We made good time on our journey – 23 actual hours had passed from leaving Adelaide on a cool autumn night to stepping out into the warmth of a Spring Sunday in Madrid. When we ventured out for our first walk around the city, every madrileño (about 3 million inhabitants in this city) and their dog seemed to be out walking in the glorious sunshine. The city appealed to me immediately. The fact that we also consumed our first tapas at the charming Mercado de San Miguel, and had our first hot chocolate with churros at Chocolatería de San Ginés, contributed to my favourable opinion. Despite having been on a constant drip fed diet of plane food, somehow, my appetite had resurfaced.
After a leisurely Monday morning start, we managed to get to the Reina Sofia museum before the queue became too long. Seeing the famous Picasso painting of Guernica was worth the visit.
We ambled back towards our hotel around midday searching for El Barril de las Letras, (Calle Cervantes, 28 - a recommendation) and found it to be quite empty at 12.30 pm. We returned to it about an hour later to find only one other couple
seated; we were obviously still early. By the time we finished our lunch just before 3, most locals were just settling in! The starter olives were superb, fat, succulent and flavoursome. Then came freshly caught clams, Russian salad with hake, excellent little roasted green peppers and perfectly grilled octopus with aioli all washed down with a local white, Alberino. Not bad for the first real meal of the journey.
We met our Showaround guide Caroline later that day and spent more than 4 hours being taken to many interesting places. We visited the repurposed electrical station Caixa Forum which has a magnificent jardin colgante (hanging garden) nearby and later the Angtigua Estación de Atocha (the old station) which has a tropical garden growing inside the light-filled space. Countless turtles live in a big pool under a paradise of greenery. We revisited Reina Sofia in order to see the new addition to the building built by the architect Nouvel which we had not seen during our visit. The architecture of this building is organic, modern and beautiful. We walked around the districts of La Latina (great tapas bars), Lavapiés (one of the oldest barrios, quirky and alternative) and finally crossing
the Gran Via which is Madrid's bustling boulevard to get to Malasaña (hipster heaven). Caroline was a great guide and she was able to give us an insider’s view of what life is like for someone who calls Madrid home.
Tuesday was a day for a guided tour of the Palacio Real (suitably regal and jaw dropping – the dining table was set magnificently), for re-visiting areas we had passed through with Caroline and for enjoying a very good lunch at Sainete, a craft beer and tapas bar. We also went back to Caixa Forum and saw two excellent exhibitions (one featured a Catalan artist, Ramon Casas born 150 years ago, another was on photography and film). We also found a second craft beer shop called Be Hoppy which made Mark very happy. In the evening, we caught up with friends Colleen and Fletcher from Adelaide and enjoyed good tapas and great company in the square outside our hotel, Plaza de Santa Ana. Night time entertainment in Madrid appears to never stops, which gives rise to the phrase people around here use, “Madrid me mata”, Madrid kills me.
Wednesday we spent the morning at the Prado. I really
enjoyed this gallery and discovered two new Spanish artists whose works I found delightful (Mariano Fortunay’s “The Painter’s Children in the Japanese Room” and Martin Rico’s “Doorway of a house in Toledo”). The more well-known works we saw by Goya, Velásquez, Ruebens, Raphael, Fra Angelico etc were very fine too.
We had lunch not once but twice. Stumbling upon a non-descript eatery as we left the Prado environs, we ordered a celery cappuccino (a warmish thick soup – delicious) and hake served with red cabbage which was also very good. A mere hour or so later we feasted on tostas (the first with prawns and an aioli sauce, the second with Iberian jamon) at the very atmospheric La Casa de las Tostas on Calle de Argumosa. Each mouthful was a delight but by the end of lunch number two, I was fit to burst.
Thursday was our last full day in the city and another art museum beckoned. The Thyssen Bornemisza was once the world’s second largest private art collection. I found it to be a very well laid out gallery and enjoyed seing many wonderful artworks. During the afternoon, we strolled around the district of Malasaña and
had a great Basque style soup for lunch.
Our last night in Madrid is fast approaching. Mark and I both agree that the madrileños are very friendly and very welcoming. It has been a wonderful 5 days!
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