A little over a week ago we had just returned from a month in Washington and Oregon. We’d decided to take a break in our European travels to celebrate our grand daughter’s 5th birthday and see family and friends. It was a nice reprieve yet, it’s good to be back in Spain. Madrid to be exact.
Madrid is great; great wine, great food, great art, great sites. Not so ancient as Greece. Right off we noticed an absence of ancient ruins. It was okay. What replaced the ruins was lovely 15th-17th century architecture. Most of the buildings were four to five stories with long narrow windows and always wrought iron balconies. Some buildings were more decorative than others showing different styles and eras.
The main Plaza, Plaza Mayor, has had a face lift in recent times, yet, it has been around since the 17th century. This was the city’s main square in medieval times and has been the home to royal pageantry, the market, “open air theatre,” bull fights, as well as hangings and other horrific acts during the Spanish Inquisition. Now it’s a great place to hang out and people watch. However, if you sit at one of the outdoor restaurants, you will pay a nice price for the privilege.
Of course we had to visit the infamous La Torre Del Oro Bar Andalusia to see gruesome pictures from bullfights, have a cana (small beer) and tapas during our walk around the city. Sorry for the fuzzy pics, there was a lot of activity going on and quite a crowd.
Our apartment in Madrid was in Lavapies neighborhood. As is typical, we had several flights of steps to climb. I believe it was only 64 in this case. The apartment was near the new art museum, Reina Sofia, and overall very well located. The neighborhood was very multicultural with Chinese, Indian, Turkish and Jewish markets nearby, just to name a few. We also had a very current French grocery chain that we’ve frequented since coming to Europe called Carrefour. Outside there was a little parking place for dogs. Very nice.
We saw most of the major sites, the Prado Museum, which some believe has the greatest collection of artwork by European masters that can be found in one place anywhere. We saw famous paintings by Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, Picasso and many others. Do I sound as if I might know what I’m talking about? It was amazing and overwhelming and I learned a lot.
Pictures weren’t allowed in the Prado.The following Picasso was in the Reina Sofia where you could take pictures in some areas. The Reina Sofia houses Picasso’s famous ‘Guernica’. This painting was a response to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) but had been housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art until 1981. It was very moving. Of course no pictures were allowed but if you google Guernica, you can see what I’m talking about. The painting is still considered an homage to the atrocities of war today.
Instead of ancient runs, we visited the ‘oldest restaurant in the world’ that had a plaque to prove it. The story is Ernest Hemingway loved to eat roasted, suckling pig here. He ate one all by himself on a regular basis. We didn’t try that dish, which, if you’re interested is still on some menus.
At cooking class we learned to make traditional Paella, Spanish Tortilla (potato omelet), orange and bacalhau salad and bananas flambé. It was a fun day. Tasty and quite informative.
The language has been challenging here. Very few people speak English. Doug has made a huge effort to practice his Spanish, however, the accent and rhythm is so different from what we’ve learned in Mexico. People rarely seem to understand our attempts on the first or even second try. In the end it all works out.
There was so much to do and see in Madrid. We loved it and really got our steps in. Among some of the highlights were the Tapas (we took a tour with Historical Tapas), touring the Palace and learning about the multicultural history of the city, and just hanging out. We didn’t get to all the things we wanted to see so of course we’ll be back!
Next we head to Toledo via train, a walled city and former capital of Spain. Adios amigos, until we meet again.