Our journey began in Madrid. After arriving early morning from a red-eye flight, we checked in at the Room-Mate Alicia Hotel and headed to the Retiro Park. Despite being February, it was unusually warm and with beautiful blue skies. We chose the Room-Mate chain for both Madrid legs of the hotel for their upscale, quirky hotels in good locations and the best value that we could find for our weak dollars.
The hotel was off Plaza Santa Ana which had a lot of charm and was in the theater district. Along the perimeter of the plaza were outdoor cafes and sports bars. It's my favorite area to stay in Madrid, easy access to everything else and enough off the beaten path that it's not too busy. It's tourist friendly, but with a nice mix of Madrilenos. At one point, while a soccer match (I guess I should say football) was being broadcast from a bar, a group of men and boys started playing soccer in the plaza, as cabs sped around them. We ate tapas at the Cafe Miaw (yes, their logo is a cat) across the street and then collapsed for an early bedtime in prep for our next morning's flight to La Palma.
Both of these photos are from Retiro Park, more correctly known as Jardines del Buen Retiro. It's a very Central Park type park in the middle of the upscale section of Madrid, down the street from the Ritz Hotel and La Prada, near the Puerto Espana. The park is almost 400 years old and was originally part of royal estates, but has been open to the public since the mid-nineteenth century. We entered the park through the gateway in the second shot and walked up the path, Avenida de Argentina. The plants that are blooming look like mums from a distance but were more like ornamental cabbage on closer examination. At the end of the walkway, we could see a monument in the distance, but to our surprise when we reached the wall in front of it, there was a lake that was filled with boaters. I call the first shot "Oarplay" because all the teens were in single sex boats and manuvering around eachother in a very elaborate dating ritual. The "older" folks got to mix genders, but the teens were clearly segregated and courting.