Today we hit the Prado. As we had our Paseo del Arte we walked straight up the grand stairs of the north entrance and joined a small queue with only 6 people in front of us (rather than the 60 lined up to buy tickets below).
After going through security, we were pounced on by Sonya, a local guide specialising in Spanish art, who convinced us to spend a whirlwind hour in her company seeing the ‘biggies’ of the collection. And whirlwind it was! – She went flat out for the full 60 minutes and we were efficiently transported from room to room for our indepth treatment for all the works we were interested in. And I am not being ironic when I say ‘indepth’ – her patter was informative and thorough.
After our hour with Sonya, we stayed another 2 hours retracing our steps and ensuring that we saw all the pieces we had flagged for our specific interest. Of course, Velàzquez’s masterpiece ‘Las Meninas’ kept our attention for some time – the more you look, the more you see. And it was great to have more information about the work than what was in our guide book – the personal guide had been a good choice. Apparently, Manet, upon seeing ‘Las Meninas’ said, “After this, I don’t know why the rest of us paint.” Pretty big call.
The works of El Greco, Goya, Tintoretto, Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Dürer made the time pass swiftly, and if we didn’t have a lunch reservation, we could’ve stayed longer…although after 3 hours straight, a break was needed anyway. Unfortunately, yet understandably, no photography is allowed in the Prado, so if images of the artworks interest you, then visit the Prado website – they are all there; there is a link where you can go to 25 of their masterpieces that the Prado has done special photographic treatment, so they look incredibly like the real thing (which is much rarer than you think!).
Lunch in the Goya Restaurant at the Ritz was all we expected it to be. Because of the season, all tables were on the patio overlooking the garden, and the pianist playing his ‘songbook’ favourites with a flourish and a trill was the perfect accompaniment to the meal. The wild mushroom and truffle risotto was a particular favourite.
We had a clearly marked out plan of attack for our last afternoon in Madrid. Head to the Thyssen to catch what we had missed the other day due to early close, then cab it to the other side of town for the Palacio Real and Jardines de Sabatines just behind it. The first part of the plan went smoothly – no crowds in the museum and we finished what we had started on the previous visit. We hit a problem when the taxi dropped us at the Palacio Real and there were a vast and colourful array of different uniforms being worn by a variety of security, military and general law enforcers. The palacio was closed for official functions. Dammit. Given that the new King of Spain had his coronation only a few days before we arrived in Madrid, it was no surprise that there were parties to be had.
Fine, no problem, we headed to the Jardines de Sabatines earlier than planned. Closed – setting up for a concert. Bugger! So, back to the trusty guide book for some ideas of what else there was to see. For something completely different, we decided to walk, and walk, and walk! We explored areas we hadn’t visited yet, like the Teatro Real and surrounds, and revisited others, like the Plaza Mayor. The Mercado de San Miguel was an interesting and voyeuristic experience. Housed in a fantastic wrought iron roofed structure whose open sides are now filled with glass. We are both fans of wandering through markets. This one provided amazing displays of fruit, many fish stalls that have fine mist wafting from the pipes in the ceiling, keeping the air cool and moist. Lots of beer, wine and champagne options from a variety of vendors, and plenty of cheese. Oodles of gourmet snacky things, ready to go (like cheese already on the crackers) so you can buy your picnic ingredients and have zero preparation. Perfect.
Surprisingly, we left the market without making a purchase, and walked through Plaza Mayor, the site of so many official royal and religious events – including the auto-da-fé (inquisition). There was an annoying chick in a mini mouse costume (obviously not endorsed by Disney!), who had plonked herself in front of the statue in the centre of the Plaza – basically ruining any one’s chances of a good pic of the statue. And the silly cow kept taking her ‘head’ off – talk about unprofessional! This plaza is full of tourist traps, but an interesting place, non-the-less. Decided not to have a drink there, and moved on to Plaza Santa Ana for that, instead.
Hung out with a white wine in Plaza Santa Ana. Love that everywhere in Madrid that you order a drink, you get a snack – usually a plate of crisps or olives or both. Sat for a while checking out the area, listening to the patter, dodging the cigarette and cigar smoke.
Walked back to our hotel, got changed for an evening out and about. Began with a visit to the lobby and bar, armed with laptop to get some work done. Sat ourselves down and were presented with menus, and realised two things, the cocktail prices were €5-7 more than in the Terrace Garden, and they didn’t offer the ‘Dalitini’ or Mediterranean cocktails that we were after. So we headed out into the warm evening air to have exactly what we wanted at a cheaper price. Ate our crisps and olives with our aperitifs. By the way the olives at the Ritz are fantastic – plump and green, and actually taste like olives, not the brine they are stored in (almost sweet, in fact).
Decided to go to a local Terrace bar at Palacio Cibeles – a block from the Ritz. It’s on the top floor of the palacio looking out over the Plaza de Cibeles Fountain in the centre of a giant roundabout. Turned up – closed. We will just have to subtitle this day as ‘The day of closed things.’ It all became just too difficult, so I went back to the hotel to write, and John took off to take some pics.
And that was the end of Madrid…for now!
[Full article on the Hotel Ritz Madrid]