Madrid Impressions

a1DSCF0144.JPGBig city sophistication, churches, palaces, & museums, elegant boulevards, lively plazas & pedestrian ways, vibrant cafe & night life, colorful & interesting street art, expansive, manicured parks, a plethora of public and private universities and the youth and diversity that they attract … Madrid has all of this and more.

With a city population of more than three million and more than six million in the metro area, Madrid is Spain’s largest urban area.  The other European cities that are as big as this are London and Paris. Situated along the Manzanares River, Madrid dates to the times B.C. and was a walled city into the 15th century.  Now it is the capital of Spain and is home to Spain’s royal family.

Hemingway spent alot of time in Madrid and considered it “the most Spanish of all cities.”  I frequently encountered Hemingway lore — the most memorable were the frequent refrains that “Hemingway ate here ..” or “Hemingway drank here …”  —  I got a good laugh out of the “Hemingway never drank here …” posting at a place that was looking for a way to declare itself different from the crowd.  I particularly enjoyed the Atocha neighborhood where I stayed and the adjacent Lavapiés neighborhood … there was a real Bohemian feel to these areas and I could imagine them being the kind of areas that Hemingway would hang out in if he were still around today.

Following are images from my wanderings around Madrid.  Captions, when provided, appear above the related image(s) …

The symbols of Madrid are the strawberry Tree and the bear, as depicted in this statue at Puerto del Sol …a2DSCF0130.JPG

There are alot of people in Madrid …

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Dramatic statuary atop a government building …

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Santa María la Real de La Almudena is the Madrid’s cathedral.  It seems a bit plain to me compared to the design and adornment of cathedrals in other Spanish cities, but it is also relatively modern having been built from 1883-1993.

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The grand palace Palacio Real or royal palace is much more beautiful by comparison …

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The portico-lined Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol are two of the main plazas in the center of Madrid.  Just a few blocks apart, they are major gathering places.  Plaza Major figured heavily into the gory history of the Spanish Inquisition but is now ringed by cafes and shops.  Puerta del Sol is a much busier place as buses and subway lines converge here and shopping boulevards radiate from here.  Both areas are prime places in Madrid for watching the many creative buskers who ply their trade in the city …

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San Miguel Market near the Plaza Major is a beautiful structure filled with market stalls and eating places … you can read my article about Spanish food and markets here …

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Cafe life is everywhere on the picturesque streets and plazas of Madrid.  A particular favorite area of mine is the Plaza de Santa Ana where one of the city’s craft breweries is located.  You can read my story about Spanish beer here …

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All manner of foreign and ethnic places can be found …

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Interesting street art and street activities are around every corner …

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Madrid is the center of Spain’s bullfighting culture and history.  The venue of Las Ventas hosts bullfighting events on Sundays and holidays from March to October and daily during the Festival of San Isidro. e34DSCF0187.JPG

From my window five flights above the street …

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Big babies at Atocha station …

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Madrid has more trees and green space per inhabitant of any city in Europe, and maybe in the world.  The parks are well kept and just plain beautiful.  I spent most of a day in the Buen Retiro Park and the nearby Royal Botanical Gardens.  These are both near the Prado Museum.  Retiro is a huge park with shady walkways, quiet natural alcoves, relaxing cafes, and even a big lake …

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