The flight from Philadelphia to Madrid was one of the more pleasant flights I've taken. It's an overnight flight that is a little over 7 hours long; I had two seats to myself and (with the help of some dramamine) fell asleep twenty minutes after take-off, and woke up an hour before landing around 8am in Madrid. My parents were waiting for me after my mile-long walk through the terminal (the Madrid airport is HUGE), and because I had slept a solid 6 hours on the plane, I was fairly alert and started my trip off on a pleasant note.
My parents live in a suburb about 20 minutes outside of downtown Madrid. I wasn't sure what I expected Spain to look like, but I certainly didn't expect it to be as dry and desert like as it is... the vegetation more resembles that of what you would find in the southwestern US. That's not to say that it's lacking in vegetation, as you can clearly see from the photos. The forests were interesting - all the growth is up high, so you can see straight through the forests at eye-level, they're not congested like the forests I'm used to here. We took my parents' two dogs on walks around the neighborhood pretty much every day, so I got a good glimpse of the surrounding area.
As far as downtown Madrid goes, we only spent 1 of my 10 days in Spain there. Between Barcelona, Segovia (next series of photos!), and just walking around in general, we opted to spend a day or two relaxing and letting our feet recover instead. Highlights from downtown Madrid include shopping (of course!), eating pinchas and drinking wine (of course!), and walking through Parc de Retiro, where we visited the Palacio de Cristal. (The bones in the photos above were an installation that was going on that day; there was no information about it so I can't explain it any better than that!) The architecture in the city is such a great mix of old and modern. Next visit, I would definitely like to spend some more time in the city, exploring some of the more urban corners. I didn't feel comfortable enough with my Spanish to venture out for a day on my own!