The Prado is filled with history, not only of art, but also of humans and their relationship to nature. There are gods, of course, love, sex and death all captured by the male gaze; Goya, Velazquez, El Greco … It is an overwhelming place of virtuosity and glory. One needs to have a break. Go to the Parque, perhaps?
Remember when Babar the Elephant got to be King? One of the many kind things he did for his people was to make a lovely park where they could promenade and play. I’m quite sure Jean de Brunhoff modelled the King’s park on this one.
El Retiro, or Buen Retiro Parque, in Madrid, used to be the Royal playground until it was given to the people in the nineteenth century. Like Babar’s park it’s formal, organised into different areas of play and people use it all the time. Lots and lots of people. It was known as the great art wonder of the world and is jammed full of buildings and sculptures. Even a Crystal Palace!
It’s a reasonable size, 1.4km squared or (350 acres in old measurements, which considering the Imperial nature of this place, is probably suitable). While there are other parks around Madrid (the biggest is Casa de Campo) El Retiro is the most formal, and the most central.
One of the highlights of the park is the statue of the Fallen Angel. The Devil, writhing in agony, was built by Ricardo Bellver, while the base, with the cheeky devils and creatures, was added later by Franciso Janero. They say it really is 666 metres above sea level.
There were people everywhere! Rowing on the ‘Pond‘. Picnicking. Canoodling. Walking, running, skateboarding, practising their swing dancing … There were folks chucking frisbees, bashing balls with bats, kicking balls and there were dogs. Lots and lots of little dogs. Some big ones, some running about chasing a ball and a white pit bull pulling her owner. And some cats.
Buskers busked, cafes sold pizza, coffee and coke. The smell of sweet chestnut blossoms mingled with flying balloons and everyone seemed to be having a really good time. Perhaps they’d enjoyed the puppet show or one of the playgrounds?
I approved of some unkempt areas where quiet souls lurked in shady nooks.
The atmosphere hummed. If there was shouting it blended into the happy relaxation burble that was Madrid’s Public Holiday.
It was the 2nd of May.