Having had several free days to wander around the city has been a luxury.
As I had previously visited and revisited the Museo Del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Centre de Arte Reina Sofía, today I had no agenda.
I walked up through the Plaza Mayor in the early morning, before the square was full of people.
Tourists and locals alike come here to enjoy the outdoor cafes, take an evening stroll or just shop and usually it is bustling.
This square, once the home of an outdoor market, has also been used in the past for executions and for bull fights.
Today the annual Christmas Market is held here and the weekly stamp and coin collecting markets are set up here each Sunday morning.
Although now quiet it reminded me of the lively and colorful markets I have seen over and over in Spain, including the always crowded and ever fascinating Mercado De San Miguel indoor market just around the corner.
This and all of the Spanish markets are riots of color and sensory overload.
They are also hot beds of multicolored temptations!!
It’s hard to escape the temptation and being an easy hit, I didn’t!
A short walk away, I found myself at the Plaza de Armería, maybe not as colorful but certainly more elegant.
Here the ornate baroque Palacio Real faces the Cathedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almydena.
The Palacio Real is the official home of the royal family.
Considerably more colorful inside, the palace,which is open to the public, is a treasure trove of art, furniture, clocks, porcelain and the only existing stradivarius string quintet.
Across the plaza is the the Almudena Cathedral, a cathedral with a curious history.
Probably built over the site of a former mosque destroyed in 1083, the building of this cathedral was postponed centuries and only begun in 1878.
Construction stopped during the civil war and was begun again in 1950.
It was finally finished and consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.
For me, the most successful part of its “neo-gothic”interior is the ceiling.
Heading back down Calle Mayor, I am surrounded by more colors, a veritable rainbow of espadrilles are begging for me to try them on.
If one pair is good, is a pair in every color better?
And how convenient! Some shops are open 24 /7!
Resisting the urge to walk through the door, I keep going.
Next stop; El Corte Inglés, one of Spain’s most famous department stores.
Here I wanted to do a little Christmas shopping and for that I did have a list.
Mission accomplished , I cut through housewares and there also color abounds.
Where else but in Spain could one find not only towels but matching robes and slippers in a full spectrum of color.
What fun on Christmas morning to see the whole clan decked out from head to toe in their favorite colors- orange for Syracuse alumna Nicole, electric blue for Olivia to match her hair, green for Andy but which green ????
But that will have to wait for another trip with a bigger suitcase or more time to buy bigger boxes at the post office, like the one conveniently located in the sub basement of the store, just below the food emporium.
Speaking of post offices. I ease on down the hill to the Palacio de Cibeles, formerly Madrid’s main post office. Today it functions as the Madrid city hall.
One of my favorite buildings in Spain at least on the outside,
it is possible to ride the elevator up to the roof for panoramic views of the city.
Next I stopped into the Westin Palace Hotel for old time’s sake and because they have such nice ladies room -Not to mention this incredible ceiling.
Finally I made my way into the Parque de Buen Retiro- the park of the pleasant retreat, a serene green sanctuary, once the private domain of the monarchy, but today open to the public and much beloved by all.
I ambled through the calming green gardens and watched the boats rowing on the lake.
I did not row hence no good picture of the Monument to Alfonso XII.
I looked for but did not find Madrid’s oldest tree planted in 1633 and used during the Napoleonic wars as a gun mount.
How they know this I do not know???
Eleven and a half miles and 25,000 steps later, I headed back to the hotel through the botanical garden.
There were still enough flowers in bloom to snap a few pictures before I headed back up the hill.
Thus my days of being a solitary wandering wayfarer came to an end.
I met up with the 29 UTO pilgrims.
We went off to dinner and a lecture.
Judging from the exuberance of this group whose conversation both in the hotel lobby and subsequently at dinner was loud and lively, I suspect they will be as colorful as anything I have seen this week in Madrid.
Time will tell but not tonight! Buenos notches.