Night trains are convenient in that you kinda just wake up in your destination, but not super great in that it’s still a horrendously uncomfortable way to sleep.1
But hey, it got us to Spain, so who am I to complain?
Once we’d dropped off our bags at the hotel,2 we set out for a walk around the city.
Our first destination was the Royal Palace. We got a bit turned around trying to follow the Google Maps directions – it doesn’t do a very good job of showing how to navigate two intersections on top of one another3 – and ended up going through a bit of the Royal Gardens, as well.
The palace is, of course, massive, because royalty doesn’t know how to do anything small.
Off to the left, you can see a bit of the arsenal, which has been converted into a museum of… weapons. The bit in the center, past the enormous courtyard, is the palace proper; and on the right is… more palace, which is now a mix of gift shop, security station, and ticket counter.
Once you’re into the public area of the palace4 you can get a good shot of the church across the way.
I thought it was a bit funny that, to get to the arsenal, the most cover you’d get was this – the guards don’t get indoor hallways, don’t be ridiculous.
But hey, the view as you walk along there? Not too bad.
Quite a few rooms of the palace have been converted into a museum. Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures, but I’d say the highlights, for me at least, were the room that was entirely covered in carefully-interleaved porcelain, and the room full of Stradivari.5
The second day, better rested, we ventured further afield.
Along the way to our first stop, we passed the Spanish Air Force headquarters. The plane sitting out front was a nice touch, I thought.
Surrounding this arch with highways, and providing a viewpoint on top of a large public transit interchange, was an interesting touch.
And, as hinted at in the previous picture, you can see our first destination – this tower.
Pretty good view from up there, no?
After we left the tower, we headed off to the Museo del Prado, a rather famous art museum. Unfortunately, they, too, had a ‘no photos’ rule inside, so I can’t share any of the artwork.6
The Prado has some interesting neighbors – this little church being one of the more photogenic ones.7
From the Prado, we started meandering a bit less aimfully;8 this eventually led us to a fairly massive park.
With an interesting fountain.9
And an interesting water feature.
The park also had a church as a neighbor – though this one had some very strong mosque-like tendencies to it.
We didn’t stop in at the Museum of Archeology, but we did step inside their gates to get a closer look at the sphinxes guarding the main doors. They had this lovely little garden – and, not shown, a second path off to the left that led into an underground recreation of some cave paintings.
The end of our day, roughly, was at this park – they had an ice skating rink set up, and a stand selling (delicious) chocolate churros. So hey, Madrid was pretty fun.10
- Distinctly better than trying to sleep on a plane, or in a non-sleeper cabin, but still. Not great. ↩
- And picked up my third (and final) SIM card of the Europe tour, and then had some breakfast/brunch… ↩
- To be fair, I don’t think I could give very good directions under those circumstances, either; it’s sort of a worst-case scenario for roads. ↩
- Having gone through TSA-style security and paid the cost of the ticket. ↩
- Yes, plural. There was a full string quartet, and an additional cello that was described as “one of his most famous works.” As a set, I’d guess that the instruments are worth roughly a quarter-billion dollars. ↩
- I will share my favorite comment I made, one that I sent as a text to a couple friends: “I find it oddly fitting that in this collection of antique statues the only one with intact genitals is Zeus.” ↩
Other neighbors included “botanical gardens that didn’t look so great in the winter,” “the Ritz?” and “a cute little restaurant with a bunch of Habsburg-themed pizzas.”
(Maria Theresia: bacon, cream, onions. Sissy: Fontina cheese, mushrooms, truffle oil. Sadly, I don’t recall what was on the Zita.) ↩
- My computer is insisting this isn’t a word, but in the same vein as aster, I’m saying that, as a counterpart to ‘aimlessly’ there must be an ‘aimfully.’ ↩
- Which we sat beside for like twenty minutes, a really annoying proportion of which was spent waiting for a couple to stop making out so I could get a good picture without their PDA in it. ↩
- Coming eventually: my post on Barcelona. Who knows how long it’ll take – this one is getting posted a full five days after we left Madrid. Whoops. ↩