It's hard to capture the intensity of Madrid (at least as an amateur photographer w/ store bought digi-cam). The closest thing perhaps to it in terms of intensity and passion is every single conversation every single Spaniard has with each other. They might be talking about stepping in gum on the metro but it sure sounds life and death.
In many ways, Madrid was the worst place to end a 9-day vacation. The kind of vacation where you're more tired afterwards than when you began it. Madrid is intense. Repete. It is all of Spain, even the Catelan and Basque parts, all rolled into one. It is richer, poorer, cleaner, dirtier, faster, slower (ie service), than anywhere else in Spain, perhaps combined. It is crowded. It is fast paced (except for service). It is like every other capital city in the world. And by capital city in the US, I mean NYC.
Kids. Playing everywhere. With parents, without parents. It was one of the most noticeable aspects of my trip as an urban "journalist" so to speak. Taking in the various cities for as they are. In Barcelona, nearly every public open space had a playground component. In Valencia, nearly every woman was pushing a stroller or watching their 5-year ninos chase pigeons in the placa. In Madrid, you'd find kids playing as parents sipped wine at a nearby cafe with friends whose kids were also playing. It was social. It was refreshing -- despite how tiring a 9-day trip can be.