Our Madrid maratón started with a visit to Plaza España, located just off the Gran Vía in the heart of the city. Although the regular mercadillo (small market) was closed, the students did find two of the most important characters in Spanish literature - Don Quijote and Sancho Panza.
From there, we walked to the nearby Palacio real, where neither the current (or the recently retired) king live but state events are held. Taking 17 years to build, the palace was constructed at the site of a Moorish mayrit and a later Álcazar. As many of the palace rooms are open for viewing, that's just what we did - taking complete advantage of the cooler air and the shade!
From the same palace courtyard where this picture was taken, we could see Santa María la Real de La Almudena - Madrid's cathedral. When Prince Felipe (now King Felipe VI) married his wife Letizia, she famously made her way from the palace, across the court, to the steps of the cathedral for all to see. This cathedral is quite different from others that we have visited as it not only is it relatively new (it was consecrated by Pope John Paul in the early 1990's) but it is also very modern in style, featuring pop-art esque stained glass windows throughout the building, brightly hued ceilings, and a chapel done in tones of gold.
We made a quick detour to the Plaza Mayor, formerly used as a bullring and market and now the site of many shops and restaurants, and an occasional concert or two,
Then, our travels through the more "modern" Madrid continued as we made our way to the Museo de la Reina Sofia, a cornerstone of the what is considered the "art triangle" of Madrid (Reina-Thyssen-Prado) and home to countless works by Spanish masters such as Dalí, Picasso and Miró. Here, the students got to see cultura en acción and most notably the moving piece Guernica (by Picasso) that we learned about in class. The curious piece below, in the main entry of the museum, is always a favorite for pictures.
Following our tour of the Reina Sofia, we hit the next point of the "art triangle," the Prado. The Prado is home to the "old" or classical art and houses a collection comparable to that in the the Louvre of Paris, including works by Goya, Velázquez, Sorolla, El Greco, El Bosco, etc. Here again students were able to witness cultura en acción and see many of the famous pieces we talked about in class.
Before dinner, we passed the famous Plaza de Cibeles, Metropolis and Communications building as we made our way to the Gran Vía to get to Puerta del Sol.
In the Puerta del Sol, we stopped for a moment by the well-known oso, a one time inhabitant and now symbol of the city.
By that time, I don't know who was more hungry - the bear or the students. We divided into two groups, those who wanted Mexican (craving the comida picante that is scarce on this side of the Atlantic) and those who wanted to have one last meal of tapas. From there, we all made our way back to the residencia (student dorms) where we were staying as we'd have another long day ahead, taking on Toledo.