13 April 2009
My first trip to Madrid.
I am excited. It is my first trip to Madrid. It is my first time on the Ave high speed train.
We leave Fuengirola station at 08:45 and one hour later we arrive in Malaga to catch the 09.00 high speed train to Madrid. There is security and x-raying of bags. I find this a bit unexpected for a train.
However, calmly and unrushed we took our pre-booked seats and sat back. We were off smoothly.
An attendant came round with a set of headphones. By 09.10 we are passing mountains on our left and agricultural land on our right. The area is dotted with houses and the occasional white pueblo. We are travelling at 186 km hr. The temperature is 14 degrees.
A movie, Charlie Wilson has started. I pass but understand that it can be watched in English with Spanish subtitles. There is a language choice.
We are now in a long tunnel after which as we emerge we see plenty of olive tree plantations, green fields and greenish brown hillsides that remind me of another country.
We stop at Antiquera (Santa Ana) bathed in sunshine at 09.26. As we pull away a flock of birds begins to follows us but veer away to the right in formation. The other passengers in our carriage are reading reports, talking on their mobile phones and using their computers. The train is doing 288 km . Now we’re motoring!
We stop at Cordoba at 10.00 for about a minute and we are off again. Dark skies are taking over from the blue but after 20 minutes the blue returns and just as quickly change to grey clouds and fog as we pull into Puertollano. Fog has now descended and is a pea-souper with little to see beyond the hedge groves and within 20m on either side of the train.
The fog lifts as we slide into Cuidad Real. Another Ave pulls into the station going in the opposite direction on its way to Malaga. The toilet on the train is a modern treat and the cafe/bar area is as lively as all Spanish bars with lots of chat and noise.
The final hour of our journey is through lush green land. I wonder why there are no seat belts as on airplanes but there is plenty of leg room. The green fields eventually give way to industrialisation, the sprawling mass of residential properties, commercialisation and offices.
We are in Madrid Atocha.
That didn’t feel like 2.5 hours!
So, why did you go to Madrid?
Yes, I know that I have been distracted but the main reason for going to Madrid was to see the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Prado Museum. Also I had never been to Madrid before and I sure got lots of pleasant surprises.
We were able to walk from the Atocha Railway station with its 4,000 m² covered tropical garden to our hotel, The Carlton.
A number 27 or 45 bus from across the road took us the few stops to the Prado. The cost - €1.00 each way. While in Madrid we took no taxis or metros as it was not necessary. The bus service was brilliant and easy to follow. It was also possible to walk to most of the places that we wished to see.
Let me firstly deal with the Museo del Prado
The Prado is one of the most important art museums in Europe and amongst the best in the world. The collection includes sculptures, drawings, paintings and other art objects. The Villanueva building houses Spanish paintings from romantic to 19th century styles, as well as important works by Italian, Flemish, French, Dutch, German and English artists.
The place I discovered is so big that it would be impossible to do much more than the originally planned trip so we stuck only with the Francis Bacon (1909-1992) temporary exhibition.
The exhibition runs until 19/04/2009 and is in association with the Tate Britain. Bacon was born in Ireland but spent his adult life in London. He died in Madrid.
There is a charge in and for the audio.
I hired the audio system in English and made my way around slowly. It took over three hours.
Here is a record from the programme click here.
You really want to give yourself plenty of time and then multiply it by three if you want to appreciate the Museo del Prado. We only did the one exhibition and will go back some time giving ourselves some leeway.
There is a Francis Bacon website that can really fill your head with information. Simply put his name into Google and go down the list a bit.
I was shattered after the visit as I found it heavy going not only from an informational point of view but also the artwork required getting around a complex personality, not mine!