Friday, May 13, 2011


Best day ever. My feet wouldn't agree they might tell you it sucked, but the rest of me had the best day. I am in love with Madrid and definitely will be coming back here again.

We started out the day with a quick breakfast and then a ride to the Prado. And oh my goodness. Before I came here I had read that the Prado is considered the world's best painting museum. I was skeptical. I mean, I've been to the Paris art museums and I have a hard time believing that it could be more spectacular than the Louvre. Well, I was so wrong. It was floor after floor, room after room of masterpieces by masters. Not minor works by masters, not masterpieces by minor artists, but incredible masterpieces by the greatest artists in history. (OK, European history but still). I was seriously regretful that we only had the morning here but we did so we followed the Rick Steve's (yes, I love him) tour of the museum and hit the highlights. It was AMAZING. I can't say that enough. Prints just do not do justice to the actual paintings. The size, the light emanating from them, the brush strokes, it all leaves me in awe. Some of my favorites were the Velazquez and both the early and late works of Goya.

After the museum, for a break for the eyes, we hit the Royal Botanical Gardens which are right next door. Since Honore is a gardener by trade, this obviously was more interesting for her but I enjoyed it very much. It felt good to be out in the sunshine walking around. It was a great place to take pictures, the plants were lush and colorful and they had a bunch of statues and water fountains interspersed with the beds.

By now my feet were good and tired but we still had the Reina Sofia to go. We were tiring at this point so we went radical and hit a Starbucks. Usually when I'm out of the country I try not to do that but it's really hard to get an iced coffee in Spain, and actually what passes for one is a cup of coffee served with a cup of ice. Not quite the iced latte I was envisioning. After a salad and an iced latte (which was so so so good I should have ordered 3) we were ready to go to the Reina Sofia, Madrid's modern art museum. The big draw here is Picasso's Guernica which is stunning. It's HUGE. Bigger than a wall in my house and very impactful. They have a room next to it which displays the studies he did for the piece and it was interesting to see the dates on them. Apparently he was in Paris when the bombs dropped on Guernica and within a few weeks had creating the work.

The rest of the museum was organized chronologically which I liked, my favorite other painting was this one, called "Nudes on a Beach" in english. I think there is something so sweet about this couple. They are just darling. A few hours in to the museum though (or around 1955 in the art work...) we started fading. My feet hurt, 2 huge world class museums in a day is a bit much and we were tired.  The last few rooms we just kind of glanced at before heading back to the hotel to rest for dinner.

Since Madrid has a wealth of good restaurants and we only have one night, I planned a tapas style pub-crawl for dinner. I had 4 spots in mind but one was closed so we ended up hitting three of them. We went out at 8:30 (early, so it was mostly tourists in the restaurants) because it's less chaotic and easier to order then (at least according to my good pal Rick). And oh we were not disappointed. The food was incredible at every place! The first place we had gambas ajillo (garlic shrimp) which are served sizzling, and beer. The second place was super grimy but we had the pimientos de padron (broiled hot peppers) and more beer. This place also had a pig (cow?) leg  that was literally stuck in one of those thingy's that wood workers use to hold pieces together - a vice? - with the hoof sticking up and over the bar and they shave meat off the other end. I ended up next to the hoof and Honore could not stop cracking up as we chatted because I was sitting next to a huge hoof. The last place we went we had patatas bravas and sauteed mushrooms and more beer and one other thing that I can't remember. We were stuffed at the end of the night and it was easily the best dinner we had so far. Even including the fancy schmancy 12 course feast we had in Santiago. Which was good, but this was better.

Whew. This post got really long, but it was a great day. Madrid is such a lively, modern, fun and cultured city. I always thought Paris was my favorite in Europe with Vienna running a close second but Madrid is nosing in there. I am definitely bringing Peter here some day and the kids as soon as they are old enough to appreciate art and clams.

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