Our first visit to España has officially begun! We got checked in this afternoon; our apartment (at Apartamentos Goya 75) is about what we expected – nothing special, but entirely functional. And, the price is exceptional! It is a lovely day – some clouds, some sun, very comfortable.
We did a short walkabout just to get oriented. This included shopping for a few necessities. In the process we discovered that we were only a block from the Mercado Torrijos. This is a huge indoor market (six days a week) where you can get just about any foodstuff that you want. Excellent for us, since we have a housekeeping apartment!
Foregoing our usual siesta, we went out later for our first taste of tapas at Bar la Ardosa. We each had some excellent sherry (amontillado) and our tapas were olives with mussels, plus some very good fried pork rind. Later, after some more exploring, we ate a smallish typical (cold) supper in our apartment – cheese, olives, bread, wine. Our first impression of the neighbourhood is very favourable.
This morning found us having café (con leche for Susana; solo for Esteban) at Café Dosaka. Then, on to our local Día (a common small grocery chain) for a couple of things that we didn’t get yesterday. Breakfast in our apartment – yogurt, fruit, bread,
After breakfast (which was later than usual) and another trip to the market (see above), we set out to explore areas of Madrid that are a bit further afield. After locating a shop nearby where we can get the Financial Times (our favourite English-language newspaper when in Europe) we took a long, round-about walk down to Plaza de la Puerta del Sol (a number of today’s photos were taken on the way there). We estimate that we walked about 7 km! After all of that, we were very hungry and stopped into a cafetería (we forget the name) for lunch; in true Madrileño style, this was about 3:00pm. We enjoyed el menú del día – judías verdes for Steve, ensalada mixta con atún for Susan and chuletas de cordero for both of us. This included vino tinto – all for €16,80! This was our major meal today -only a light snack later in the apartment.
Back home for a few hours, including a siesta, then out again around 8:00 for this evening’s appetizer – un ración de boquerones fritos and some olives – washed down with some kind of dry sherry, not fino, but we don’t know exactly what it was. All the residents and shopkeepers in this neighbourhood (including the staff of our building) are forcing us in a most charming way to practice our Spanish, as no one seems to speak any English whatsoever!
Our day ended with a short walk (un paseo) around the neighbourhood with a quick stop into the supermarket section of El Corte Inglés department store, which was packed. If you ever wondered what people in Madrid do on Saturday night about 9:00pm, the answer is: they shop!
It rained overnight, but currently (about 3pm) the weather is beautiful (a comfortable 1.5 today on the Knowmark Weather Scale). Since it is Sunday, very little is open, so we spent midday touring the Palacio Real, which was definitely worth the €7 entrance fee. Very interesting place. We used the Madrid Metro for the first time to travel west to the Palacio Real. The Metro system here is excellent and very reasonably priced (10 trips for €5,20).
Earlier this morning we had another Madrid first: chocolate y churros for breakfast. ¡Delicioso!
Currently we are sitting in EnjoyExpress, which is an internet point near the old center of Madrid. It´s a very nice setup – fast connection and a good pricing structure. They have dozens of terminals and very good service.
After finishing up at EnjoyExpress this afternoon, we started our stroll home – we did end up walking all the way back, approximately 5 km. On the way, we investigated other Internet point options and found one we had read about at www.madridman.com. It’s called CyberFutur@ and we can hook up our laptop directly there. In fact, we will be uploading this entry from there tomorrow!
Our basic walk was along Gran Vía which truly is just that. It is a major thoroughfare with many gracious buildings along the way. There were sun showers off and on, so we decided to duck into someplace for lunch. We’re not sure where we ended up, but we enjoyed their menú del día nonetheless; Susan had sopa de pescada followed by trucha a la navarra and Steve had paella mixta followed by pechuga de pollo relleno. Cafés solos followed and feeling quite stuffed, we were glad we had a longish walk home!
After our siesta, we wandered around our own neighbourhood for a while and finally settled on Taberna Ultreya for our evening snack – el vino de la semana (a fairly young Rioja) accompanied by pan y pimientos de piquillo. I’m delighted (this is Susan speaking!) that Suzanne recommended these because they were incredibly delicious and I will be looking for them again! Finally, back at home after yet another stroll around the neighbourhood (did we mention we really like it around here?) we had a light snack – un bocadillo con jamón serrano y queso semicurado.
While we weren’t sure that we would be eating as late as los madrileños (part of the rhythm of life here), some of you will be delighted to hear that we didn’t finish eating lunch until well after 4:00pm and that our little snack at home happened around 10:00pm!
Today began normally – across the street for wonderful café (which includes fresh mini-croissant, all for €1), then down the street to pick up the Financial Times for later reading. The big event for today was visiting the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Along with many other modern Spanish painters, Picasso has a major presence here. At the centre of the Picasso collection is the wonderful, haunting Guernica.
The small event for the day was Susan weighing in at a WW meeting in Madrid! It caused quite a stir as attempts were made to have a conversation about differences in the plan and meetings here and there … plus, she was weighed in kilos. However, translated there was a net loss of 1 pound so everyone was pleased.
Another beautiful day in Madrid (2.5 on the Knowmark Weather Scale) – mostly sunny, with the mercury hitting the high teens. Today´s main activity was visiting El Prado. It is stunning! Tomorrow we are back to the same venue for the special exhibit – Manet en el Prado. We could see the Manet exhibition today (through various doors) and could have toured on the same ticket, but it would have been too much for our brains and our bodies!
We were pleasantly surprised to find that photographs are allowed in El Prado (no flash, of course). This is very unusual in our limited experience. So, we tried to take advantage of the opportunity to photograph some of the world’s great art (see photos below). Having to shoot in available light meant that many of our shots are not publishable (and some of the ones shown aren’t as sharp as they might be), but we were able to cull a few good examples from the dozens that we shot. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed at the special Manet exhibit, so you will have to settle for our impressions (lame humour, that!) of those.
After a longish day at El Prado, we Metro’d back home and had a late (after 4pm) menú del día at Taberna Ultreya. Calamares (absolutely delicious) and jamón for Steve; pimientos de piquillo (which Susan loves) and jamón for Susan. This was our first actual meal here, and it was excellent. Later we went to CyberFutur@ to upload some photos, etc. Because of the long day and late lunch, we didn’t make any tapas stops tonight, settling for a very light snack in our apartment.
Yet another lovely day in Madrid (2.5 on the Knowmark Weather Scale). It only missed a perfect 3.0 because it was chilly all day. After our normal morning routine, we walked down to Museo Nacional del Prado for the special Manet exhibit. El Prado is a 20-25 minute walk from where we are staying.
The Manet exhibition was certainly worthy of our undivided attention. There are 110 works, which include nearly all of his best known pieces. As mentioned in yesterday’s narrative, photographs were not allowed, so currently we are not able to provide any photographs. However, we will try to find on-line links to some of our favourites. If interested, check back in a few days. In any case, it is a truly wonderful exhibition (at least, to our untrained eyes). And, it’s on until 11 January 2004, so there’s still time!
We spent part of the day walking up to where our favourite Madrid webcam is located … it’s somewhere in the vicinity of Las Torres Blancas which is a very interesting looking building. (Were we close, Luis?) On the way up we stopped for lunch at Restaurante Cassandra where once again we enjoyed menú del día. Steve started with judías verdes con jamón while Susan had ensalada toledana con escarola, both of which were delicious. This was followed by callos madrileños for Susan and tortilla francesa con jamón de york for Steve. This was the first time Susan had tried tripe although she’s been meaning to for some time. And, it will probably be the last time! Turns out it’s not her favourite although the broth was delicious. Wonderful chocolate cake (sk) and fresh pineapple (sm) finished off a good lunch – so good we went back for tapas later on.
We Metro’d down to Plaza Callao and visited Enjoy Express for a short while, catching up on some internet stuff. Then, we strolled south to Plaza Mayor, which is nice. But nothing there compelled us to stay for too long. So, we set out to follow (more or less) a couple of prescribed walks that are laid out in an excellent pamphlet from Turespaña (they sent us a nice package of useful information before we left). This took us generally west from Plaza Mayor and then south to Puerta de Toledo, which was built by King José Bonaparte between 1817-1827 (see photo). This is a very lovely part of old Madrid that reminded us a little bit of Rome.
We then wandered easterly through the Embajadores district, heading generally in the direction of the Museo del Prado. However, we started to flag just before we got that far (and it was getting late for lunch) so we returned to the Salamanca district (where we live) and ate at the Cassandra for the second day running. Once again, an excellent menú del día: primeros were salad (Steve) and empanada (Susan); we both had bonita con tomate for segundos. Postre (dessert) was piña (pineapple) for both of us. By then, it was time for a short siesta (Steve) and some shopping (Susan).
Tomorrow is our last day in Madrid (we leave early Sunday morning), and we’re not sure what we’re going to do. We have arranged to have a drink with Luis de Avendano, who maintains the Madrid Skyline webcam. So, we are looking forward to meeting him. We may also visit the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which has an excellent selection of Impressionist art (that we both like). However, our ticket is good through December 2004, so we may wait until our [planned] visit again in the spring!
The weather rated a very pleasant 2.0 today.
Our last full day in Madrid and we have spent a very lazy Saturday so far (after going out for café and the Financial Times, of course). We had a light breakfast and then proceeded to wander the neighbourhood (which we really like) a bit, doing some last-minute shopping. Then, a last visit to CyberFutur@ to upload photos from Thursday and Friday and do some general internet catchup. Preliminary packing is underway :-}
We met Luis de Avendaño (of Madrid Skyline fame) for drinks this evening (our last!) at our favourite haunt – Taberna Ultreya. Luis was most interesting and friendly, and demonstrated wonderful Madrileño hospitality. We spent a very enjoyable early evening with Luis and look forward to the opportunity to visit him again next year.
The weather rating was a just tolerable 1.0 today.
We are leaving very early in the morning. ¡’dios, Madrid!