Thursday, April 7, 2011

Madrid Travel Guide: A gulp of Goya

Hola Bloggy Friends,

On the walk around central Madrid
To begin our first full day in Madrid, we had breakfast at the Mercado de San Miguel, the same indoor market we visited when we first arrived in Spain. We found a great little frozen yogurt shop that sells a variety of handmade cereals soaked in fresh, organic leche (milk). I had granola infused with dried strawberries and fresh raspberries from a fruit stand around the corner. It was delicious.

Even though we were stuffed, it was hard to tear ourselves away from the aisles upon aisles of delicious foods to gawk at inside the market. Eventually, though, we did find the exit and set out on a orienting tour of Madrid that was laid out in our guidebook. It took us from the busy city block called Puerta del Sol to the regal Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace). Along the way we got a taste of the history of Madrid, while making a mental note about what streets will get us where.

Walking through the city in the light of day helped verify our impressions that Madrid is a sprawling, world class city that's clean and bustling, but it doesn't quite possess the intriguing, old world charm we found in Barcelona and Granada. The one thing it does have going for it, though, is one hell of an art collection.

The rest of our afternoon was spent at the Museo Nacional del Prado, a sprawling complex that houses paintings by Spain's (and the world's) masters. While we're both more drawn to modern art, there's no denying the treasures held within the Prado. In the span of five hours we spent quality time with centuries-old paintings like Velasquez's much-copied Las Meninas, Raphael's stunning Portrait of a Cardinal and Bosch's frightful Garden of Earthly Delights. The museum also houses one of the world's largest collections of Francisco De Goya. By looking at his works, we were able to trace his life from the dutiful paintings of the family of Spain's King Charles IV to his more rebellious Third of May, 1808 to his depressing black period, which includes the disturbing Saturno. It was a thrilling experience. I think it's worth the trip to Madrid in itself. Unfortunately, the guards were strict about not letting guests take pictures, but I did manage to snap this tilted one of Las Meninas.

For dinner we went to a restaurant recommended by our guidebook called La Bola, a traditionally decorated, atmospheric restaurant that's been family owned since 1870. For our main course we shared the Cocido Madrileño, their specialty stew that's served in several different parts: First they bring out a bowl of yellow broth laden with thin noodles; second, a terracotta-like dish filled with potatoes, garbanzo beans and lamb; and finally, a helping of boiled cabbage to top it off. In regular life, I'm not much of a meat eater but I've definitely enjoyed the walk on the "wild" side I've allowed myself on this trip. The stew was mmm-mmm good. 

From there we took a late-night stroll to see what the Palacio Real de Madrid looks like lit up at night. This Versailles-inspired palace is the next stop on our Madrid itinerary. I'm anxious to see it, especially considering we missed Versailles on our trip to Paris last year. I hope you can stop back by to check it out!

Hasta luego,


P.S. I went into the Prado ready to take some snapshots, but, as you can see in the video below, the guard only allowed me a couple of seconds before she shut me down ...


Bill Fogle said...

Good idea to suspend your vegetarianism for the trip. I'm glad you got to enjoy the many different dishes, and I'm a bit surprised your digestive system accommodated you so well! That's a lot more fat than you're used to eating, I'm sure! The stew sounds ... superlative. Just fabulous. It really was yellow! Can't figure out what that would be, as chicken broth alone would not come out so yellow. It can't be turmeric, either. Was there egg in it? Saffron?

Thanks for linking the paintings. I clicked every one! The "Third of May" was used in the latest calendar Gary did ... remember? That cardinal was kinda cute. (Sorry! I'm a slut!)

I have to say ... everything you guys do in life surprises and impresses me. Together, you show this incredibly good judgment in what you enjoy, how you plan things, etc. In my life, I did a few of the things you and Alan are doing ... but it was always crash! Bang! Boom! I made every mistake possible. You two have a peaceful, sane enjoyment of so many things.

You are (I seldom use the word) blessed.

Anonymous said...

Madrid city is rich in cultural diversity and a vibrant nightlife. Art, fashion, music and fun are what lives in Madrid and it they are the main reasons why people flock to the city year in and year out.
3 Day Madrid Trip was one of my memorable trip..