I walked to the Salamanca neighborhood, one of the most exclusive districts in central Madrid. In the 1800s the historic center of Madrid was bursting at the seams. The government authorized that the city's old defensive walls be torn down and that city be expanded. Salamanca, named after the Marquis of Salamanca who was involved in its development, became the favored area for the elite of Madrid. With its straight, tree-lined streets and Parisian-style architecture it was the antithesis of the crowded labyrinth of the old town.
The neighborhood begins near the Gate of Alcalá, a ceremonial entry built by the 18th century King Carlos III.
Running north from the Gate of Alcalá is Serrano Street, the city's poshest shopping street. It is lined with expensive designer shops.
The reason for my trip to Salamanca was obviously not to shop at Cartier or Giorgio Armani. I continued walking down Serrano Street to a museum which I had not visited before. .. the Lázaro Galdiano Museum.
Lázaro Galdiano was a wealthy financier and publisher. He was also a passionate art collector. In the early 20th century he built an elegant mansion on Serrano Street. When he died in 1947, he bequeathed the residence and his art collection to the State. The four story house is filled with paintings, sculptures and decorative arts.
The collection is quite impressive, although of course it cannot begin to compare with Madrid's top museum, the Prado. There are works by some of the Spanish masters.
There are a couple paintings by El Greco.
Although Zurbarán was a 17th century painter, this portrait of a saint looks starkly modern.
There are a couple paintings by Goya on display.
Goya was Galdiano's favorite, and the ceiling of one of the mansion's rooms is painted as an homage to the artist.
The collection also includes works by Flemish, German and French painters. Because of the historic enmity between Spain and the Netherlands, Dutch painters are usually shunned, but Galdiano acquired a number of works by Dutch painters for his collection. There is even a painting by the American Gilbert Stuart (whom we all know for his portrait of George Washington.)
After leaving the museum, I walked back along the Paseo de la Castellana, the broad, tree lined boulevard that is the main north-south thoroughfare in Madrid. It is comparable to the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City.
Like the Reforma, the Paseo de la Castellana is studded with monuments...
... the most prominent of which is the monument to Christopher Columbus.