Arriving in Madrid, we had only a couple of days scheduled to see this beautiful city.  We were immediately blown away by the incredible architecture, the wide streets and pedestrian walkways.  Staying once again near the city center, off Gran Via, we were within easy walking distance to many of the city's highlights.  Our first destination, however, required a taxi.  Before arriving in Spain, Alan had voiced a desire to see the Sorolla Museum, so that was first on our list.  Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) was an impressionistic artist know for his use of light effects in his landscapes and portrait works, but is probably best known for his Mediterranean beach scenes.  The museum is located in his former home and studio which was donated, along with many of his works, following his death.  His large studio, with a skylight, looks almost like he has just stepped out for a few moments.  A lovely garden provides the walkway to the entrance.  

Madrid is home to three world-class museums, situated closely along the Paseo del Arte, the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia.  All were within walking distance, but we ultimately decided on the Prado.  Arriving before opening time, the following day, we already had tickets in hand, which is recommended.  This massive museum displays one of the world's best collection of European art, from Bosch to Raphael and Goya to Pollock.  We also opted to see the El Greco (1541-1614) exhibit (no additional cost, but a time had to be reserved).  The exhibit is structured to show El Greco's influence on future "modernists" artists, such as Manet, Cezanne and Picasso.  Prado is also home to what is considered to be one of the world's finest paintings, Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez.  After several hours, we had not completed the museum, but decided we were too overwhelmed to appreciate any more.  It's definitely a don't miss stop, just wish we had had more days to visit the other museums as well.  

Departing the Prado, we wandered into the nearby 350-acre Parque del Retiro.  Providing numerous walking paths, fountains, manicured gardens, sculpture and a man-made pond, this is a popular place to hang out and relax.  We had been led to this place by my desire to see the Crystal Palace, which was built to house a display of flowers and plants from the Philippines in 1887.  Having seen photos of the structure, I wasn't disappointed, it's gorgeous.  I can only imagine how it looked when it was filled with flowers.  Also on the ground is the Velazquez Palace, which is currently displaying the art of Kerry James Marshall.  His works center on African American culture and history. 

Our evenings were spent exploring the streets and plazas of the city.  Unfortunately, once again, our time was way too short for all that can be seen in Madrid, but it was a delightful visit nonetheless.  Now it's time to fly on to London, and then back to the USA.  It's been a wonderful trip in every way!

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