By JAMES GOODING
Travelling throughout Europe can sometimes be a helter-skelter affair, a sort of five international capitals in five days, dosing up on a lifetime’s supply of artworks, churches, and locally-produced wines in a time period of just under a week. But if you’re coming from America, Australia, or Asia, then this is often a logical “taster trip”, a first-timer’s voyage to sample some of the delights of the European continent, and one that provides the fuel and inspiration for any further European travels.
Yet with more time on your hands, it’s well-advised to spent a bit of time getting to know a place, whether it be the rhythms of city life, or the flows of a more regional existence. This is the real “time out” solution; take a break from the regular hustle and bustle of everyday life to have a moment to simply observe or engage till your heart’s content. Take Madrid, for example, the alluring Spanish capital, known world-wide for not only its nightlife, but also for the daytime pursuits in the city’s numerous museums and historical centre.
For a taste of life in Madrid lived to the fullest, try and get out to city’s main market, El Rastro, on a Sunday morning. By mid-afternoon all the madness has wound up, but there is an entertaining morning to be had, jostling with the crowds and trying to make a particular purchase. Keep an eye on your handbag and other possessions, but otherwise prepare to let yourself go, caught up in the stream of pedestrian traffic. Be sure to leave the afternoon free for an impromptu coffee date or aperitif, otherwise make your way out to any of Madrid’s many parks and gardens to kick back and relax with the rest of the city on an enjoyable weekend afternoon.
Of course, as Madrid has been blessed with more than its fair share of mind-blowing art galleries, it’s worthwhile to check out what’s on in any available street press or tourist information stands at hotels in Madrid. The two must-see galleries are the Museo del Prado and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. While the former ranks amongst the world’s most elite art collections of 15th to 19th century Spanish, Flemish, and Italian art, the latter focuses on modern art of mainly Spanish origins. Admire the Prado’s Goya collection on the first floor, marvel at the Velázquez masterpieces, or stand for a while in awe at the depiction of the horrors of war in Picasso’s inimitable Guernica.
Is it possible to squeeze all this into a day? Certainly, but it’s recommended to take your time and absorb it all at a relaxed pace, in true Madrid style!