Madrid, Beyond the Museum Walls

And a little about its neighboring city, Toledo

The Royal Palace, Madrid. Photo: iristongwu.

Of course I did other things in Madrid besides visiting museums (though not much), and some of them were quite memorable. From the sunset at Parque de la Montaña, the gorgeous food market right next to our apartment, the impromptu flamenco at Plaza Mayor, to having lunch at the oldest running restaurant in the world. Madrid is hard to categorize and summarize, and I’ve only got bits and pieces.

Sunset, Parque de la Montaña, Through Two Thousand Years

I could never resist a beautiful sunset. If I were the Little Prince and live on a tiny planet, I would move my chair a hundred times a day.

Sunset Parque de la Montaña was something special. The park is situated on a hilltop, overlooking the magnificent Royal Palace, when it’s bathed in golden light at dusk. Then there’s the Temple of Debod, an old Egyptian temple built 2 century BC, dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid as a sign of gratitude.

Temple of Debod, Madrid. Photo: Iristongwu.

So here I saw: absolute still water, the reflection of stones, trees, people, and the sunset. Nothing seemed to matter at that moment.

Celebrating 100 Years, Mercado de San Miguel

Food markets always have a powerful allure to me. My thoughts still go back to Timeout Mercado in Lisbon from time to time. Literally next to the building I was staying in Madrid was Mercado de San Miguel. The encounter was after nightfall, orange lights poured out through full glass windows that fill the iron structure. It was buzzy and lively inside. People push their way through other people, loading up on wines, meats, and sweets; then they find their way toward the outer rim and eat at the high tables, standing and chatting.

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, built in 1916. Photo: iristongwu.

Suckling Pig at Botín, the Longest Running Restaurant in the World

Whether it’s true or not, Botín has a Guinness Record certificate stating it was the longest running restaurant in the world, and their suckling pig was indeed unbelievably good.

The menu was limited, the service was adequate but not heart-warming, the dessert was a little bit too traditional. However, there’s an undeniable allure to the place that stems from its history, the old wooden deco, the light and air inside. When they finally brought out the suckling pig, sizzling in a large pottery pan, put it next to our table, then cut and served straight onto our plates, I knew I was in the right place.

Botín, Madrid. Everything was done the old way. Photo: iristongwu.

Toledo, Straight out of A Fairy Tale

I rode a train to Toledo on January 1st. A mere 20-minute train ride unveiled a different world. There was not a single modern building in the whole city. It had snowed the night before, and there were icicles on tree branches and grass stems. Almost all of the attractions were closed. Tourists were sparse. Even the cold wind was otherworldly.

Toledo. Photo: iristongwu.

I parted with year 2016 in Madrid, a year of dramatic changes in my life. Though their consequences and true meanings are not immediately apparent to me. I’m content about what happened, what I have right now, and what is yet to come.

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