For a while, I really had forgotten how much I love this city. All it took to bring it back, at times literally, was a six hour wander through the city on a Friday afternoon. As you know, Im space limited so for the moment, there aren't any thumbnails, but only text links to the photos. Also, the photos are much smaller because I cannot use a CD at the Internet Cafe so I have to fit them onto floppy disks. Maybe when I get home I'll be able to add the thumbnails. In the mean time, enjoy my meander and commentary. Further commentary can be found in my journal entry from 18 October.
I didn't really have a plan for my afternoon, just had vague plans to chill out in Retiro but it was too nice a day to take the Metro all the way there so I got off the Metro at Puerta del Sol which is where this statue is. Puerta del Sol is, along with Plaza Mayor, the heart of the old city, and in general a fun area. There has apparently been quite an increase in pickpocketing there, but I didnt have any trouble today. I also didnt stay there too long because apart from shopping (there is a big Corte Ingles there and lots of smaller stores) there isn't a whole lot to do there. On my way back through Sol to head home though I got a funny site. The street vendors are constantly on alert for the police and they usually clear up pretty quickly but today one wasn't fast enough..The police got him and sent his wares (CDs) flying before he could get away. Oops! Actually this guy was quite unlucky because as he was running away he ran straight into the path of the cops who were chasing another guy.
From Sol, I headed in the general direction of Retiro along Calle de la Alcala. While wandering down this street, I found this building. Ive no idea what it is, but it's one of the great examples of the really cool buildings one can find throughout Madrid. Calle de la Alcala comes to, among other things, Plaza de las Cibeles. This Plaza normally has a beautiful fountain to 'Cybele', the mother of the Gods. However, the fountain is closed for repairs, and it can be a bit disorienting if you don't realise this. Also from Cibeles, there is a beautiful view back along Calle de la Alcala to Sol. The Plaza is also home to the largest post office I have ever seen. This is good to know because if you ever want Post Restante in Madrid, this is where it will come.
After Cibeles, I took a short detour down Paseo del Prado where I found this fountain and also this Monument to Those Who Gave Their Lives. The Monument was quite nice, complete with an eternal flame. The whole Paseo del Prado--which goes, funnily enough, down as far as Museo del Prado--is quite beautiful and a definite place to go if you want to relax.
After a short walk down PdelP (I didnt go the whole way, Ive done the Prado before and I knew I could get there from Retiro anyway), I doubled back to Plaza de la Cibeles to go through the Puerta de la Alcala. This is one of those photos where people say you haven't been to Madrid if you haven't been there. I don't necessarily agree with that, but it's definitely an area worth seeing. This is the view from the other side of the Puerta, looking back towards Cibeles.
Where I was standing when I took that last photo was en la Plaza de la Independencia. Yes, Madrid has a lot of Plazas and Puertas so you cannoy just say, when asking for directions, that you're looking for the Plaza! From Independencia, you can access El Parque de Buen Retiro, otherwise known as Retiro Park. This is another of Retiro's gates, and this is a part of one of my favourite areas of Retiro. I stopped there for a bit with a book because I figured after this week, I definitely deserved some buen retiro :) People compare Retiro to NY's Central Park but when I first went in 1996 it reminded me more of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco although I can't say exactly why. In the middle of the back of that last photo you can see the back of Museo del Prado.
After leaving Retiro, I headed down Calle del Alfonso XII (don't you just love Madrid's Street Signs?) towards Atocha. I wanted to find out about getting a train this weekend for San Lorenzo de el Escorial and also find out where the train left from. Atocha is like most main cities' main station--think Waterloo/Grand Central/Umeda--and just because Madrid has a smaller population doesn't mean the station is any smaller! Throughout my wander of Madrid I saw many sites that reminded me of my last visit, but Atocha's waiting room and 'travelling man' really hit home. Possibly because I have almost those exact same photos from last trip?
I had originally planned to Metro it back from Atocha but it was still too nice out to do that so I went out and was glad Id changed my mind because I was rewarded with the site of the Ministerio de Agricultura building. I hadn't realised it, but I used the exact same exit from Atocha as we did when we came into Madrid from Fuenlabrada last time, so it was cool to have the same view. Although, the 'beer building' appears to have been turned into something else because I couldn't find it.
I headed back to Sol along c/ de Atocha and from there wandered along c/ Mayor in the general direction of Plaza Mayor--which I managed to miss :( However, I stumbled upon the Catedral de Santa Maria...It actually has a hell of a lot longer name than that but it's far too long to type. There was a Eucharist Celebration as Thanksgiving for the Cannonization on 6 October de Josemaria Escriva. Im sure it was a beautiful service but I skipped it because I would have been very underdressed. Just behind the Cathedral is the Palacio Real, one of my all time favourite sites. This shot is from the ground, this one is from the steps of the cathedral, and this is just a cool lamp, I thought.
After this area it was getting cold and dark so I decided to head back. I went through the Plaza de Espana where there is this statue of Don Quixote.From there it was an easy walk home. On the way, I had to see this, and can I tell you, I don't think I'll be able to eat meat in Spain again!
All in all it was a great 6 1/2 hour walk and it's great to be back!
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-October 18, 2002