Our travels started last week, taking a bus from Oxford to Gatwick, a plane to Madrid and a taxi to the Latina area, right in the heart of the city where we were met by host Miguel whose flat we rented during our stay.
Fortified by a welcome bottle of wine and a good night's sleep, our first full day was spent mainly in the city's galleries in the "Art Triangle". However, we started by visiting the old Atocha railway station with its enormous glazed roof. No longer used as a station, the old building now houses a botanic garden complete with terrapin pool, lots of bars and cafes, shops and exhibition space.
Next door in the new station, there is a simple but striking memorial to the 191 people who lost their lives and the 1,800 who were injured in the 2004 Madrid train bomb explosions. Everyone's name is listed, along with words from the survivors. A very poignant tribute.
A short distance away and we were in the Reina Sofia Museum which houses some of Spain's best contemporary and modern art, including "Guernica" by Picasso. Much larger than I had imagined, it's a powerful protest against the Spanish Civil War. We had lunch at the Museum then explored the amazing roof terraces of the new extension with reflections of the city below, before moving on to another modern art gallery.
The Caixa Forum is a converted and extended power station which seems to float above ground level, resting on a just small number of points.
Inside, it has a stainless steel staircase which is well known to photographers and therefore irresistible!
Before leaving the "Art Triangle" we had a quick look at another museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which has an eye-catching modern extension.
Our last port of call for the day was the ABC Museum, in another part of Madrid. It was too late and we were too tired to go in and look at the drawings and illustrations, but the outside was fun to photograph!
One of the benefits of staying in the centre was a good choice of bars within stumbling distance, which was about all we could manage at the end of our first full day in Madrid!
If you are curious about what we did the next day, please come back tomorrow!