful man in Europe. Juana was declared mad after the death of her husband and confined to a nunnery thereafter. In alliance with the madness of its namesake, the restaurant was crazy good.

The busy, busy Juana La Loca

The busy, busy Juana La Loca

The Cupola of the Iglesia de San Andrés, across from Juana La Loca

The Cupola of the Iglesia de San Andrés, across from Juana La Loca

Thursday was art day!!! It would be a marathon of art appreciation with a five-hour visit to the world-class Museo del Prado and a two-hour visit to the Reina Sofia. The Prado visit was perhaps the thing I looked most forward to on our trek to Spain. It is one of the greatest art museums in the world and perhaps contains the world’s greatest collection of European art. Among the works I was most excited to see were, Durer’s Adam and Eve (his self-portrait would have been among them, but was not available at this time), Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, Van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, and Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei. I was surprised to see Goya’s Saturn, Velázquez’s The Crucified Christ, and Ruben’s Three Graces. There are many others I could mention, but will stop so as not to bore you to death.

Walking the streets of Madrid on the way to the Prado

Walking the streets of Madrid on the way to the Prado

The Prado!

The Prado!

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Albrecht Durer's Adam and Eve

Albrecht Durer’s Adam and Eve

Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights

Fra Angelico's Annunciation

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation

Francisco de Zurbarán's Agnus Dei

Francisco de Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei

Diego Velásquez's Las Meninas

Diego Velásquez’s Las Meninas

Rogier Van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross

Rogier Van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross

We left the Prado and walked a few blocks to the Spain’s finest modern art museum, the Reina Sofia. It contains, mainly, Spanish art, including work by Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. But, its most lauded possession is Picasso’s mural sized painting of white, black, and gray called Guernica. Picasso painted this monumental work in response to the bombing of Guernica, a city in Spain, during the Spanish civil war. Since its completion, it has stood as a potent reminder to all of the horrors and devastation of war. This was the primary reason we visited the museum. Modern art, for the most part, leaves me bewildered and frustrated, but there are pieces worth seeing. Guernica was one of them.

The Museo del Jamon, an eatery festooned with ham hocks.  The Spanish are serious about their ham.

The Museo del Jamon, an eatery festooned with ham hocks. The Spanish are serious about their ham.

At the Reina Sofia

At the Reina Sofia

In the glass, exterior elevators of the Reina Sofia

In the glass, exterior elevators of the Reina Sofia

You may not guess it... or you may.. A Dalí

You may not guess it… or you may.. A Dalí

Picasso

Picasso

Photography is not allowed in the Guernica room, so I took it from across the hall. :)

Photography is not allowed in the Guernica room, so I took it from across the hall. 🙂

Guernica, from the web

Guernica, from the web

After leaving the Reina Sofia, we walked back to the hotel. The birthday girls were not very happy when I lost my way a couple of times, adding several blocks of walking onto their already tired legs. Besides the standing and walking in the museums, we walked about three miles total in our journeys. Friday would be a little less taxing.

The Real Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, as seen from our hotel window.

The Real Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, as seen from our hotel window.

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