A Day in Madrid at the Prado.
Normally a visit to a museum has me drained and looking for the exit within 2 hours. I have been known to queue to get into somewhere longer than I can tolerate being in there.
However, I was fully absorbed by the Capitolino Museum in Rome. It kept me happy for more than 4 hours. So I know what is possible.
In Madrid recently I had a day up for grabs before I flew out. I didn’t want to leave the city for the day so considered how best to spend these final precious hours.
Museo del Prado has disputedly the world’s finest collection of art, and indisputably, the world’s finest collection of Spanish art. It is also one of the most visited sites in the world. My interest was peaked but I know myself so felt a little cautious. I decided to be philosophical and be led by the whims of the heavens. For this reason, I left going online to see if I could book a ticket until early on the morning of the day I wanted to visit. Once I got there I found that this day would not highlight on the site to show what tickets were available. I tinkered with the page for about 20 minutes but just couldn’t make it work so concluded that the day must be fully booked and that I would do other most wonderful things.
I packed up, checked out, left my bag in reception and headed for the glorious, spacious, green Parque del Buen Retiro, (or park of the pleasant retreat).
It is just lovely walking in this very generous 350-acre recreational space which has sculpture, water features, a man-made lake with paddle boats, monuments, avenues, and fountains.
I realised though, after an hour, that it was going to be a very long day just hanging around in the park so decided to head for the Prado anyway and ask if I could just visit the gift shop and cafe. On arrival, there was no queue so I went up to security and inquired and they told me to go into the ticket office. The ticket office handed me a ticket with full access to the Prado museum. Confused I asked more questions to find that there could be no bookings for this day because today is free to the public! I had unwittingly decided to visit on International Museum Day. What a crazy fluke. (See the link, http://icom.museum/events/international-museum-day/). Talk about the whims of the heavens.
Oh, but it was just mesmerising. It was magnificent and it was wondrous. I found myself wandering room to room in the presence of genius. I am unknowledgeable in the arts and I don’t know the great artist’s histories and works but I do know what I enjoy and so I allowed my eyes to guide me. I walked more briskly when not as taken and lingered longer when captured. And there is enough to do a little of each for a lovely long, luscious time. When I got tired I went and enjoyed the cafe then carried on.
The only disappointment is that photography is not allowed but at the same time it does force you to be fully present with no device between yourself and what is before you.
Finally, I spent lots of time in the gift shop coming away with a copy of the iconic Velázquez’ Cristo crucificado. I am not a Catholic nor religious but this embodies for me the Spanish and their passion for their faith. (I had not long come from Santiago de Compostela walking a portion of the Camino where Catholicism and the church are integral with the walking).
I also bought a copy of the Dutch artist Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights for what I interpret as an environmental message.
Madrid is very blessed with 3 fine museums of art, the Prado, the Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum so art lovers are utterly spoilt for choice.