The Prado, Paella and Puerta del Sol

april 12-14//madrid, spain//canon 5d

We arrived in Madrid early that morning, sluggish after an overnight bus; the sky had a mottled cotton candy sort of color going on, and the streets of Puerta del Sol were being hosed down from the chaos of the bar scene from the night before. I had no idea what to expect-hungry for the art museum scene and some churros, but otherwise open to whatever the city could impress on me.

Madrid and I, at first, did not get along. It doesn't have the scrappy rhythm of Barcelona that I had so loved-there's no ocean, either. The buildings are beautiful-classic architecture, neat shades of pastel and brick, and elegant wrought-iron balconies. Yet, as I'm finding with most capital cities, it is a tad overwhelming. There is something, everywhere; the frustrating feeling that you're not getting the whole city, that you are missing out on something.

The combination of a lack of sleep and an allergic reaction (on the bottom of my feet, no less) meant that I was not feeling anything that first day, especially walking around for hours. A trip to Reina Sofia soothed my wounds-while I'm not necessarily a Picasso fan, Guernica felt like a religious experience-but by the end of the day, I just wanted to lay in my bed in my hostel (which, since the entire room flooded post-shower, felt like a small boat bobbing in the sea) and listen to the spanish women one floor below yell at the soccer game on the television. My friend Kay dragged me out, though-after all, we were staying in the center of it all. The streets around us were full of tiny little bars crammed into the first floor of the slightly run-down buildings, brightly illuminated and full of people. We settled ourselves at the counter of one, and ordered sangria, because of course! what else could you drink in Spain?

I started the second day off right; Kay and I parted ways for a few hours, and I headed into the Prado, eagerly anticipating what I was about to see. My main goal? Spend some time in front of Valesquez's Las Meninas, one of my favorite paintings that I've studied in my art history classes.

The Prado is easily one of my favorite art museums, for a few reasons. For one, it is the perfect size; unlike the Louvre or the Met, the entire museum can be explored in two or three hours. Not only did I get to see Velasquez's+ Goya's  work- I discovered a whole slew of Spanish artists I had never heard of. On the bottom floor were rooms filled with massive, massive paintings depicted famous moments in history or legend-I spent close to a half hour with one depicting a queen burying her husband, unable to look away.

After a lunch in Parque Retiro, Madrid's own Central Park, Kay and I started to wander through a more residential, hip neighborhood-colorful, cheerful, and full of graffiti. Here is where the real Madrid started to emerge, and I started to sway in my opinions. I decided that, maybe, Madrid is one of those places that is better to live, spend a while in, rather than visit. Once it had started to grow on me, had started seeping into my being, I was much more receptive. Then again, maybe it was because I had a full eight hours-who knows?

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