Yesterday was quite the busy day as we embarked on our first weekend excursion to Madrid. We left Salamanca at 10:00 AM and most of us took advantage of the 2.5 hour bus ride to catch up on some sleep. On the way to Madrid we passed through some farm country and it was interesting to see the rural side of Spain.
Tour of Madrid
Upon arrival in Madrid we walked to the Plaza de España where we admired the fountains and the statue of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho. We then continued to the Palacio Real de Madrid (the Royal Palace). We did not have the opportunity to go inside the palace but admired its beauty from the outside and walked through the gardens below. The palace does not look very old because it was renovated after it sustained damage from a fire. The King and Queen of Spain do not actually reside in the palace. Rather, they live in a palace near Madrid and the one in Madrid is used when nobility and dignitaries come from other countries.
The cathedral was the next stop on our tour of Madrid. It is newer than the ones in Salamanca but impressive nonetheless. The design of the cathedral was beautiful on the outside and the inside with its intricate carvings, stained glass windows and high ceilings.
We then continued down Calle Mayor and stopped along the way to view a couple of other plazas of Madrid and we also walked through an indoor food market that sustains an impressive variety of food and drinks, not to mention a huge crowd.
Eventually we ended our tour at the Puerta del Sol, which is the plaza at the center of the city. Carlos, our guide, noted that a huge crowd gathers every year in this plaza to ring in the New Year with the clock tower of the building across from the plaza. As the day went on the crowd in the plaza continued to grow and the quantity of people in Madrid was unbelievable.
Exploration and el Museo del Prado
Following the tour we had about three hours of free time to eat lunch, explore the city, and do some shopping. At 5:00 PM we met back at the Puerta del Sol and headed to the Museo del Prado, which is a famous art museum that has 1,150 works of art on display with more in inventory. During the hour and a half that we spent at the museum we saw paintings of famous artists like El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya.
After a long, but exciting day, we boarded the bus and headed back to Salamanca for a much needed night’s sleep.
Today, Sunday, is a free day without any scheduled activities and tomorrow we will be back to our weekly schedule of classes and afternoon activities. Tomorrow’s activities include a visit to the San Esteban Church and Covenant and an optional lecture on Spanish history.