Tagged museums

Hola Madrid y Toledo

At the beginning of September I headed to the Spanish capital. I only spent one day in Madrid, but somehow, it was enough. Because I lucked out big time with my Couchsurfing host. An avid learner and sharer of knowledge, Nico showed me around Madrid, all in one day. Couchsurfing saves you so much time and energy. You don’t have to read through Tripadvisor or lug Lonely Planet books in your backpack, as you can so easily get the best pieces of advice from a local!

We started our day walking through Parque Retiro.
We started our day walking through Parque Retiro, one of the largest parks in Madrid.
A statue of the fallen angel, Satan, stands tall in the middle of the park.
A statue of the fallen angel, Satan, stands tall in the middle of the park.
The Monument to King Alfonso XII looks over people rowing in the artificial pond.
The Monument to King Alfonso XII looks over people rowing in the artificial pond.
This guy dropped a feather in front of me.
This guy dropped a feather in front of me.
I put it in my hat.
I put it in my hat.
All this jumping made me hungry so it was time for lunch.
All this jumping made me hungry so it was time for lunch.
At vegetarian restaurant Artemisa, the daily menu costs 11,90 €. It consists of soup or salad for a starter, a main course and your choice of dessert.
At vegetarian restaurant Artemisa, the daily menu costs 11,90 €. It consists of soup or salad for a starter, a main course and your choice of dessert.

After lunch, we walked around the city before visiting two famous museums in Madrid.

I enjoyed looking at colourful houses...
I enjoyed looking at colourful houses…
...and colourful people!
…and colourful people!
Many roads are named after famous people and the street signs feature an image of the person in question.
Many roads are named after famous people and the street signs feature an image of the person in question.
Museo del Prado, with a collection of famous paintings from both Spain and abroad, is one of the most important sights in Madrid. Entry is free the final two hours of the day!
Museo del Prado, with a collection of famous paintings from both Spain and abroad, is one of the most important sights in Madrid. Entry is free the final two hours of the day!
In contrast to the classical paintings on display at Museo del Prado, Museo del Reina is dedicated to modern art. Museo del Reina also allows museum guests to enter for free during the last two hours it's open.
In contrast to the classical paintings on display at Museo del Prado, Museo Reina Sofía is dedicated to modern art. Museo Reina Sofía also allows museum guests to enter for free during the last two hours it’s open.
Our final stop of the day was the Royal Palace, which is lit up at night time.
Our final stop of the day was the Royal Palace, which is lit up at night time.
After walking around for twelve hours, dinner at macrobiotic restaurant La Biotika was very welcome. A three course menu will set you back 14,90 €.
After walking around for twelve hours, dinner at macrobiotic restaurant La Biotika was very welcome. A three course menu will set you back 14,90 €.

As we managed to cram all the main sights of Madrid into one day, I headed to Toledo the next morning. The old Spanish capital is situated approximately 70 km from Madrid. A round trip with the bus costs around 10 €. Trains also run to Toledo but are more expensive. Toledo makes for a good day trip from Madrid.

Besides exploring the small streets of Toledo, I visited the Toledo Cathedral, one of the main sights of the city.
Besides exploring the small streets of Toledo, I visited Toledo Cathedral, one of the main sights of the city.
Madre Tierra is the only one vegetarian restaurant in Toledo. Dishes at this cosy place cost 10-15 €.
Madre Tierra is the only one vegetarian restaurant in Toledo. Dishes at this cosy place cost 10-15 €.
One of Toledo's most famous inhabitants was the painter El Greco. He lived in Toledo over a period of 37 years, and the city frequently appears in his work. In the early 20th century, Marquis de la Vega Inclán purchased a run-down 14th century house in Toledo’s old Jewish Quarter, in the mistaken assumption that he was buying the remains of the painter’s own home.
One of Toledo’s most famous inhabitants was the painter El Greco. He lived in Toledo over a period of 37 years, and the city frequently appears in his work. In the early 20th century, Marquis de la Vega Inclán purchased a run-down 14th century house in Toledo’s old Jewish Quarter, in the mistaken assumption that he was buying the remains of the painter’s own home.
Marquis de la Vega Inclán managed to perfectly re-create some of the rooms, making El Greco’s house a popular sight in Toledo. Entry to the house museum costs 3 €.
Marquis de la Vega Inclán managed to perfectly re-create some of the rooms, making El Greco’s house a popular sight in Toledo. Entry to the house museum costs 3 €.

It was nice to combine a visit to the busy capital of Madrid with a visit to the smaller city of Toledo. Most importantly, my trip to Spain allowed me to practice my Spanish.

¡Hasta la proxima!

Washington D.C. overnight

Even though Washington D.C. is the capital of USA, many people (especially Americans) advised me not to go there. Washington D.C. apparently does not have the best reputation (it was called the murder capital in the 90’s due to a high rate of crime and violence). But since I was only a five hour bus ride away, I decided to make a short visit to the country’s capital. Because you never know when I’ll be back on the continent!

I used the same bus company that I traveled to Boston with, Megabus. Megabus offers cheap tickets to several cities in USA and Canada. I bought the tickets last minute, so the round trip from New York set me back $42.

Washington is mostly known for its vast array of monuments, museums, embassies and government buildings. The most important sights are located around this park called National Mall.
Washington D.C. is mostly known for its vast array of monuments, museums, embassies and government buildings. The most important sights are located around this park called the National Mall.
The Capitol, the seat of United States Congress, is situated at the eastern end of the National Mall.
The Capitol, the seat of United States Congress, is situated at the eastern end of the National Mall.
There are dozens of museums in Washington D.C. and most of them are free. My first stop was the National Gallery of Art. The museum was really big (a bit too big for my liking) with famous paintings from artist such as Monet and Rembrandt.
There are dozens of museums in Washington D.C. and most of them are free. My first stop was the National Gallery of Art. The museum was really big (a bit too big for my liking) with famous paintings from artist such as Monet and Rembrandt.

After walking around the National Gallery of Art for a couple of hours and barely seeing half of it, I checked in to my hostel, International House of Washington. One night in six bed dorm cost $22.

My hostel from outside. Many buildings further away from the National Mall area were quite run down.
My hostel from outside. Many buildings outside the National Mall area are quite run down.

In the evening I returned to the National Mall. The Smithsonian Museums close already at 5.30 pm, so I took the opportunity to look at famous buildings and monuments instead.

The WWII Memorial and Washinton Monument are reflected in the 600 m long Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
The WWII Memorial and Washinton Monument are reflected in the 600 m long Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
At the other end of the pool, a massive monument has been erected to honour Abraham Lincoln. A big statue of America's 16th presidents sit inside the monument.
At the other end of the pool, a massive monument has been erected to honour Abraham Lincoln. A big statue of America’s 16th president sits inside the monument.
On my second day, I visited the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden, prior to heading to the Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian Museums don't open until 10 am so I had a chance to take in the fresh autumn air.
On my second day, I visited the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden, prior to heading to the Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian Museums don’t open until 10 am so I had a chance to take in the fresh autumn air.
The Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the USA. I'm not surprised! The exhibits are interactive and very captivating.
The Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the USA. I’m not surprised! The exhibits are interactive and very captivating.
You can even touch a piece of the moon!
You can even touch a piece of the moon!
Besides interesting items on display - such as space food - there is a very nice planetarium that you can visit for a fee. Entry to the museum itself is free.
In addition to interesting items on display – such as space food – there is a very nice planetarium that you can visit for a fee. Entry to the museum itself is free.
Besides exhibitions about space, many rooms explain the mechanics and inventions of flying.
Besides exhibitions about space, there are many rooms dedicated to explaining the mechanics and inventions of flying.

I was going to visit some other museum as well, but the Air and Space museum was so interesting that I spent four hours there! So unfortunately I didn’t have time for any more sightseeing in Washington D.C. before my bus back to New York was leaving.

Washington D.C. is a good city for anyone who likes museums! In addition to the 19 free Smithsonian Museums, there are several other museums dedicated to topics such as news or espionage. The museums are really big, so I would recommend focusing on one or two per day.