Highlights: Museo del Prado, Barrio Salamanca, Templo de Debod, Jardines de Sabatini
Monday, November 25 (day 4): Started out the day with a visit to El Prado. Instead of taking the metro to Banco de España, I walked from the apartment near Puerta del Sol to the Museum via Calle de Alcalá, then crossed the Paseo del Prado to get to the museum. I had chosen to go on a Monday morning at 10am because it seemed that there would be fewer people then—and I guessed correctly. Other than a couple of elementary school field trips, there weren’t many people there. It seemed that I had most of the rooms to myself. In fact, when I got to the much anticipated Las Meninas painting, I was able to enjoy it for a couple of minutes without a crowd. There were so many works of art there that I remembered from high school and college history courses, including another of Velazquez’s paintings, The Surrender at Breda. I tried to focus mostly on the Spanish paintings, though the Italian collection is also outstanding. By noon, the place started to receive more visitors, including numerous high school field trips. At that point, I ventured over to the Prado cafeteria, had lunch, and then bought the museum guide at the gift shop. For those who are art enthusiasts, the Prado is offering a good deal. You can get admission and the guide for 23 euros—separately, these two cost 33 euros (14 for admission, 19 for the guide), so consider buying the combo. The guide has more than 300 pages with descriptions of many of the Prado’s paintings. This is truly one of the world’s great art museums. The collection is outstanding and the staff is courteous and competent. I hope to return once more on this trip.
Following the visit to the Prado, I returned home to drop off the purchases and rest for a bit. (In addition to museum guidebooks, I’m a sucker for those artsy magnets.) In the afternoon, I strolled around Barrio Salamanca a bit, first a bit along Calle Serrano, then mainly along Calle Ortega y Gasset. This neighborhood is a trendy upscale shopping and residential district. It reminded me a bit of the Palermo district in Buenos Aires and the neighborhoods of Polanco and Condesa in Mexico City. On Ortega y Gasset, as I walked in a westerly direction, I made a left turn at Paseo de Castellana and then walked south, until I reached Plaza de Colón. There is a statue of Columbus, and an enormous Spanish national flag. It was a good place to stop and rest for a few minutes.
From the Plaza de Colón, I walked to Plaza de los Cibeles, admired the Palacio de Comuniciones once more, and then entered the metro station Banco de España. From there, I took line 2, and exited at Plaza de España. It was around 4:00pm or so, and I was in the mood to see Templo de Debod and Jardines de Sabatini. Unfortunately, the temple is closed on Monday, but I was able to take a few photos and enjoy the quiet setting, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Gran Via and the rest of the city. The temple itself was built in ancient Egypt and was given to Spain in return for its help in building the Aswan Dam in the late 1960s. The temple is located in a nice park (Parque de la Montaña) and it seems that many elderly locals from the adjacent neighborhood go there to chat and socialize in the afternoon. From the park itself, there are some great views of western Madrid. You can also get a great view of the western side of the Palacio de Real and the dome of the Cathedral de Almudena. From Parque de la Montaña, I walked a couple of minutes south to Jardines Sabatini. This is another lovely Madrid park, very tranquil and with a picturesque setting. It’s very close to Plaza de España and the sight offers the opportunity for some great pictures of the northern façade of the Royal Palace, with a beautiful fountain and statues in the foreground.
Around sunset, I returned home by foot and rested for a bit before going to El Corte Inglés, which has a department store and a supermarket. I was there for the latter, picked up couple of deli sandwiches, some juice, wine and fruit, and called it a day.