After the week when we stayed rather cloistered in Granada, we were very happy to take the bus to go to the capital of Spain. We were done with the small towns of Andalusia and had an awesome week in sight in the third largest city in Europe (after London and Paris). Madrid is an exciting city, a pleasant mix between the secular and the modern where there is much to see for visitors. It is still possible to attend the unavoidable Corrida there and as to tempt us even more, the stadium was a 5 minutes walk from our apartment 😬. But before we talk about Bullfighting (and to keep the suspense) let us tell you about all the other interesting activities we did during this amazing week.
The Historic Madrid
There is no lack of historical heritage in Madrid. As usual, we took a walk in the historic district. We started our walk at the Puerta Del Sol and had the opportunity to observe most of the main historic buildings of the historic center, including the Plaza Mayor, the Mercado San Miguel, the Corpus Christi convent, the old Town Hall, the Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace. The whole area is a maze of small historical streets, beautiful gardens and of course a myriad of small restaurants and terraces, delis with hundreds of Jamón and Chorizos on display and small tourist shops. We took the opportunity to taste the local pastries, notably the famous Hot Chocolate and Churros of the famous Chocolateria San Ginès. We bought tickets to visit the Royal Palace, a visit that was well worth every penny. Unfortunately, it was forbidden to take photos in the palace, but imagine a palace of 1.5 million square feet, 2,800 rooms, all decorated sumptuously, thanks to the wealth of the colonies, when Spain was the richest country of the world. The palace is considered as the most sumptuous in Europe and was quite a show! We also took advantage of the nice weather to visit the Buon Retiro Park, a must see in Madrid. This immense park, created in 1630, is in the heart of the city center and is filled with historic buildings, sumptuous gardens, extravagant fountains, magnificent statues and 400-year-old opulent vegetation. The park is very busy, but remains very pleasant to visit, especially when looking for a little shade under the warm afternoon sun. We also visited several historical museums, but we particularly enjoyed the Naval Museum, which we highly recommend. This museum, you guessed it focuses on the Maritime aspect of Spain, which until the Second World War was of the utmost importance (who controls the sea controls the world). We learned a lot about the discovery of the New World and the many maritime wars in Europe. The boys particularly appreciated the military aspect of the museum and spent hours during and after the visit imagining themselves as cadets of the navy.
We were overwhelmed by the amount of artwork that we saw in the museums of Madrid. Several museums are accessible in the city center, including the Museum of Modern Art Reina Sofia, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the famous Prado Museum. Since these museums are huge and our time in Madrid was limited, we had a though choice to make. Since we had our dose of pre-1850 artwork in this trip, we made the decision to drop the Prado, although this one is recommended as “THE” art museum to visit in Madrid, we instead concentrated on the other two museums mentioned above. We were lucky enough to see dozens of Picasso, several Dali, Lichenstein, Warhol, Hopper, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Bacon, de Kooning, a Pollock and Simon’s favorite painter … Toulouse-Lautrec. Decidedly, artistic Madrid is worth it.
The Modern Madrid
We visited two more modern museums in Madrid, one that had been planned and the other by surprise. While searching on the net for activities to do with children in Madrid, Karine came across a rather unique museum dedicated on Robots. This museum is attached to a fascinating shop named Juguetronica, devoted to science fictions games, robots and other memorabilia. This museum is relatively uncrowded and we had the privilege of having a guided tour just for us in English to top it off! The whole family really enjoyed this activity. We were able to see several models of collector robots, replicas of robots used in the movies and even more exciting a demo with real robots, including an authentic NAO robot which has subjugated the small and the big ones. The children spent the rest of the day imagining themselves fighting war robots and mom was imagining a sexy robot that would clean and cook, oh, wait, she already has one of those called Simon 🙂 . The other modern museum that we visited was really by curiosity, when we entered the City Hall after seeing a huge banner on the front which indicated “Refugees Welcome”. Inside, we were able to see some artistic exhibitions, notably on the reality of the refugees. Kolya was very shaken by what he saw and that gave place to a long and profound discussion about the world situation and what we are doing collectively and individually to help. Let’s say we all felt a little bummed out.
Day trip to Segovia
Segovia is a small town near Madrid that we really wanted to visit because… our favorite restaurant in Winnipeg and maybe even in the world is called Segovia! We took advantage of our visit to this small medieval town to wander the streets of the city, hang out on a terrace and visit the castle. The town is really pleasant to visit and it resembles several small medieval towns of Europe. A unique aspect to the town though is the Roman aqueduct dating from the second half of the 1st century that is still in place and that is the oldest remains of the Roman period in Spain. The castle was very interesting to visit and we were told that the facade inspired the design of the Cinderella Castle of Disney!
Finally … The bullfight
The big question during our stay … are we going to go to a bullfight. This controversial sport, although banned in several cities in Spain, is still practiced in Madrid. On one hand, it is a sad spectacle because the bulls die, but we thought that we were in Madrid perhaps once in our lifetime and that the opportunity was unique. Since we could not decide, we went to see the Bullfight Museum annexed to the arena to decide. The museum is very interesting and it is possible to learn a little more about the sport, even if though the signs are in Spanish. We did not really need any signs to understand. A video, showing how the bulls are treated before and during the Bullfight frankly appalled us and discouraged us from attending the event. Let’s say that the odds are much more on the side of the bullfighter than the beast. We left the museum thinking that it was part of Spain Heritage and that we should not judge. But a little later in the week, when the event was taking place and we were passing in front of the stadium, we were able to see by the dozens of tourist buses that the event is very much supported by the tourists and that these, by attending this “unique” event contributed to the perpetuation of this barbaric tradition. In all, it is 6 beasts who are massacred before public in each events for the “pleasure” of the audience. We are very happy to have listened to our conscience and not to participate in this butchery.
Once again, we loved our visit and are very happy to have visited Madrid. Have a great week friends. See you soon.