March 29, 2005

Urban Madrid

MadridStreetsA.jpgMadridStreetsB.jpgMadridStreetsC.jpgMadridStreetsD.jpg I think of Madrid as a thick city. A tiramizu*1 of eight to ten plantas full of pisos*2. The only exception to this layered density is a monumental lack, an urban exception, which are the immense public parks that frame the city. I used to think of Madrid as Los Angeles but not now. I had heard of the legendary sprawl and I reached for what I believed was the gold standard for a metastisizing urban/suburban polyglot megalopolis that is LA. The big difference that I could detect in this short trip is that Madrid is less a melange. There is more of a tiramizu-like stratification that defines all parts of the city that we visited last weekend: the outdoor living rooms of the street with the commercial foundation and apartments stacked to ten floors above... and that is it. Todo. It is a sameness in section that differs from LA's running jumble.

Madrid-Overview.jpg The subway system there is wonderful: new, clean, reasonably priced, fast. You can fly in and take the subway from the airport into the center of the city with two connections. Our pension is located in the heart, a short few blocks to the Prado and the Reina Sophia, an easy walk into the older Southern side (Rastro) and the hipper shopping North of Puerto del Sol.

madridDowntown.jpg It might be inevitable that I would compare Madrid with Barcelona. There's more of a hippy edge to Barcelona, probably due to what I view as an essential earthyness of the Catalan people. Urbanistically, Barcelona has a fantastic history of formal evolutions. And there is the Mediterranean Sea, so fabulous. And then there is a mark that onlty a Gaudi could make on a major city like Barcelona.

PlazaMayor.jpg Plaza Mayor. Notable features:
-It's a place wehre people are comfortable in sitting on the bare ground languidly in the sun.
-The downspouts extend away from the roofline for two meters, the effect of which must be fantastic when it rains, a perimeter of fountains in the huge square.
-Ordering too many tapas will break your bank. It's far better to keep the order to one or two and save your appetite for dinner elsewhere in the city.
-The regularity of the square is penetrated irregularly to the surrounding streets. I like to see the tubed passageways that burrow into the surrounding rectilinear mass in three dimensions.

*1: Tiramizu, an Italian dessert involving expresso, cream and cookies, all in layers. But, to apply an Italian dessert to a Spanish City? My bad. But flan just wouldn't do.

*2: A planta is a floor of a building, a piso is an apartment.

Posted by Dennis at March 29, 2005 12:27 PM

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