Sorry again folks! We had some of those logistical errands left to run today due to yesterday’s transportation issues – and the transportation issues didn’t magically resolve themselves overnight (darn it!) – so once again we didn’t have too many things to post. But we did see some cool new things at least!

Here’s where we spent most of the morning. This is the department listing for a giant store called El Corte Inglés. It’s somewhat similar to the Galleries Lafayette in France, but…not. Check out some of their services! It’s more like a miniature town than a department store! 

On our way to the other train station in town, we discovered this small church by complete accident. We wouldn’t have noted it except for the statue out front explaining who is buried here: a Spanish monk named Bartolome who lived during the conquest of Mexico.

At a time when no one cared about the natives of this New World, Bartolome not only spoke out repeatedly against the cruelties being inflicted on the Indians, but even managed to get Queen Isabel to outlaw slavery in Spanish Mexico! Unfortunately, as we know, enforcing that law from thousands of miles away was impossible and slavery persisted there for a very long time afterwards, but it was a huge step forward for human rights nevertheless that the law was even on the books. So knowing that Bartolome is still remembered and honored here today is pretty awesome! 

From there we went to the Parque del Retiro, the giant park here in Madrid that’s kinda like Central Park, only much, much bigger. 

Check out these trees! Isn’t that fascinating? 

The park itself is huge (seriously, check out a good map of Madrid and it’ll probably be the first thing you see. It’s practically the same size as the city center!) but there was one thing we really wanted to see: the lake. 

Yes, it has its own (man-made) lake. Complete with giant memorial – that entire statue/fountain area in the back is all in memory of King Alfonso XII – and plenty of wildlife, the lake in Parque del Retiro is so pretty and famous it even shows up in paintings on display at the Prado! You can take rowboats out on the water if you want to or just picnic on the shores. It’s a wonderfully relaxing way to spend a few hours! 

Finally, on our way back to the hotel, we passed this. We’ve seen this building before; it’s the main building for the Spanish national government. We’re looking at it again for the change in signs. The rainbow flag came down with the end of the Pride festival, only to be replaced with this giant proclaimation. 

If you’ve been following even semi-current events in Europe, you’ve heard about the Syrian refugee crisis going on here. The war in Syria is forcing huge numbers of people to leave the country, but where are they supposed to go? Many of them have been coming to Europe – and while most people here want to help, there have been a number of problems arising from it, such as governments not being able to identify all the refugees (many of whom fled without their official paperwork), cities not having enough houses for people to live in anymore, and clashes between people themselves when the refugees don’t understand their new local language or culture yet. This has led many countries to shut down their borders and say no more refugees are allowed into the country at all. By hanging this banner on their main building, the Spanish government is saying they are willing to take on those kinds of problems in order to help the refugees who have nowhere else to go. Pretty amazing! 

Our comments winner today is…Erin M! Congrats Erin! Tomorrow we leave for Barcelona, the last stop in Spain before we head back into France. I’m honestly a bit sad to be leaving Madrid but I’m sure Barcelona will be just as exciting once we get there!