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Trip Report An afternoon in Madrid

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Since I rarely have more than a few hours in a row on a trip to Madrid if I go early for a meeting so I try to pack in a few stops to make my early arrival worthwhile.

I arrived on the AVE from Valencia ( this time we were on time! Yea!) on Thanksgiving Day at 2:20. As soon as I left the terminal on the upper deck, I passed a wooden kiosk selling all sorts of cooked items such as chestnuts.. potatoes.. and sweet potatoes. Feeling nostalgic I ordered a lovely soft baked over- coals sweet potato and ate it with a spoon right there on the spot.

At least I tried to get in the spirit. Last year I had enjoyed the Thanksgiving luncheon at the American's Women's Club that a friend of my is in charge of, but I didn't have the time this year so this was the best I could do.

I had such a nice chat with the fellow running the place. He informed me of how the end of the month is really a tough time for them. They hardly have any customers, but then it picks up after everyone gets their pay checks. I found out it costs 300E to rent this advantageous space next to Atocha from City Hall, plus all utilities. Interesting.

I then proceeded to El Prado for my timed entrance to see the Hermitage Collection. I stored my small carry-on in the cloak room and can tell you that even large cases can be stored there. I suggest anyone in the neighborhood checking out this museum leave your bags there even after you are finished and go enjoy a few more treats along the Castellana before collecting them .

After running into an acquaintance from Valencia who was there for the day just to see the exhibit, I slowly enjoyed the paintings and especially the ancient jewelry and how it was displayed. The lighting and backdrops in the jewelry boxes were exquisite. This was well worth my visit. I was also able to re-visit the rest of the museum, choosing a few particular floors of Goyas and more that I never tire of.

I then collected my bag and started walking down towards Cibeles as I wanted to check out the Cultural Center since the last time I was unable to get in due to the nude bicyclist protest in the area. This center( the old postal/communications center) is a gem of a building, and always has been, but now with the renovation the public can access all floors, step out onto some observation towers and decks, enjoy chill-out areas and soon there will be a designer café. There are several free exhibits spread among the floors.

There is NO place for bags as of yet, and everything needs to be scanned before you descend into the center or take any of the lifts.

But I got detoured as I passed by the Museo Naval and did a backtrack after glancing at my watch to see if I could squeeze in a short visit here to see what it holds.

There is no specific place for bags here after the scanning downstairs and writing down my passport number ( this is an active military building) but i was told the woman upstairs could keep my bag for me.

The woman at the desk said that " if that is what he told you.. no problem" so she kept my bag and winter coat ( this building as most Madrid buildings has EXCELLENT heating) and i began a short, but enthralling visit to one of the most fascinating displays of boat models and artifacts i have ever seen.

The models were so detailed and interesting. After a half hour or so of meandering through this huge, but cozy wooden floored museum i started realizing I would need to eventually return here to see more of the informative mini films they have and enjoy this with my husband on another trip someday. The miniature tin soldier collections were amazing, even for someone who has absolutely no interest in tin soldiers.

I highly recommend a stop here ( 3 E) as even children will find the vast collections of everything imaginable to do with the fleet of Spanish ships, their contents, their findings across the globe over the centuries very interesting. I think this is a very overlooked place along the convenient Castellana and just a few minutes from the Prado.

Then a short stop up to the observation tower at Cibeles Centro/Centro after getting a timed entrance ticket from the information desk/cloak room attendant.

After a few mobile phone shots to send home to hubby I then proceed to walk down/up? the Castellana towards my next important "date" with Cova, a frequent poster here in the Europe board who lives in Madrid.

We met at a very cozy café called "Mamá Framboise" that I found with no problem. There are a few large tables to share seats at and several small two/3 person tables. This café is designed in an old world fashion and was full from the moment we arrived until we both left.

It was great meeting yet another Fodorite whose posts I so enjoy reading. Cova keeps us up to date on special activities around the country and more than once I have heeded her excellent public transportation suggestions! Thanks, Cova for taking the time to meet up. I know it was a long day for you!

I had hoped to go to a Ballet with some friends at 8:30, but they had some unexpected meetings so we called it a night and went to their home for dinner.

Madrid always has something new; a new exhibit, a new building renovation, a new restaurant to try. I never tire of this majestic city, and hope others find the charm in it as I do.

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