This morning Leslie, Tyler, and I drove to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. It is one of the Trinity of museums in Madrid; including The Prado and the Reina Sofia museums. We departed our home in Pozuelo de Alarcón at about 09:00. We made it to the parking garage at about 09:30. In Madrid, that translates into quickly finding a parking spot.
We emerged from the parking garage, which happened to be right beside the museum and began our hunt for a place to have coffee. We found a place called DOCC Prado. The initials stand for Denominacióon de Origen y Calidad Contrastada. Loosely translated, that means Denomination of Origin and Contrast Quality, located at Calle Prado, 28 at Plaza de las Cortes.
After our coffee, we walked a couple of blocks to the museum entrance. In so doing, we passed by the Groupama Seguros building and the Westin Palace Hotel. Both buildings had some very striking architectural details. The Groupama Seguros building had a large clock to which we returned later.
The Groupama Seguros building and the Westin Palace Hotel on the left.
At the museum, it cost €24 (US$29) to get the three of us entry. I was impressed with the art collection. Virtually every item in the museum is from the private Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. There was an extensive number of works covering many centuries. The oldest painting I saw was from 1310. The most recent one I saw dated from 1925. There is more detail on the paintings in the list of hotlinks below. I had to resort to a list because the museum does not allow photography. Regardless, the museum is a must-see in Madrid.
The following list includes my favorite paintings and works. If one wishes to see any of the work, click on the hotlink (courtesy of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum). Just before entering the exhibit spaces, there were four marble sculptures by Auguste Rodin. My two favorites were:
Christ with the Cross by El Greco (1602-07). I have come to enjoy El Greco’s works much like I have come o enjoy Picasso’s works. Being in a country where there are so many works from each artist, it is hard not to become fond of them.
I recognize this is a lengthy list, but it is a fantastic collection of art. As I wrote above, this museum is a must-see.
Shortly after viewing Christ and the Samaritan Woman, we noticed it was 11:55. We hurried out of the museum and walked toward the Westin Palace Hotel. Just across the street from the hotel is the Groupama Seguros (an insurance company) building. It is known for its clock. When it strikes noon, several characters come out and “dance” during the chiming of the bells.
After watching the clock show, we returned to the museum because we had not been through the gift store. We found a couple of magnets for Leslie’s collection. When we left the store, I saw signs for a restaurant in the museum building. We followed the signs to the fifth floor, the top of the building. We sat on the terrace overlooking the entrance of the museum. Tyler had a Coke while Leslie and I had a vino tinto.
This time, we left the museum and began our walk to the north to the National Library. We wanted to go there to do some genealogy research on one of Leslie’s great-grandfathers. Family lore says he was an ambassador from Spain to Mexico. It was roughly a half-mile walk. When we got to the front of the library, it was about 13:00. Leslie suggested we go in because it might close. I said, “Naw, let’s get some lunch first!”
We walked to a restaurant in the median of Paseo de Recoletos in front of the library. It is the Café el Espejo (The Mirror Café). That happens to be the same restaurant Tyler, and I went to last summer when Leslie was in Colorado.
For lunch, I had the sanwich mixto (grilled ham and cheese). Leslie and Tyler each had muselo de pollo asado con patatas fritas y ensalada (roasted chicken leg with French fries and salad). We also shared a pitcher of Sangria. Quite frankly, the Sangria was not very good. That stated, it was empty when we departed.
The bar and service area of El Espejo.
We finished our lunch and arrived at the front doors of the library at about 13:55, only to find they were closing. Leslie was right! I will try to go to the library over the next week or two, during my lunch hour, to see what I can discover.
A little depressed, we crossed the street, hailed a taxi, and rode back to the parking garage. By about 14:45, we were in our home and ready for our siestas.
Last night Leslie, Tyler, and I went on a “tapa crawl.” Some friends from Colorado; Cole and Carol were passing through Madrid, so we met them at Plaza Mayor.
I must confess, this was our first tapa crawl!! I know that sounds crazy, especially after living in Madrid for nearly three years. I had not wanted to go previously for two reasons. First, I am usually in REM sleep no later than 21:00. Secondly, when I thought of a tapa crawl, all I could picture was Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisana. That type of debauchery is not quite my speed…anymore. So, I was very hesitant to try a tapa crawl.
Now for my second confession; not going on a tapa crawl sooner was a big mistake. It was nothing like a drunken-crowd-fest like what I witnessed on Bourbon Street. Instead, it was clean, comfortable, not too crowded, and an absolute blast! I highly recommend a crawl for anyone visiting Madrid.
We began our crawl at about 19:15 on the north side of Plaza Mayor at the Torre do Oro (Golden Tower) bar. It is a very well-known bar in Madrid. There is almost too much to see in the bar, with multiple items and photographs relating to bullfighting adorning the walls. There are several mounted heads of famous bulls on the walls. Also, on display are items of clothing from famous bullfighters. Lastly, covering the walls are photographs of bullfighters. The catch with the pictures is that the subject bullfighter had to have been either gored or killed by a bull. Each photograph caught the specific moment of pain for posterity. Some of them are rather gruesome. For example, one very unlucky bullfighter had his photo taken during a goring; with one of the bull’s horns running up under the bullfighter’s chin and out through his mouth. OUCH!!
Another interesting fact about this bar is its size. I guess it is no more than 10 feet (three meters) wide by about 30 feet (nine meters) deep. Toward the rear, there are a few barstools. Other than that, one stands at the bar.
We had our first vino and our first tapa there. The bartender gave us some potato salad to share. We were surprised by how good it was.
La Torre de Oro bar on the north side of Plaza Mayor, the starting point for the tapa crawl.
Departing Torre de Oro, we walked south from Plaza Mayor along Calle de Cuchilleros. Within about 200 meters we found the beginning of Calle Cava Baja, our main objective for the evening’s tapa crawl. I must give credit to one of my colleagues at the embassy, Aurora. She is the one that guided me by providing precise directions before I left the office.
The first establishment at which we stopped on Cava Baja was la Peonza Taberna (The Spinning Top Tavern). The tapas we had there were jamón ibérico on toast and some shrimp with garlic on toast. I thought they both tasted perfect, especially the jamón ibérico.
After we left la Peonza Taberna, we began looking for a specific tapa bar. Aurora told me we had to stop at Taberna los de Lucio (I think it translates as the Pike Tavern). We inadvertently walked past the tavern, but we did not see it the first time. I stopped at a pharmacy to ask directions. We did our back-tracking and found the bar.
We entered and ordered our drinks. As a tapa, they gave us some almonds warmed in olive oil. They were very hot to the touch, but they were delicious. Monica was our server from behind the bar. As we sat there, we decided to have something else to eat. I ordered a plate of Manchego cheese and a plate of jamón ibérico. Sampling jamón ibérico several times in Spain, I thought the serving at the tavern was by far the best. We polished off those plates and headed out the door.
The entry to Taberna los de Lucio.
Tyler saw a bar at which he wanted to stop, the 47 Cocktail Bar because he wished to have a daiquiri to relive his experience in Marbella, Spain. So, we went in and ordered him a daiquiri. He hoped it would be as good as the one Puerto Banus, Spain near Marbella. It was not good at all; he had about two sips and gave up. We finished our vino tinto and left the bar.
Leaving the 47 Cocktail Bar, we ended up at a sidewalk café, el Viajero. It was enjoyable to sit outside and watch all the people pass. We ordered some croquetas and some filet mignon. The filet just about melted in one’s mouth; however, it was very rare — very typical for Spain. When I ordered, I forgot to tell the server, “muy hecho.” That helpful phrase signifies “well done.” In the United States, I never order anything well done. In Spain, muy hecho comes out as the equivalent of medium. Regardless, we did not leave anything behind!
When we finished those tapas, we all walked back to Plaza Mayor. We bade our friends goodbye, hailed a taxi, and went home. We arrived home at about 23:45. For those readers keeping track, that is nearly three hours beyond my normal REM sleep!
Leslie, Tyler, and I helped with the embassy table at the Kermes today. Kermes is a Spanish word signifying a popular open-air festival where there are a fair and amusements, sometimes organized for charity. While the Kermes in which we participated was indoors, it is a charity for causes championed by the Queen of Spain. Virtually all the embassies in Spain join, selling items from their countries. The proceeds go to the Queen’s charity. In 2010, our first exposure to Kermes, Leslie, and Hillary got to meet the Queen.
We arrived at the hall at Feria de Madrid at about 07:45. We waited for the van from the embassy to arrive. When it got there, we unloaded about one pallet worth of grocery items from the Navy Exchange. We carted those items upstairs to the exhibition hall. Ultimately the items will end up on the embassy table. The boxes included things such as peanut butter, brownie mix, pancake syrup, and Lucky Charms cereal. Depending on the item, they sold for 1€ to 5€ (US$1.22 to US$6.10).
The table set-up begins.
After we sat up the embassy table, we began our wait for Princess Elena to stop at our table. For some reason, the Queen was not available this year. While we waited, a man approached me and began to tell me how the things we were selling reminded him of his time in New York City. He ultimately introduced himself as the Ambassador to Spain from the Philippines. We talked for ten or fifteen minutes. He was a lovely man.
While waiting for Princess Elena, but before the public entered, workers from the other embassy tables wandered the hall looking at what each embassy offered. At this event, it is customary to give the Queen a gift when she comes to each table. The gift from the United States was a basket full of the various items offered for sale that day. As the other embassy volunteers came by our table, we encountered a young boy. I guess he was about 11-years old. He slowly looked at everything on display at our table and then asked, “How much is the basket?” One of our group told him it was not for sale, but rather it was a gift for the Queen. He said, “Oh, so when I am the King, you will give me a basket?” Leslie replied, “Sure, when you are King of what country?” In a very matter-of-fact tone, somewhat indignant, he retorted, “Why Spain, of course!!”
When Princess Elena arrived at our table, many people had already entered the venue. So, it was a mob scene wherever she went. Thankfully I was able to get some good photographs.
Shortly after Princess Elena departed our table, the three of us found out our shift was over. We took advantage of the time and walked around, looking at the table of the other embassies. We stopped at the Mauritania table, selling green, mint tea, among other things. Leslie and Tyler had some of the drinks. All I did was watch the show of the pouring of the tea. The man pouring did so with flair. He poured it from one cup to another, each about two or three feet apart. That resulted in foam on top of the tea.
Leaving the Mauritania table, Leslie and I bought a red wine at the Spanish table. There, we ran across the future King, who had visited our table earlier. His father, Jaime, the husband of Princess Elena, was staffing the Spanish table with help from Felipe, their son. Jaime was very friendly, and we certainly enjoyed Felipe.
Not far from the Spanish table we found the Belgium table. Tyler had a beer from there. Near that table, we ran into our friends Mary Lou and Joe. We walked with them for a little while. But, by that time, the exhibition hall became very crowded. We decided to punch the eject button and return home.
On the spur of the moment this morning, Tyler and I decided to go to the area where he recently went with his class on a bike ride. We caught the light rail in Pozuelo and made our way to the Principe Pio (Prince Pio) Metro stop in Madrid. One of the first sights we saw when we exited the station was the Carlos Ill Gate. The date on it was 1775. It was striking because the sun highlighted its brilliant white colors against the blue sky.
We walked down to the Rio Manzanares. The headwaters of the river are near the town of Manzanares el Real. We visited that town on January 4, while Hillary was in Spain for Christmas break. When we arrived at Principe Pio, it was around 58 degrees. The sky was a beautiful blue, and there was zero wind. Because of that, the river was as smooth as glass.
There is a bike trail on either side of the river. According to a marker on the path, we were at the 2 kilometer (1.2 miles) point of a 30-plus kilometer (18.6 miles) trail which follows the river. That marker was near the King’s Bridge, built in 1828. It runs from Campo del Moro (Moor Field) on the west side of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) to an entrance to Casa de Campo (cottage). There was a large fountain at the entrance to Casa de Campo.
We continued south along the river until we came to the Dam #5. The dam is a mere babe compared to other structures on the river, finished in 1955. At the dam there appeared to be a lock in the center of the dam. Neither very large nor very wide, a canoe is probably the largest boat that might fit through the lock. We used the bridge over the dam to get to the west side of the river.
We continued our southerly course toward the Segovia Bridge. Completed in 1584, I found it humbling to be at a structure nearing 430 years of age. There were dozens of vehicles on the bridge.
As we got closer to the bridge, we saw a man below the bridge fishing. As we watched, he caught a small fish. It looked like a keeper to me. However, he took the fish off of the hook and tossed it back in the river. Maybe this is a catch and release area like some of the rivers in Colorado. Or, perhaps he wanted a larger fish.
We crossed over the Segovia Bridge at the intersection of Calle de Segovia and Avenida de Portugal. The crossing was incredibly busy. Many impatient drivers honked their horns. What seemed like one siren after another punctuated the other noises.
About 100 meters or so south of Calle de Segovia (Segovia Bridge) we stopped for a coffee at Madrid Rio Cafe. It was right beside the bike path. While we sat there, we enjoyed the sun and our coffee and watched people walk by, jog by, ride by, and go by on Rollerblades. Many of the people had dogs with them. At the cafe was a lady with a dog that looked like a very hairy basset hound. His name was Rafael. She and Rafael soon left. We continued to sit at our table. Shortly, another couple arrived to sit down with their dog. The dog was a small greyhound or maybe a whippet. The odd and sad thing is the dog was walking on just its front legs. The rear legs were one or two inches off the ground. There appeared to be some raw wounds on its haunches, but no medical dressings. It was very odd. I have never seen a dog balance like that.
When we finished our coffee, we walked back to the Segovia Bridge. We watched the busy intersection for a while. Once again, multiple ambulances came through the intersection.
We walked east across the bridge to the intersection of Calle de Segovia and Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto. As we approached that intersection, we saw the smallest gas station we have ever seen. It was literally about the size of two porta potties placed side by side. It was adjacent to the curb. In other words, the gas station had no driveway. A car stops at the curb, and the driver says, “Fill ‘er up,” no doubt in Spanish. There is only one pump.
At the intersection was a couple of Madrid’s Mobility Police. Their only job is to find traffic snarls and then direct the traffic until things clear up. We stood there for a while to watch. Of course, while we did, two different ambulances came through the intersection at two different times.
From there we began walking up the hill to the Catedral de la Almudena (Almudena Cathedral). To get there, we walked through the Parque de Atenas (Athens Park). When we reached the eastern edge of the park, we found ourselves at the base of a street called Cuesta de la Vega. It was a mini San Francisco, California Lombard Street. Near the top, we found ourselves at a site called Muralla lslamica de Madrid (Muslim wall of Madrid). According to the various signs there, the wall was originally part of a fortress dating between 860 and 880. It is from this area that Madrid grew to its present state.
The walled site is directly south, across the street, from the Almudena Cathedral. At this street level was an entrance to the crypt of the cathedral. When the Monsignor and I were at the Cathedral in September 2010, we did not enter this part. I am glad we came today. It is amazingly beautiful. It cost us a total of 3€ (US$3.66) to enter. Boy was it worth the price of admission! Built between 1883 and 1911, this portion of the cathedral contains some 500 Corinthian columns on this level, each uniquely carved at the top.
As we entered, there was a baptismal ceremony just beginning for a baby. There were about a dozen family members there. The service did not intrude upon our walk around the Cathedral. There were burial vaults everywhere; in the floor, in the walls, and in each of the side chapels. Many of the dates of death were very recent. I told Tyler we were not just walking through a part of the Cathedral, but we were also walking through a cemetery.
The one thing in this part of the Cathedral that was far from recent is the mural of the Virgin of the Flor de Lis. It dates from 1083. It was challenging to photograph because there was a protective covering of glass, so it was hard to limit the reflections.
At the rear of the Cathedral, on either side, were additional burial areas behind metal gates. Between the two gateways was a fantastic tomb. At first, I thought it must be of a bishop or archbishop; however, in my subsequent research, I found he was an architect and author. The person’s name is Joaquin del Soto Dialog. He died in 1978. It was a very colorful and lifelike tomb. He must have been very loved and adored.
When we emerged from the cathedral, we walked easterly along Calle Mayor. We began to look for a place to eat. Everything we came across was either too expensive or did not appeal to us.
As we walked, I recalled that the area north and west of Plaza Mayor has several guitar shops. Leslie has said she would like a guitar, so I thought I would look. We came across a shop at Calle Amnesia, 1. It is called Antigua Casa Conde Hermanos, Sobrinos de Esbeso. A sign outside indicated 1915 as the founding of the business.
We walked inside. A man in his late 50s warmly greeted us. In my best Spanish, I told him my wife was interested in a guitar. He then introduced me to his son, Mariano Conde. I told him the same thing in Spanish. He asked if I was interested in a guitar made of Spanish materials crafted by an artisan or if I just wanted a guitar made of Spanish materials. Tyler and I conferred and opted for one made by an artisan. I asked Mariano how much one would cost. He said they start at 2,000€ (US$2,440). I gulped loudly and noticeably, asking about the other option. He said those start at 750€ (US$915).
At that point, I gulped and changed the subject. I asked Mariano if they made the guitars in the shop. He said they did. Because of my interest, he went to a breaker panel, flipped on a couple of breakers, and motioned us to follow him downstairs. That took us right into their shop. He showed us several guitars in the early stages of construction. He explained the two primary kinds of wood used are cypress and rose. He told us there are four artisans there. In three months they can make eight guitars.
Back upstairs, he mentioned that they build Flamenco and Classic guitars. He showed me one price list. The prices ranged from 2,000€ (US$2,440) to 9,000€ (US$10,984). We thanked him for his kindness and departed the store, thankful to have most of my Euros still in my pocket!
We were still hungry, so we continued our search for a place to eat. We found one called Colby Urban Restaurant at Vergara, 12. Outside they advertised a daily lunch special for 10€ (US$12.20). Our lunch began with piping hot bread and some butter (a very unusual item, hot that is, unless one asks). I had a glass of red wine, and Tyler had a glass of beer. For our first plate, we both had a Caesar salad. It was one of the best I have had. For our second dish, we both had Ternera a la Plancha. That is a grilled veal. It is only about 3/8 of an inch thick; yes, 3/8 of an inch! Regardless, it was delicious. For dessert, Tyler had vanilla ice cream with butterscotch and whipped cream. I had a coffee. All of that came to 20€ (US$24.40). It was a fabulous lunch.
We left the restaurant and walked about 200 meters to the Opera Metro stop to begin our journey home. All totaled, we walked about five kilometers (3.1 miles).