Our trek to Madrid began by boarding the bus in Victoria-Gastiez at 8am. We had a great view through large windows.
The four hour bus ride went quickly and it was a relief to sit and look out the window at the passing landscape instead of roaming around yet another new place at full speed.
The bus came to a halt after two hours. We piled out and streamed into the brightly lit bus station which welcomed us with clean restrooms and café con leche, no paper cups even here.
Once we arrived in Madrid we made an easy connection from the bus station to the Metro. Lauren was somewhat familiar with the process, having been there several times, and so she figured out what Metro line to take to the studio apartment we rented through airbnb.
Our tiny apartment was located on the fifth floor without an elevator. When I booked it I must have thought this would be okay but it was quite an effort to walk up five flights of stairs every time we returned to our place. Fortunately for me a nice, young Spanish guy offered to carry my suitcase up the 180 steps when we arrived. We stayed in the elevated space for four nights. Other than the steps, and the slanted ceiling where I kept bumping my head, it was a cool place to stay. It was located in the Malasana District, was quiet and cute. We could walk to the Prado, Reina Sophia, restaurants and the Metro.
After we settled in we set out to explore the city, Lauren as my tour guide. We found a busy place for menu del dia and then headed to the Plaza. I had some adjustment to make in Madrid as it reminded me of San Francisco, which wasn’t all bad although at first I missed the charm of the Basque region.
We stopped in at the tourism office located on the plaza and they guided us to the best way to get to Toledo and Segovia, the two day-trips we were planning to experience.
From the plaza we walked over to the chocolateria, San Gines, a must do in Madrid as everyone we talked to had either been there or was planning to go. There was a line out the door and Lauren waited to order while I descended to the lower dining area to secure a table.
We shared a plateful of the freshly made churros, dipping them into the thick, warm chocolate. Lauren had been there the year before and learned that sharing an order was the way to go. Even so we weren’t hungry for the rest of the day, satisfied with wine and olives for our evening meal.
We decided to visit the Reina Sofia our first night and to save the Prado for another day. Both museums offer free admission in the evenings which makes them accessible to all. So nice!
The Reina Sofia is a more contemporary museum, built since my last visit, with a collection of 19th and 20th century artists. It houses the infamous Guernica and although I had seen this Picasso painting decades before I just couldn’t leave Madrid without another peek.
Guernica is displayed in its own room and people were crowded in front of it. All of the other paintings were available for clear viewing but this one painting had everyone’s attention. It is a powerful painting with a powerful story behind its inception. And it’s huge. I felt privileged to be there. The rest of the museum was not crowded although I imagine in the summer it could be. I particularly enjoyed the few paintings by Salvador Dali we encountered.