Madrid is a good place to start an adventure. Mucho civilized. The central neighborhoods are walkable, clean and historic. The museums and parks are amazing. My hotel is chic and cheap. The food is meat-heavy and carb-focused, but I found a good vegetarian restaurant today and loaded up on green stuff.
A few non-statistically-valid observations about Madrid… People like to give directions to people who speak tourist Spanish poorly and some will walk blocks to make sure those kinds of tourists don’t head off in the wrong direction again. Corner markets sell surprisingly good Rioja right next to the chips and cheap chocolate. Dogs and cats seem to be in short supply. And the City doesn’t seem to have a signature sound. Istanbul has the call to prayer. Buenos Aires has barking dogs. San Francisco has fog horns. Rome has church bells. Madrid has quiet.
I spent the morning at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which has a very diverse collection of art work from the 15th through mid-20th centuries. Someone (ok, it was Rick Steves) described it as having minor works of major artists and major works of minor artists. I decided to focus my viewing on the varied portrayals of women and there were many. Here are the ones that were most moving to me:
Retrato de Una Mujer Joven Llamada, Palma Il Vecchio
I am fighting the impulse to keep moving all the time, and in disbelief at the amount of freedom I will have for the next few months. Maybe that explains why I am still a little disoriented.