After our foray into Madrid's galleries and museums on our first full day in Spain, we headed out of town on day two, on the train to the World Heritage Site of Toledo where we spent the day wandering around the hilly historic core, stopping every so often to catch our breath, refuel and take photos.
Toledo has a fascinating history, one of the few places where Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures co-existed peacefully at a time when religious persecution was rife in Spain. The mix of cultures is woven in the built fabric of the city. We didn't have the time or energy to go inside many of the museums, but we did venture into the cathedral to admire the architecture.
Most of the time, we wandered happily through the maze of streets, stopping occasionally to admire views down to the Tagus river which winds round the base of the citadel and out into the countryside beyond (and to doze off on a park bench in the warm sunshine, if truth be told :-) until it was time to catch the last train back to Madrid.
The next day back in Madrid was a complete contrast: time to photograph some modern architecture, starting with a visit to Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas airport, designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers. We were told later that it doesn't work as well as the older terminals from the passengers point of view, but it's a wonderful place to take photographs!
From the airport we took a suburban train to one of Madrid's new business areas to see the Cuatro Torres (Four Towers) which dominate the city's skyline and the Puerto de Europa, nearby where a pair of towers lean towards each other across the road.
Our last port of call before heading back to the apartment was the Hotel Avenida de America, its facade clad in a spectrum of colours.
We seriously under estimated how long it would take us to get back to base, so were somewhat late for a rather special meeting that evening.
If you have been reading the blog for a while, you will know that last year we met up with a fellow photographer, Guiseppe, through our mutual involvement in Fotoblur. It was such a lovely experience, that I suggested to Steve that we try something similar whilst in Spain.
I have long been an admirer of photography by Marisol, who lives in Madrid. When our plans to visit the city were finalised, I contacted her to see whether she would like to meet up for a drink and tapas. We were delighted when she said yes. And so it was that on our fourth night in Madrid, we headed to the Plaza del la Opera and were immediately recognised and greeted warmly by Marisol and her husband Manolo.
It was a lovely warm evening; it felt like everyone was out enjoying the sunshine and in a good mood, as indeed were we. After a short stroll to the plaza in front of the Royal Palace, we stopped for something to eat and drink nearby and, guided by Marisol, enjoyed some excellent tapas and wine that we might have been too nervous to try had we been on our own. The evening passed quickly, as we found we had much in common to talk about. Indeed, it felt like we were meeting with old friends, even though this was our first face to face encounter. Thank you so much Marisol and Manolo for making it very special! We hope very much that we will have the pleasure of meeting you again, either in Madrid or the UK.
We spent our last day in Madrid in more relaxed way, visiting some of the city's green spaces. A picnic at the Botanic Gardens, followed by an afternoon in the Retiro Park where we watched others engaged in more active pursuits - rowing on the lake, jogging, skateboarding, inline roller blading and doing stunts on bikes.
Whilst there, we visited the Crystal Place a building inspired by the one in London, and an exhibition in the air conditioned Palazzo de Velazquez, which made us realise just how warm it was outside!
As evening approached, our last port of call was to the Parque del Oeste, where we admired the views over the west side of Madrid and strolled round the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod. This building was donated to Spain as a thank you for helping to save the temples of Abul Simbel which would otherwise have been lost when the Aswan Dam was constructed. It was reconstructed in Madrid and opened to the public in 1972. When we were there, it provided a great backdrop to a hip-hop dance troupe!
And that's how our last full day in Madrid finished, watching a dance crew strut their stuff in front of an ancient Egyptian temple gate as the sun sank slowly in the west....
....If you are curious about what happened next, come back soon after I've caught up with a few more e-mails and judged a few more photos :-)