March 21st, 2012 by Tom Smith

PrintTS small LOGOvirt_mem_275 MarchselloHere continues the story of a wonderful trip to Spain this winter.  From Barcelona I flew to Madrid.  A word about the airports here.  Barcelona’s airport is wonderful.  New, clean, slick and easy.  You can take the train into town or the bus.  And it is very close to the center of Barcelona.  I also drove into the airport and that is a snap as well.  Madrid’s Barajas Airport is modern clean and easy as well.  The train to and from the center of Madrid is fast and reliable.

 

Atocha Station in Madrid

 

 

 

Atocha Station in Madrid is the main train station.  It is connected to the subway and the AVE trains (high speed) to just about everywhere in the country.

 

 

 

There are the Top Ten things to do and see in Madrid and here is my hit on them:  #1 Palacio Real.  The Royal Palace.  Really magnificent.  Great place to take pictures.  Go early in the day as it gets crowded.  They have a great changing of the guard at noon. #2 The Prado.  My feeling is that it is the greatest museum in Europe.  Some will argue with me, but I feel it has something for everyone and is organized so well.  You can buy a Art Walk ticket that gets you admission into the Prado and other museums.  This is a good deal.  Purchase at the tourist office. The museum has the greatest treasures of Spanish painters and others as well.  You will be blown away with Velazquez, Goya and the Flemish and Dutch painters.  For me this museum is such a great place.  And the cafe/restaurant has outstanding food! #3 The Plaza Mayor.  A grand place.  It is huge and in the center of Madrid.  My place to meet friends is under the statue of Felipe III.  So if you ever want to meet me in Madrid that is where I will be!  The cafes and bars are really fun here and it is a great place to people watch. #4 El Rastro.  This is the best open air market in Spain.  It only happens on Sunday.  It is crowded and fun.  You can find just about anything here.  #5 Reina Sofia Museum.  Think d’Orsay Musee in Paris.  All the great contemporary art is here.  Picasso, Barcelo, Dali, Gris.  The most famous painting here is Picasso’s Guernica painted during the Spanish Civil War.  Spend some time with this painting and read everything you can about the Civil War before you visit.  #6 Retiro Park.  The big breath of fresh air in the center of Madrid, next to the Prado.  Sculptures, lakes, gardens and beautiful trees….a great place to relax.  #7 Museum of America.  This is the museum that tells the story of conquest and settling of the new world.  There is a fantastic collection of gold here.  #8  Puerta del Sol.  This is the place of Kilometer “0”.  Distances to anywhere in Spain are measured from this square.  It is a fun and beautiful plaza.  Great 18th century buildings and good cafes and bars.  There is a statue here of the bear of Madrid (the symbol of the city).#9 La Latina.  A great part of Madrid for good bars and restaurants.  #10  Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza.  What the Prado doesn’t have this museum does.  Important paintings from all eras.  A great museum to spend some time.

Columbus buried at Seville Cathedral

From Madrid it is an easy train ride on the AVE to Cordoba.  This is such an intersting city. This city was Roman(572 AD), Arab((756 AD) and Catholic(from the 12th c).  The big thing here is the Mezquita (Mosque).  This was the largest mosque in the world and then the Catholics took over and built their cathedral right in the middle of it!  The mixture of Islamic art and the art of the Catholic kings is an amazing blend of great styles.  The Jewish quarter next to the Mezquita is a maze of narrow streets and white-washed buildings.  Great restaurants and bars here.  Be sure to walk across the Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River and take in the view.

Outside the great Mezquita of Cordoba

It is a short train trip (1 hour) to Seville. This is a big town that feels cozy.  This is the town that Columbus set sail for the new world! This is the town that Spain brought back the treasure of the new world for King Ferdinand.  It is rich.  The cathedral is the one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world.  There is the great La Giralda, or Bell tower.  You can climb up inside of it (actually a very easy walk) and get a great view of the city.  Be sure to take time in the cathedral.  Columbus is buried here.  The cool part of town is Santa Cruz.  Narrow streets, the best bars and restaurants.  And treat yourself to a visit to the Alcazar.  The royal palace.  The story that the palace shows in Islamic and Catholic art is amazing.  The gardens are breathtaking.

The gardens of the Alcazar in Seville

 

 

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