Dr Ron Virmani — My Trip To Marvelous Madrid

In October 2000, I decided to explore the Spanish culture. As you know, this often starts off with a travel agent. She suggested Madrid to quench my wanderlust.

A DELTA flight took me to Atlanta and then another to Madrid. I landed at the airport bleary-eyed after overnight plane travel. I was then taken to the hotel where I promptly fell asleep.

I woke up in the afternoon to take a half-day bus tour of the city. This convinced me that Madrid is splendid. It is an amazing matrix of old and new architecture, buildings that are 500 years old and buildings that have been well maintained. The promenades are wide and the landscape along them is spectacularly dotted with fountains, sculptures and horticulture. Fortunately, each day was sunny, 75 degrees and picture perfect. Mornings and evenings got cold enough to need a jacket.

This is a city that never sleeps. Bustling with tourists and Spanish zest for life, midnight feels like midday. One is overwhelmed by so much to do and see.

The next day, I decided to walk along Gran Via to Del Prado, their world-famous museum. Unfortunately, the paintings and other items bear captions only in Spanish, no English is provided. I hired an English speaking guide and proceeded to learn a little about the 16th century Spanish painters such as Jose de Ribera, Diego Valazquez de Silva, Francisco de Goya etc.

After spending the morning at Del Prado, I walked to Puerto Del Sol (Gateway to the Sun). This is the most famous city square where many celebrated streets of Madrid meet. Tourists are seen bustling around its modern cafes, pastry shops, shoe stores, book stores, newsstands and of course, souvenir shops.

Then I walked along such beautiful roads such as Calle de Alcala, Calle de la princesa and others whose names escape me now. I saw a marvelous achievement of architecture, city planning, preservation of history and spirit of human existence. I also visited a bull fight, which left a bad taste in my mouth. By the way, they told me that eat the bull after it is killed.

For the uninitiated, Spanish food is almost completely meat based, so beware. While getting cash (1 dollar = 180 pesetos) from ATM’s was no problem, language was a barrier. I spent two days walking on the city streets and kept filling with awe at the amazing variety of sculpture and architecture. It seemed like no two buildings were alike. At night, the fountains would light up and deck the city like a jewel-laden bride.

I took a day tour to Escorial to see an old monastry. Here the powerful form of Santa Cruz, the Holy Cross, about 300 feet tall, overwhelms your senses once again. In the afternoon, I visited Toledo, the capital of Spain until King Philip made Madrid the capital in 1560. Tagus river encircles the granitic rock on which Toledo stands. I was very impressed by the history and architecture of this old city, that is so well preserved.

On the last night, I took in a show of Flamengo dancing. By this time I was sleep deprived but exhilarated from the richness of experience. I came back to the Queen City, with fond memories and appreciation of a completely different people. Therein lies, I hope, the essence of life!

Written by Dr Ron Virmani