MMM: A Survey of Parks - Madrid

If you've all been following me on Mondays, you'll notice that my last few posts have been mainly dedicated to people: mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and the little birthday girl herself. With the extra warm weather that we've been having lately (and I can safely say that for both New Yorkers and Madrileños) I thought I'd focus this week's post on the outdoors, namely parks. One nice thing about Madrid is that the weather is fairly pleasant all year. Even in the winter when it's cold, it's bearable. Therefore, I spend a lot of my free time with Violeta in the parks. Welcome to my neck of the woods (no pun intended)!

I'll begin with the most well-known of parks: Retiro Park. Although I don't spend too much time here, on occasion I will use it as a meeting point for friends who don't live close to me. Generally speaking, it's a fairly large park with different points of interest such as the Alfonso XII Monument and Palacio de Cristal. If you ask someone from Madrid to recommend places to see while visiting, they will probably mention this park, although to me it's like telling someone to visit Central Park in New York. So, I'd have to classify this one as a tourist site. Nevertheless, you sort of have to see it because it's big and everyone knows about it. There are places with more character.

The Alfonso XII Monument/Lake at Retiro Park

Palacio de Cristal at Retiro Park

My favorite park is the one that is closest to me both geographically and figuratively: Parque Lineal del Manzanares. Situated along the Manzanares River in Madrid, this park is about a two-minute walk from where I live. From the day we moved in, I've spent a lot of time on these grounds, whether it be for an early morning run, or evening stroll. During my pregnancy I walked 5 kilometers there almost everyday up until the day before Violeta's birth. It has also served as a point of interest for my houseguests. I always take visitors there for a stroll after lunch or dinner. Nowadays I go there on a daily basis with Violeta to chase after dogs and run through the fountains.

Cabeza de Ariatna at the lookout point of La Atalaya

Violeta striking a pose on the path to the fountain

A walkway through the gardens called: Paseo de los Sentidos
A project that started back in 2005 and finished last year in April 2011, Parque Madrid Río is a magnificant park that stretches 10 km running parallel to the Manzanares River. It is easy to access from the previous park mentioned, and it is a place that I go to on a daily basis. Not only can you find your typical "green areas" to relax, but you can also find a skate park, zip-lines, bike trails (and bike rental storefronts), outdoor bars, playgrounds, and "urban" beaches. Due to all the attractions and monuments, it caters to all ages. Back in December of 2011 there was a write up in the Art & Design section of  The New York Times discussing how this park was constructed over a highway.  In addition, I recently saw a newscast talking about how a park in Chile is presently being constructed, using Madrid Río as its model.
El Puente Arganzuela: A modern bridge with a corkscrew design

El Matadero (Slaughterhouse) which runs along the Manzanares River
Violeta playing at the playground in March

Recently I read an article about a study done in the US. It was found that half the children had low levels of vitamin D, leading the experts to believe that this was due to the lack of sunshine in their lives. People on average, especially Americans, don't get outdoors enough. Children nowadays are inside all day, come home from school, and then watch tv or play video games.  They don't get out and play, and the result is affecting their health. In a society where everyone uses their car to get from point A to point B, it's really no wonder that obesity and other illnesses are prevalent. Even those who live in places like NYC and don't drive that much, they also don't take walks and get outside the way they should. From my point of view it's all in the attitude. New Yorkers are more about getting to where they have to go on foot, whereas Europeans have a  "let's take a walk and enjoy it" mentality. Of course I'm making a generalization, but isn't there some truth to it?

As I always say, living in a city is interesting in that there is always something to do and see. However, sometimes I need to get out and go to the country. Since I don't get to do that too often, I'll take the second best thing, the parks. I'm lucky enough to have an abundance of them where I live, and therefore I encourage all of you out there to get in the greenery. Breathe in the air (as clean as it may or may not be), take in some sun, and get moving. There's nothing like the outdoors for exercising and just enjoying the scenery!

~Nicole & Violeta

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