Subject: Re: Madrid area
David, I haven't stayed at the Villa Real but have passed it and it looks good and is in a good location. We stayed on the Gran Via and walked everywhere from there. We enjoyed the walk around the Retiro Park, it's really beautiful there and we kept going back to the Plaza Mayor and just sitting on benches there and watching the people. The Park around the Royal Palace is very nice for a leisurely stroll. We enjoyed walking up to Plaza de Colon, it's more residential but was a nice walk and we enjoyed the Archaeological Museum again. The area around the Prado is a nice walk with lots of trees and parks and benches for sitting. Plaza Espana, which is near the Royal Palace is a nice place for walking too. We would just wander off on side streets and see what was there. The area around the Plaza Mayor is very old and we enjoyed the little streets up that way and would walk into the old churches there. One place I hadn't been before that I went to last Sep was the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. It was right near the Gran Via and I hadn't known it was there. The tours are only in Spanish but I thought it was well worth visiting. It has a lot of art work and tapestries. A real highlight of our trip was taking the train to Alcala de Henares, where we had lived for the first 3 years we were living in Spain. It's a short train ride and is so much out of the city. It was several blocks to their Plaza Mayor and main street. It's a wonderful city to walk in through the old part. The newer part is just apartments but once I got my bearings there it was like going home again. The main street is covered over the sidewalks and it is such a unique town. You can visit Cervantes' home and the first university in Spain. We wished we had allowed more time there and I would love to go back to Spain and stay there instead of downtown Madrid. It was so much like the Spain I remembered. We lived there when Franco was in power and you didn't have to worry about thieves or locking your car doors back then. People were just friendlier in Alcala than downtown Madrid. That was a wonderful place for just walking and people watching and sitting around the town square. Have a wonderful trip. I wish I was going back again this year. Carol in San Antonio