Subject: Re: ZINE Madrid info sought
Hi Evan, Our experience in Madrid was limited to a day and a half. It was our gateway into and out of a trip we made to Catalan and the Basque Country. Although I speak Spanish I don't think you'll have any problem. Especially considering the fact that you've been living overseas now for awhile. And remember, although Spanish (Castilian) is spoken in Barcelona, Catalan is the native tongue. Having an interest in linguistics I found the language fascinating finding myself comparing word derivations with Spanish and French.

Due to our short time in Madrid we decided to focus on one thing-the parks and gardens. We were there in the spring and the weather was beautiful so we had opted to forego the museums (certain of future visits to this city) and spend our days outside. Some of these might be fun for your 2 1/2 year old son.

The Parque del Buen Retiro is Madrid's main park, analogous to New York's Central Park. There is plenty to do here; promenading with the madrileños, people-watching, street performers, boating on El Estanque, all the things you would associate with a major urban park.

The Real Jardín Botánico is adjacent to and south of the Retiro. Well worth a visit especially if you have any interest in botany. But also a wonderfully peaceful garden that offers some refuge in this bustling part of Madrid.

Back towards the Palacio Real are two intrigiung gardens/parks. The Jardines de Sabatini just to the north of the Palacio Real are a formal garden with precisely clipped box hedges, fountains and statuary. I fondly remember watching a madrileña tossing a ball for her dog, a fairly good-sized German Shepherd. The woman would throw the ball over the hedge and the dog would just leap over and through the green barriers. It seemed so incongruous, a formal garden being used as a dog's exercise yard. We loved it and sat on a bench above the garden watching the woman play with the dog for over a half-hour.

Directly behind the Palacio Real you'll find the Campo del Moro. A visit is worth it just for the impressive view from the Paseo Virgen del Puerto up the massive sweep of lawn to the facade of the Palacio Real. There are some wonderful paths through groves of chestnuts and plane trees. An additional bonus in this park are the variety of game birds which are kept here. Some loose and some in aviaries. Sure to garner a smile and some wide-eyed amazement from any young child.

Below is a link to a story in my local newspaper about tapas in Madrid emphasizing the Spanish unique fascination with ham. And, I might add, their elevating this meat to its highest level (my apologies to the prosciutto lovers out there, but give me jamon iberico de bellota any day). I can vouch for his description of the various bars and restaurants around Plaza Santa Ana. We stayed near there in a pension.

John in San Diego