I could totally live here.
Which is clearly the opinion of 4 million others, since that’s about the current population. Madrid has many cool neighborhoods, beautiful architecture, gorgeous museums, parks, and is extremely pedestrian friendly. Cars actually come to a complete stop if you are near a crosswalk — a welcome change from the Athens madness. I rode the subway once at night, but really walking the city is better and it’s very safe. The sun doesn’t set until after 6 which is great, but it’s not light in the morning until 8:30 this time of year. Madrid is also the highest (elevation) European capital at 2200 feet, so the overnight temperature swings are closer to Colorado than Athens … so I wasn’t psyched to run in the dark or at 35 degrees.
Our dear friend and former babysitter and nanny Sydney, lived here for a year and gave me the Madrid insider’s guide. I visited the Prado Museum (300+ years of the King’s art collection – it’s huge and varied and so impressive), the Thyssen (with a great special exhibit of Picasso and Lautrec in its last 2 days) and the Reina Sofia (20th century art). Velasquez, Goya, El Greco, Picasso, Dali, Miro … and many more I hadn’t heard of. I also toured the cathedral and Royal Palace and — coolest — the royal kitchen, which takes up half of the enormous palace basement and has most of its original 18th century items in tact. It was amazing.
I walked around and through the El Retiro Park, which was transformed from the royal garden to a public park by Charles III in the 1700s. I walked to and around lots of neighborhoods – Lavapies, Salamanca, Malasana, La Latina and spent most of a day between Puerta del Sol and the Palace. We were here for a day in 2011 on a layover on our way to Greece. Michael was not yet 2 and didn’t sleep much on the red eye. We were so tired I remember being dizzy. But as I walked through the Plaza de Oriente, I recognized it as the park where we played and saw the cafe where we sucked down a coffee (two?) in 2011 while Michael passed out in the backpack carrier. He had a lot of ill-located naps on that trip.
I went to Madrid solo. I obsessively tracked my steps and mileage: 35 miles/82,000 steps in 72 hours. I missed Demetri and the kids – I haven’t been separated from the little guys for more than an evening since we left Denver. I’m not sure they missed me, though. They were doing nightly gyro comparisons in the square (K.Grill has crispier, grilled pita and serves more tzaziki, Gnision’s meat is more flavorful and the pita is warm and soft, Masati has crispy meat. Winner: Gnision.) And when I called home and asked Michael what they were doing, he said “whatever we WANT! It’s boys’ time!”