Monday, November 12, 2012

Spain Part V: Toledo & Madrid

The end of our trip took us to Toledo and finally Madrid.  Toledo is so different from all of the other Spanish cities that we visited on our trip. It's a walled in medieval city perched high above the rest of the area, and is very characteristic of many Italian cities. The stone buildings, narrow streets, car free roads, and quaint shops, made Toledo pleasurable to stroll around as we took in the charm of this attractive town. The cathedral dominates the skyline and the plaza is full of outdoor cafes perfectly suited for people watching.

The cathedral
While here, we visited the El Greco museum, which is set in an old restored house and showcases pieces of art by the painter as well as paintings by some of his followers. The house gave us insight into what an old Spanish style property would have looked like, and the descriptions of El Greco and his paintings gave us insight into him and his techniques as a painter.

We also visited the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. It was built in the 13th century, was converted to a Christian church in the 15th century, and is now owned by the Catholic church. Except for some Moorish style arches and columns the inside is pretty empty and there are virtually no signs that it used to be a synagogue.

Outside the entrance before it opened

Sad to say goodbye to Toledo, we packed up the car and started the short drive to Madrid. Madrid is the capital of Spain, its largest city, and the third largest city in Europe. The interesting thing about Madrid is that there's not one specific thing that people flock here to see or one specific thing that it's famous for, like other large cities in Europe or around the world. That's not to say there aren't things to see or do here... Madrid is well known for its art museums, nightlife, parks, and plethora of first-class restaurants and tapas bars, which we took full advantage of!

Plaza Mayor

We first went to Madrid's most famous art museum, the Prado Museum, which has one of the largest art collections in the world featuring artists such as Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt, El Greco, Picasso, and many others. There were so many rooms and art pieces on display that it was a little overwhelming... but in a good way. The museum is elegantly designed and the pieces we viewed were very interesting, and even controversial at times. We spent a long time admiring all of the art here. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside.

A church right outside the Prado.

We also went to the Reina Sofia Museum, which is a modern art museum. Our main goal here was to see Picasso's painting "Guernica", and to see other well known (and not so well known) paintings by the artist and other artists like Dali. The museum was... interesting. Like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, some of the modern art pieces left us questioning the sanity of some of the buyers and admirers of the pieces. The plain red and blue paintings just do not make sense to us!


The outside of the museum

A cool Dali painting

In between our time at the two museums we walked through Retiro Park, which provided us with shaded areas to sit and enjoy the scenery. The park was full of joggers, bikers, families picnicking,  and couples reading on blankets. It was very similar to Central Park in New York.

Before aperitifs and dinner, we walked to the Royal Palace of Madrid. The lit up building was beautiful against the dark sky and we wished we had time to go inside. Instead, we decided to sit outside and share a bottle of wine for our last night in Spain. Dinner was fantastic and was one of our best meals throughout the whole trip.

The next day we packed up the car for the last time and headed to the airport. I guess all good things must come to end, but do they really have to? In our ten days in Spain we didn't have one bad or even average meal. The food was excellent and with the amount of variety and flavors I think it just might be a new favorite cuisine of ours. We saw nine unique and incredible cities filled with history, art, and charm, and drove around a van that was way too big for most of them. The best part about the trip though was that we got to spend it with two very important people in our lives whom we don't see very often, Jon's parents. Thanks for a fantastic trip Lori and Joe!

1 comment:

  1. WOW! I love Toledo and Madrid! I have so many things to talk about! First a walled-in Medieval City! There is something very mysterious and intriguing about this! One pic showed an archway which looked just like a keyhole! It was very cool! Then there was the pic of Joe posing next to the Knight in Armour! Love it! I also love the pic of you and Lori looking out the window (you almost have matching jackets!) The El Greco Museum is somewhere I would love to visit! The archways in the ancient synagogue, which is now a Catholic Church, are absolutely gorgeous! (This is actually what I expected to see in the Mosque). Now on to Madrid! The guy who was posing in the colorful outfit with a paint roller and paint can - I couldn't tell if he is real?! He was posed in an ackward position and I couldn't figure out if a real person could do that for an extended period of time?!!! (Let me know, please!) I also want to mention that there are a couple of pics of buildings in Madrid that remind me so much of Washington, DC. OK, now we have to talk about the Blue and Red rectangle work of art! I don't quite understand why you put the "Hmm" comment under it! There's more to this artwork than just a Blue and Red rectangle! (But I actually do agree with you even though I was an art teacher!) On the other hand, you are right about Dali's painting! That is one cool piece of artwork! Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time in Spain and I hope that Dad and I can go to Spain one day!