Its so empty, you can sleep in the streets!
When Jingmei and I first planned our trip to Spain, I was looking forward to seeing Madrid. Back when I did my two summers of touring Europe, I just touched the top of Spain, running with the bulls in Pamplona, but I never made it to Madrid.
For years, I've always wanted to go back, as much to make my Dad proud, for he always wished I'd seen the Prado, as to see the country for myself.
Now I have.
You know when you wander home from a club at daybreak (okay, some of you don't, but go with me here) and there is no one on the streets? Well, it's the middle of the afternoon and Madrid is deserted. Not like a city weekend deserted, where all the offices are closed and people are relaxing at home, but like no one's there deserted. You might think it was just siesta time, but even the houses are closed and empty.
Jingmei and I are sitting on a bench outside the Prado, relaxing after a Museum Morning before we head back to London and I am still shocked at how empty this city is in the summer. No one is here. Not most of the shop owners, not most of the restaurants, not most of the businesses, and none of the government offices.
All are closed and after studying a few of the business hour signs, I realized what most of them say: Closed for August. They should actually hang that sign on the airport and train station, for the whole city is, for all intents and purposes, closed for August.
Luckily for us, there are a few restaurants open, and the food they serve is amazing. Jingmei is quite addicted to paella, ordering it for every meal. I'm a little more diverse, trying every kid of tapas I can find, and delighting on the butter-soft calamari and octopus.
We did enjoy the Prado, or at least I did, for the intense religious themes were too much for Jingmei. In looking at the art, I was amazed at how wealthy the country became from its conquests. Granted, the Prado is no Louvre and Franco ignored the Botanical Gardens, but for a country that was occupied by the Moors for eight hundred years, and is one of the driest in Europe, they made a great fortune on war and exploitation.
Actually, the paintings did not impress me as much as the Italian stone tables. Made with different marbles, with intricate inlay tops supported by golden lions, the tables were amazing in their beauty yet utility. I defiantly wanted on for my kitchen room table when I win the lottery.
Oh, right next to the Prado is an under-rated gem in Madrid: the Botanical Gardens. With plants and trees from all over the world laid out in perfect geometry, it was a beautifully cool respite to Madrid's dry air.
My favorite was the tropical green house, complete with Venus flytraps and pitcher plants. I guess I'm not the only humidity-lover, for the Atocha train station's old Western section is now another tropical greenhouse, complete with water misters and a little pond.
Ah, its time for us to go now, and say goodbye to our second mini-honeymoon. Adios!