Saturday, July 21, 2012

Madrid Río on Rented Bikes

Final Jaunts

Manzanares River in January, Madrid
This blog describes my visits in the course of one year to over 50 museums and exhibit spaces in Madrid. Given a bit more time, I might have moved on to palaces and private art collections that can be seen by appointment only, such as the Palacio de Liria, or traveled to even more obscure corners of the city.  I never made it to the Museum of Sanitation and Public Health, for example, nor did I manage to see the museum of the nineteenth-century gymnasium at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. 

Yesterday, I cajoled two teenagers into accompanying me south by metro to the Museum of Angel Nieto, Spain's 13-time Grand Prix World Champion in motorcycle road racing . (Angel Nieto is so superstitious, I read, that he refers to this feat as 12 +1).  Alas, we walked up to a crumbling brick building with broken panes. Weeds sprouted from cracks in the sidewalk. A grimy flag with a motorcycle stenciled on it hung limply over the shuttered entrance. The temperature outside was almost 100 degrees.  Then a miracle occurred: my sons did not throttle me. They agreed to walk on, into the nearby Park Tierno Galvan. We came across a few men drying their clothes on park benches; saw an igloo, which turned out to be the Madrid Planetarium, shimmering in the distance; and finally, stopped near a statue of Enrique Tierno Galvan, a former Mayor of Madrid. Sometimes an outing does not go as planned, and to my immense delight, the progeny have learned to take such things in stride.

Striding towards the Planetarium, Parque Tierno Galvan
In contrast, our recent bike ride down the new riverside parkway Madrid Río exceeded all expectations.  The massive Madrid Río project diverts the M-30 ring road underground, and has developed the banks along the Manzanares River into a 10k walking and bike path, with many interesting stops along the way: playgrounds, fountains, cafes, bridges, a skate park, sculptures and lovely vistas of the city.  Along with visiting family, we rented 8 bikes at the friendly store Mi Bike Río (Aniceto Marinas, 26; metro Principe Pío;

Bike rental store near Manzanares River
To our surprise, there were few riders during the heat of the day, and we had kilometer after kilometer of the bike path to ourselves.

One of many innovative playgrounds

Stopping for splashes, and ice cream. New spiral bridge in background.
Climbing the steps for city view. Southern end of the route.
Heading back.

We rented the bikes for 3 hours, enough time to ride to the end of the route and back.  Sights along the way include the Vincente Calderon Stadium, home of the football team Atletico Madrid, and Matadero Madrid, a former slaughterhouse complex with neo-mudéjar features, that has been turned into a contemporary arts center. 

Our year in Madrid, one of the world's great cities, has come to an end.  I can't wait to return here again someday.

Dulcinea (L) and friend near Plaza de Oriente

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dulcinea's Best of Madrid Exploration Kit: Top 10

1. Best Map of Madrid
Knopf City Map Guides: Madrid. The City in Section-by-Section Maps. After trying several other maps, this one was my favorite. The pocket-sized book contains all the main sights of Madrid, along with useful suggestions for each part of the city. Museums are marked.

The maps are very good, but a compass is my secret weapon.

2. Best Small Museum
Sorolla Museum. The painter Sorolla's 1920s home and studio, with a lovely garden outside. This is a good stop for all ages.

Fountain in Sorolla's garden

3. Best Place for Frugal Travelers to Find a Quick Snack
The cafe chain 100 Montaditos. Dozens of locations in Madrid.  Home of the 1-Euro cafe con leche, the 1-Euro beer, and over 100 types of sandwiches on tiny rolls.  Spaniards flock here as well---price/quality ratio is good.

4. Best Souvenirs 
Football memorabilia... from Real Madrid or Team Spain.
Leather jewelry... from the whimsical store Tierra Madrid, located on calle Gerona, 10 (just off Plaza Mayor).
Jewelry from Tierra (items pictured: 4 to 15 Euros).
Spanish fans... 
Postcards from museum gift stores...
Espadrilles from Antigua Casa Crespo (in business since 1863; calle Divino Pastor, 29; metro: San Bernardo) or Casa Hernanz (since 1845; calle Toledo, 18-20; located one block off Plaza Mayor).

Espadrilles from Spain

5. Best Places to Take Small Children
Railroad Museum.  Room to climb (on antique train cars) and relax (in an elegant dining car from the 1920s).

...or big children.

Retiro Park.  Rowboats, buskers, ice-cream stands, fortune-tellers, fountains, a Crystal Palace, and turtles sunning themselves in a pile nearby. Just a few of the pleasures of this park behind the Prado Museum.

Learning to row in Retiro

6. Best Store for Cheap, Useful, Attractive Odds and Ends
Tiger. Art supplies, toys, kitchen wares, reading glasses, notebooks, greeting cards, and other things you didn't think you needed, all with a hint of Scandinavian design. A cross between Ikea and the five-and-dime.  Various locations around town.

7. Most Intriguing Experience
Buying sweets from the Convent Nuns. (See Adventure in the Cloister)

8. Best Outdoor Running Track in Madrid
Located at Parque de Santander (also known as Green Canal) in the the Chamberi neighborhood of Madrid, at the corner of Avenida de Islas Filipinas and Avenida Pablo Iglesias.  Closest metro: Canal, Rios Rosas. Run past blooming lavender bushes, fountains, wisteria vines, and families out for a stroll.  Restrooms and water fountains provided.  Free access to track and park areas; other sports facilities can be rented on a fee basis. Track open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Rubberized 1200-meter running track in Chamberi district

9. Best Exhibition Space
Sala del Canal de Isabel II.  Located in an old water tower that has been renovated for temporary art exhibitions. Check website for current listings. Don't forget to bring passport. Entry is free, but because the tower is located within the headquarters of the city water utility, there is a security checkpoint. Located at calle de Santa Engracia, 125 (metro: Rios Rosas).  Hours: Tues-Sat: 11-2 & 5-8:30; Sun: 11-2; Closed Monday.

Sala Canal de Isabel II

10. Best Free Art Exhibit Venues in Madrid

Consistently top-notch:
Fundacion Mapfre. Paseo de Recoletas, 23.
Caixa Forum Madrid. Paseo del Prado, 36.
Juan March Foundation. Castelló, 77

Juan March Foundation. Ground floor has exhibit space.