It was late afternoon by the time I stepped from my meeting onto the street in Madrid.

Everyone except the milling tourists were heading home for an afternoon siesta. Personally I love the European tradition of taking an afternoon siesta

This two-to-three-hour afternoon break from the rigors of the day is part of the fabric and rhythms of life in all of Spain.

I’d love to see this adopted by the remainder of the world!

For those visiting Madrid, it’s no longer fully observed where absolutely everything closes down.  Given the importance of tourism and the economic value it brings it you can find many places open and ready for business.

This is especially true in the neighbourhoods closer to the center of the city.

Fortunately for me I had the remainder of the afternoon stretching before me as my flight wasn’t until the next morning.

What to do I thought to myself?

My plan was to go back to the hotel and drop my work computer, change into something more comfortable then grab my camera – for those that know me it’s the norm.

My hotel was adjacent to the Botanical Gardens and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

However, I had my heart set on going to the Museo Nacional del Prado, which was located about a kilometre from my hotel.

Although I started the walk under cloudy skies it was great to feel the intermittent sun on my face as I strolled along the perimeter of the gardens, warming as I walked.

Upon reaching the Prado I realized that there was a Van Dyck exhibition at the museum, and although not a huge fan of Baroque had to go in and experience the sheer beauty of the Prado.

It was a stunning collection of art treasures and not to be missed on any visit to Madrid!

As I exited the museum (on a bit of an art high as you can imagine) I stood on the top of the steps leading down to the street exit and noticed a woman in a striking red coat about 100 meters from where I stood.

Her coat provided such a brilliant contrast to everything around her I was compelled to take a photo.

Perhaps it was a sign that I was in for incredible afternoon with my camera…

Even before I had left the grounds I has a number of fantastic photos, seemingly everywhere I looked there was another image that just screamed out to be taken, so obligingly I cooperated and snapped image after image.

From the Prado I headed west along Carrera de San Jerónimo toward Puerta del Sol unaware of what fate had in store for me.

I love Madrid for the constant stream of surprises that I’m served up each time I visit…

As I approached Plaza Mayor I was lured in by the fascinating facades and the cobbled streets that lead off in all directions.

I found myself being pulled toward the ubiquitous row of scooters and motor bikes parked nearby.

I remember the light becoming very bright all of a sudden yet there was a dark overtone, it was an unusual light and as I looked up, I noticed a dark storm cloud approaching, blotting the sun from half the sky.

The remainder of the sky was a deep azure (blue) and I was bathed in brilliant sunshine.  The light and tone were in that split second absolutely perfect, a photographer’s dream!

However, within seconds the light had evaporated, as the sky began to darken considerably.

I barely made it under the covered of a walkway that surrounded the Plaza when the heavens opened over central Madrid.

For ten unabridged minutes it absolutely poured!

The rain was as heavy as any I’d seen, even as much as the tropical downpours in Papua New Guinea.  It was as if someone was pouring bucket after bucket from the sky and made it almost unable to see three meters in front of you.

Not surprisingly, just as quickly as it had hit, it stopped!

Within a minute the clouds had begun to dissipate to reveal to afternoon sky, with huge clouds of steam beginning to rise from the large stone slabs as they dried in record speed.

I had been mesmerizing by the intensity of the storm and now by the speed at which everything had been refreshed.

Every colour seemed to brighten or come alive in the post storm light, every shape seemed more interesting, which for a photographer is pure heaven.

The remainder of my afternoon was spent capturing the brilliance of central Madrid in all of it’s historic glory.

Speaking of history… check out the Sobrino de Botín.  It’s the oldest restaurant in the world, being in continuous operations since 1725.  If you can get a booking, try the roast leg of lamb   It’s a whole leg so be sure to come hungry!

I love the old world feel of Madrid.  Such a far cry from the modern and frenetic pace of Barcelona.  Both cities are beautiful but in far different ways.

Until next week