- Madrid in 36 Hours (Part 1) -

If things have been quiet around here lately it's because I've been busy soaking up the (very hot) Spanish sun. A fairly impromptu trip left me with no guidebook, just a handful of Spanish, and a mere day and a half to discover the capital. My first stop? An evening stroll through Parque del Retiro as the perfect way to stave off the jet lag.

a look into the park from the main gates

Park Retiro is a beautifully sculpted garden so large you lose all slight of the city. Locals come to picnic under the trees, work out on the lawns, and catch a moment or two of the latest buskers to hit the circuit. 

The park's main centre features a man-made pond where you can rent a rowboat and paddle along under the shadow of a monument to Spanish King Alfonso XII. Other park highlights include a rose garden and one of the oldest trees in Madrid.

the pond & alfonso xii

the pond & alfonso xii

The park features two "palaces" which double as small modern art galleries under the umbrella of the Reina Sofia National Art Museum. Admission is generally free and the exhibits are small enough to avoid taking you away from nature for too long. This July, the Crystal Palace featured an immersive installation by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. The artist has placed old books tied to rocking chairs all around the inside of the palace, so visitors and sit and read inside the vaulted glass rooms with the forest looming just outside. 

splendid hotel by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

splendid hotel by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

Don't forget to peak into the natural pond on your way out to see the the baby turtles before finishing off the evening with a pitcher of sangria at one of the park's outdoor pavilions. 

next to the pond outside the crystal palace

next to the pond outside the crystal palace

Up next: how to make the most of Madrid's many art galleries in just one day!

For more info on exhibits in Park Retiro visit: http://www.museoreinasofia.es/en