we walked up Paseo Prado past the park. We had thought to visit
the botanical garden, but through the iron fence it was obviously
ailing from winter freeze - it is varied enough that it would
probably be quite pretty in the spring.
"museum stop" was the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It
contains a very eclectic personal collection of about 800 works.
There are many old Dutch artists, Italian, German, Spanish, French,
American, landscapes and still life, impressionist and surrealist
- from the 16th century all the way up to modern artists, ordered
chronologically - very interesting. The building is being extended
now, but the original is considered to be a "fine example
of Madrid's neoclassical architecture. Living so close to Barcelona
and its fabulous panoply of styles, we found architecture along
this walk to be rather dull.
for a coffee, and then for some supplies (cava, cheese, bread
and fruit) before heading back to our room. We noticed a place
called Doner Kebab just before our hotel, stopped in an picked
up generously overstuffed pita pockets for dinner. Altho the day
was sunny, the evening became quite chill. Back in our warm room,
we relaxed, watched some of the local television, had our snack
and went to bed early due to general fatigue and the altitude
adjustment. Madrid is on a high plain of about 2000 feet.
a generous buffet breakfast, we head off to spend the day at the
Prado Museum. We saw everything! (with a few breaks for coffee
and rest along the way). The Bosch, Brueghel, Rubens and Rafaels
were fantastic. There was a large collection of Dutch works, some
fine sculptures, and an underground vault showing the beautiful
"Tesoros del Dauphin" (Treasures of the Dauphin). The
special exhibit of Manet was excellent. It related his appreciation
for Velasquez and his experiences in Spain that contributed to
his first impressionist works exhibited at the Expo and inserted
the depiction of everyday life into the arts of his time. Works
here included preliminary sketches and samples of ideas along
with the final pieces associated with them. It also had "The
Bar at the Folies Bergére" which has always been a
favorite of ours. Very well done!
is laid out on three floors (not counting the treasure room).
It is well lit for viewing in most areas, although given the size
of some pieces one has to stand across the hall to see well. The
long hall galleries are easy to wander, but the small maze like
rooms can require some doubling back to be sure you see it all
(these lack benches). The cafeteria is fairly priced with a good
selection although it is possible to leave and re-enter if one
wishes to go out for lunch (not much nearby, however). The collection
spans 1100 to 1850.
it all, and still suffering from the altitude, we were very tired
and decided to head back. We found an excellent little restaurant,
Sanabria, just across for the Reina Sofia that provided us with
a great lunch at a very reasonable (7.50 euros per person) price
(including starter, main course, bread, beverage, dessert and
tax). This was a typical Madrid style place, enormous portions.
We chose the house red wine, a "Pote" (a hearty soup
with cabbage, beans and a variety of zesty sausages) and "Setas
con Ajo" (a chanterelle type mushroom sauté smothered
in garlic butter) as the starter plates. These would have been
enough of a meal in themselves with the crusty fresh bread. For
our main course we chose "Codillo" (a seasoned slow
roasted pig shank that was huge) and "Conejo ala Plancha"
(oven roasted rabbit with garlic and herbs). Now, in Catalunya,
when one orders rabbit it is normally a moderate serving of up
to half a rabbit - here it was the entire rabbit!
Desserts were flan and "Nueces con Nata" (glazed walnuts
on whipped cream) followed by deep rich espresso. It was a great
bargain at a great price.
for water, cava, apples and snacks before returning to our room
to rehydrate and rest.
1-21 Our first
day "at libery" with no specific plan. And we did take
our enjoyment of it. Off to the Atocha train station, an enormous
structure with the appearance of a large greenhouse from the outside.
Inside there is a charming tropical garden park with spray misters,
street lamps, park benches and all. Many people were relaxing
in the gentle humidity and warmth away from the bone chilling
From the station,
we took a metro to Puerto del Sol, saw the famous Tio Pepe sign
and the Bear with Strawberry Tree statue, then took a side street
up to the Plaza Major. It's big, has a nice statue and one nicely
painted (although a bit tacky) facia on a building (the others
are natural stone) and arcaded for a multitude of small touristic
shops. We exited the plaza by a portal leading to the "Old
Town" area (which is about 200 years old). Not much to appreciate
for those of us who know and love Barcelona's Barri Gotic. The
architecture was bland, the main church was typical, the "Mercado
San Miguel" was small and modestly stocked (not like our
Mercat San Josep on the Rambla).
From the mercado
we went up towards the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). It was closed
for official business, but it was nice to see the neoclassic exterior
and the view. So we went into the Almuden Cathedral next to it.
Quite an interesting place, modern gothic might be what one would
call the style of it. The high ceiling arches were brightly painted
with vibrant colors and gold, the organ was unusually square-ish
and ultra modern looking. It seemed to be mostly style and a bit
cold. The madonna who looked like a hooker in a wedding dress
added to the feeling of too much glitz and ornament - a show off
place. About the view from up here - the smog blanketing the city
sure looks heavy and the odor of car fumes is strong.
through the Plaza de Oriente (nothing to do with the Orient, just
means east). It is well manicured with a great fountain at the
center. We took the Opera metro down to the Banco de España
exit. The Banco has a really classy facia and is near several
other grandiose buildings like Metropolis and the Palacio Linares.
There's also the Fuente de Cibeles which is quite lovely. Having
walked the circle aroung the Cibeles Fountain, we headed down
Paseo del Prado with the intention of finding a Chinese restaurant
(it had just turned to the New Year of the Monkey there). After
quite a bit of meandering, I ducked into an Asian market and asked.
They directed us to a nice place where we feasted on crab and
asparagus soup, tofu hot and sour soup, fried noodles with shrimp,
spicy shrimp with mushrooms, and a duck with shitake mushrooms.
Very much enjoyed! Gung Hay Fat Choy!
1-22 Our last
day and the last museum on our list of must see items. This is
the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (MNCARS or Reina
Sofia for short). It contains modern art from the beginning of
the 1900´s to modern day and shows the works of many Spanish
artist with some samples of the international artists that put
the works in context. The "big one" for visitors in
Picasso's "Guernica" and there is a great little model
of where it was first displayed. There was a fascinating special
exhibit of the room of Ramón Gómez de la Serna,
an artist, novelist and journalist who had lived in Madrid and
moved to Argentina. It was wall and ceiling papered with photographs
and news articles, adorned with his furniture, objets d'art, books,
toys and literally a thousand or more distractions and inspirations
exhibit was the collected works of Hannah Höch, the German
expressionist whose photomontage work has inspired so many. It
was an unusual and fascinating collection that spanned her lifetime.
interest to us was the Surrealist collection. It covered the range
from Arp, Calder and Kandinsky to Ernst, Magritte and Tanguy and
had an entire section devoted to our beloved Catalan, Salvador
Dalí. We thoroughly enjoyed these and were pleased to note
that the Dalí's which were missing are on loan to La Caixa
for exhibit in Barcelona!
museum, we had a little time left before our trip home, so we
stopped at Doner Kebab for a plate lunch that was wonderful and
at 5.90 euros per person, very generous. The basmati rice with
its aromatic herbs, golden color and perfect separate grains has
got to be the best rice I have had anywhere in Spain (except for
to the airport was easy, a short flight and oh are we glad to