Madrid: Prado Museum and Buen Retiro Park

I arrived today in Madrid, my starting and ending point on this trip to Spain. I visited the Prado Museum (The Museo del Prado) and Buen Retiro Park. But before getting into that, a bit about the journey here.

Before going to the airport in Toronto, I checked my flight. The Air Canada website said it was on time. Yay!

I checked in online, but I had a bag that needed to go into the hold. The smiling Air Canada person at the counter volunteered, unprompted, that my flight was on time, just as the Air Canada site told me before I left home. “That’s what I like to hear,” I responded cheerfully. (Voice inside my head: Yay!)

I headed to the lounge with a good feeling about the flight. That feeling was bolstered by the express moving sidewalk to the international section of Toronto Pearson Airport being functional. That’s been a hit-or-miss thing in the past. The international section is a long way from the check-in and security posts, so an operational express moving sidewalk is a sure sign that the travel god is smiling upon you.

Checking in at the lounge, I got a different story. My flight was delayed due to mechanical problems. They had to swap in a new plane for the flight. I’d be leaving two hours late.

OK. Two hours. I’ve had worse delays. At least I didn’t have to make a connection in Madrid. And I was in a lounge with free food and booze.

I got a glass of champagne and a snack. As I was enjoying that, my phone pinged with a message. It was Air Canada messaging me. There was an additional two hour delay. According to the lounge concierge, the replacement plane had a broken window. Air Canada had to get us yet another plane.

In the end, it was about a five-hour delay.

But, I’m here. Instead of landing in Madrid at 7:20 a.m. as originally scheduled, I landed at about noon. On the bright side, my room was ready for me when I got to my hotel. And I got a coupon from Air Canada for an unspecified discount on a future flight as compensation for my troubles.

Prado Museum

Prado Museum
Prado Museum

When in Madrid you have to go to the Prado Museum. I think there’s a law. It’s sort of like the law that you have to visit the Louvre when you’re in Paris. I don’t know if they’re municipal, national, or EU laws, but there are definitely laws. Look it up.

Anyone who knows me or who has read previous posts in this journal knows that I’m not much into art galleries. After an hour or, at most, two hours, my eyes glaze over and I enter a near-comatose state. I worry that the museum staff will find me in that state and ship me off to the morgue. I worry about a lot of stuff like that.

This time, I was smart. Rather than having to spend an hour or two slowly devolving into catalepsy, I went to the Prado Museum shortly after coming off an overnight flight. That way. I figured I’d get a head start and be almost cataleptic before I even entered the Prado. It worked.

(For the record, my Fitbit said I got two hours and 45 minutes of sleep on the plane, but most of it was light sleep. Then again I think my Fitbit’s sleep tracker has a margin of error of plus or minus 100%. So, who knows?)

Senior Prado

This was the second time in my life I visited the Prado. I appreciated it twice as much this time. People 65 and older get in for half price. I wasn’t yet a senior the last time.

Even better, I got carded. Usually when I ask for the senior’s price they just accept my word that I’m ancient. This upsets me. Do I really look that old that no one has any doubt that I’m a senior? Grr.

But the Prado Museum either had a doubt or the admissions person was just being kind. She insisted on seeing ID to prove I was over 65. Either way, yay!

Prado Photos

If you read my posts from other trips, you’re probably expecting to find some pictures here of the works from inside the Prado. Don’t look too hard. You won’t find them.

There are two reasons for this. For one, the powers that be don’t allow pictures inside the Prado. I didn’t know this at first. I didn’t see any signage in English or iconography to that effect. However, before I took my first photo I saw a guy try to take a picture of the placard beside a painting. (Henceforth, I’ll refer to him as “the guy who wanted to take a picture.”) Before he could snap the photo, a guard rushed over to tell him he couldn’t take photos.

The guy who wanted to take a picture explained, in English, that he wanted to take a photo of only the placard, not the painting. The guard said it didn’t matter. No photos. Period.

The second reason there are no photos is I found there’s an undefined limit on how many photos I can include here.

I bought a plan that gives me “unlimited” web space. However, I subsequently learned that, despite being unlimited, I can’t use my website to store large collections of photos or backups. It was the backups, not the photos, that caused my internet service provider to direct me to an obscure clause in the lengthy terms of service that nobody reads. But still, there’ll be fewer photos from now on.

Sorry about that. Then again, I’m a lousy photographer. So, it’s not really much of a loss.

Inside the Prado

But enough about me. This is supposed to be about the Prado Museum. It’s an art gallery. It’s got pretty paintings and sculptures from a variety of periods and European countries.

On reflection, “pretty” is not an appropriate term. Some of them had dark themes. Death. Battles. Deaths in battles. Many of the deaths outside of battles were depictions of the death of Christ, but old European art is like that.

If pretty isn’t the right descriptor, what is? Let’s go with major-art-gallery quality, shall we? I say this not as an art connoisseur. I’m not. I base it strictly on the fact that they’re on display in a major art gallery. I figure the curators of the Prado have much more expertise in art assessment than I do. In truth, some Yorkshire terriers have more art assessment expertise than I do.

One picture in the Prado was the Mona Lisa. Although, it was, obviously, not the one in the Louvre. The placard beside the picture said it was probably painted by one of Leonardo da Vinci’s pupils. The placard listed two pupils, one of which was thought to have painted the very good copy hanging in the Prado. However, I don’t remember their names. I’ll bet the guy who wanted to take a picture doesn’t remember either, because that’s the placard he wanted to photograph.

Yeah, yeah. I know. That wasn’t a very intellectual or insightful review of the works in the Prado Museum. But that’s the best I can do. I’m not the art historian in the family, am I?

Oh, there is one thing about the Prado that I am qualified to comment on. Try the chicken Caesar salad in the Prado cafeteria. It was very tasty. They also make good espressos.

Buen Retiro Park

Wooded path In Buen Retiro Park
Wooded path in Buen Retiro Park

Buen Retiro Park is a big urban park only a couple of blocks from the Prado Museum. It’s sufficiently large that, when in the middle of it, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t far from the centre of a major metropolis.

Whoa. Wait. I just realized I was probably projecting there. It’s easy for me to forget it. But it’s easy for me to forget most things. Your mileage may vary.

Buen Retiro Park is quite varied. There are forested areas, with quiet paths that cut through them. A couple of fountains dot the park. There are also a couple of small artificial lakes, including one with a fountain that sits in front of a Crystal Palace.

Chrystal Palace in Buen Retiro Park
Chrystal Palace in Buen Retiro Park

The park also includes another pavilion that, when I was there, housed a free show of one artist’s modern art (mostly sculptural). I didn’t take a note of the artist’s name. Sorry, I don’t remember it.

Topiary in Buen Retiro Park
Topiary (probably) in Buen Retiro Park

Buen Retiro park also has some topiary. At least, I think it was topiary. The shapes were abstract, but if they weren’t trimmed to those contours then it was some of most amazing natural tree formations I’ve seen. Natural or shaped by humans, I’m just glad they were there because I was exceptionally pleased to learn that I remembered the word “topiary.” At my age, I tend to forget words I don’t use often, and some I do. The advantage of being old is, now I have an excuse.

Fountain
Fountain

As fatigue set in upon me with a thud, I took a couple of long walks and a couple of long sits in Buen Retiro park. It was very relaxing.

Artificial lake
Artificial lake
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