After visiting over thirty major cities in Europe, twenty of these were capital cities, I had always held the view that top of my list would be Vienna for its architectural and cultural history, closely followed by Lisbon with its shabby chic quality and the feeling of “its good to be here” when you visit the city.
It could be New York…………but it is Madrid
I am now having to seriously consider reviewing my list after completing my second holiday visit to Madrid recently. Madrid is a city of architectural magnificence, beautiful buildings and churches along with parks that simply take the breath away. Moreover, the choice of art galleries and museums is probably greater than any other city in Europe. I would strongly recommend Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (free on Mondays between 12.00 – 16.00pm) with its collection of masters from all over the world.
The magnificent Roman aqueduct at Segovia
I also discovered the Museo del Ferrocarril de Madrid, which is the train museum housing some old steam trains and stock and an absolute must for a steam enthusiast like myself. They have a fabulous buffet car where you can sit inside, or on the platform sipping your double espresso as I did.
Church in Segovia
The people of Madrid couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful, several times we were stood in the busy city consulting our street map when we were approached by local people offering to help us find a route to our destination. Through their limited English (but a dam site more than my Spanish) they were able to send us on our way with a smile (can you imagine this happening in London?).
Inside the church in Segovia
We also visited our local market and through my very limited Spanish but lots of hand gestures we were able to purchase fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. The stallholders were more than happy to offer us tastings of cured meat and cheeses, all served up with a smile. On the fruit and vegetable stalls everything was loose and you could buy as little or as much as you liked, none of this supermarket malarkey here in the UK where everything is pre-wrapped and you have to buy the amount the supermarket dictates. One young Spaniard (who had spent time in the UK) I discussed this with referred to the UK as “Tesco land.”
Just after leaving the church………..sheer elegance
We were only in Madrid for six days so tried to make the most of our visit by exploring different parts of the city on foot, brilliant place for walking as not too many hills, and venturing out by train to Segovia and Aranjuez. It was nice to sit back in a comfortable train, plenty leg room and then look up at the screen to see the train was doing 250km per hour. Note, if you go to Segovia on the fast train you will be deposited at a futuristic new train station, 6 kilometres from the city and in the middle of nowhere. Buses are laid on to transfer passengers to the city but if there are a couple of you or more, it is virtually as cheap to get a taxi.
Beautiful tiled church dome
The trip to Segovia is worthwhile to see the lovely city but also the world famous aqueduct built by the Romans, which still remains a breath-taking piece of civil engineering.
Local market stall
Unfortunately, we did not have much time to explore Aranjuez as we got lost on the walk into town from the station. A local said it was “ten minutes” but almost one hour later we managed to find it……….its a long story and have no wish to embarrass myself further, with details of determining the route. My mitigating plea is that we did not have a map.
A fruit stall we can only dream about in the UK
Although the holiday was rather brief we did manage to pack a lot into the six days. One little pleasure was to visit Cafe de Oriente and have morning coffee and croissants, sat outside in the sun and with a view across to the royal palace (reviews on Trip Adviser for the cafe are mixed but our experience was excellent).
The square in Aranjuez
So, I have finally arrived at my verdict and have to admit that Madrid has displaced Vienna as number one city in my affections……………I think a return visit to Vienna will soon be called for!
Photographs (C) Kindadukish 2017