Madrid – a Vibrant & Cosmopolitan City
Madrid is 2 hour and 30 minute ride from Barcelona on Spain’s high-speed AVE train which travels at 217 mph. Barcelona is the launch point for many cruises around the Mediterranean or up the Atlantic coast, plus it is a popular tourist destination on its own.
Madrid is Spain’s largest city with over 3.2 million people. As the country’s capitol city, it is host to embassies from around the world which helps give Madrid its cosmopolitan feel. Madrid is a 24 x 7 bustling city. Unlike most of Spain, where restaurants open for dinner at 8 pm at the earliest, in Madrid you’ll find restaurants open all the time. It Metro (subway) makes it easy to get around the city without the need to rent a car. Plus it has some of the most beautiful old Spanish buildings, plazas, and parks.
Retiro Park – a Spanish Jewel
When I’m in Madrid and want to relax, escape from this crazy world, and get myself centered, I take a walk back in history with a Sunday afternoon stroll through Madrid’s Retiro Park. The Park was created for the Spanish monarchy and wasn’t open to the public until 1767.
My escape starts at the Metro stop at the north end of the Park. As you enter through the gates, you’ll hear and then see a band playing in the bandstand, with a hundred or so people sitting and listening to the performance. Take a few moments to enjoy the sounds, notice the happiness and smiles on the faces of those around you. It helps to disarm you and let you begin to detach from reality.
Now wander down the Paseo de la Argentina which is known as the Statue Walk. The path is lined with 18th century statues of Spain’s royalty. Look around and notice the beauty and symmetry of the boulevards. Each intersection has a fountain or sculpture. There are broad expanses of grass with children playing, adults reading a book, or groups of friends catching up on the week’s gossip. There is quiet, peace and solitude throughout the park. If you want to listen to music, you use headphones.
Now head west toward the Rose Gardens. This circular garden features over 400 different roses. May is the best time to see the garden, but the roses are in bloom for several months.
From there head west toward the unique Fallen Angel Fountain. Built in 1877 The Fallen Angel is controversial and may be the only public statue in the world dedicated to the devil. It was inspired by John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost and shows Lucifer’s expulsion. The octagonal pedestal has figures of gargoyles spouting water and gripping lizards, snakes, and fish. How appropriate is it that the statue stands 666 meters above sea level!
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