Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Exploring Madrid (The Prado, Retiro Park, and more)

Welcome back!

Our first full day in Madrid, we felt much better and were mostly recovered from the jetlag. We started out the morning by eating breakfast in the hotel (a wide spread of all sorts of food, including pastries, cereal, fruit, cheese, and meats) and then walking to the Prado Museum, about a mile away. This was a good way to get a better view of Madrid, and not just the most touristy area.

The Prado was INDREDIBLE. While we were not allowed to take pictures inside, here are some photos of the building:

Oh wait, I did take one inside before I realized that they weren't allowed... My bad!

For those of you who aren't aware, the Prado houses almost all of the most important Spanish paintings, including works from Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. The museum's collection is condsidered one of the world's finest collections of European art, and dates from the 12th century to the early 19th century. We had a private group tour, which was great, because we were able to see and hear about the most famous paintings in the museum in just a short time. Among many others, we saw Velazquez's Las Meninas, Goya's Las Majas  and black paintings, El Greco's The Holy Trinity, and Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. 
Group photo at the end of our Prado visit
After a few hours in the museum, we had some free time, so wesplit up into groups to have lunch and explore the surrounding area, including Buen Retiro Park. For lunch, we found a small tea/sandwich shop:

None of us realized how big or pretty the park was before we got there, and we soon were in awe. Here are some photos:
The gate to enter Buen Retiro Park

After our free time, we went to the Museo Reina Sofia, or Queen Sofia's Museum. This museum opened in the 1990s and houses much of Spain's important art from the 20th century, including Picasso and Dali. The most famous piece housed at this museum is Picasso's Guernica. Once again, no photos allowed inside the museum, but here is a group photo outside:

By the time we were done at the Reina Sofia, we were all exhausted again and our feet were sore from standing and walking on hard, uneven surfaces all day. We headed back to the hotel for some "rest" but I ended up going with a group to get gelato between Plaza Mayor and our hotel. I got coconut and Nutella, and the shop forms the gelato into a flower on the cone, which we found pretty cool.

After gelato, we had a group meeting back at the hotel to talk about living in Salamanca, attending the University, and our host families. We got to confirm which classes we want to take and got personalized maps of the city with both our host family's house and the program office marked. By the end of the meeting, it was 9:30, which means time for dinner in Spain! My group had our heart set on paella (a traditional Spanish seafood and saffron rice dish), and we ended up eating in Plaza Mayor. It was delicious and not as expensive as we feared it would be. I also got to try my first tinto de verano (red wine mixed with lemon-lime soda), which is one of the most popular drinks in Spain.

We finished dinner around 11:00 and headed back to our hotel, just as the nightlife was beginning to pick up. Still getting used to the schedule here, but I'm getting the hang of it slowly but surely. :)

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