It’s a sunny thursday evening in Madrid and aside from the gross turkey and cream cheese sandwich that I just had, the last few days have been very enjoyable indeed. I’ve tried some great wines and obviously had some culinary adventures. I’ve seen some very pretty stuff and fortunately I’ve bought some of it to take back home.
Yesterday the bank I was interviewing with was paying for a half-day guided trip to Madrid. That is both exciting and annoying – annoying because I hate not being able to do things on my own time. Anywho..
The day started with the El Prado Museum.
Now I knew close to nothing about the Prado and boy was I surprised. Every other classical masterpiece I had ever read about, every great master who is praised is in this museum. I was a little disappointed that I only spend an hour in the museum but in this one hour I saw some of the finest works of art from the greatest masters – the three graces by rubens, las meninas by velazquez, the nude maja, the clothed maja by Goya, works of El Greco…In all her excitement though the guide missed out showing us Adam & Eve.. and I didn’t see a single Caravaggio but the Spanish say that you cannot see all of El Prado even if you visit it a thousand times.
After El Prado, we had aperitivo at the Plaza Santa Ana.. a lovely and quintessentially European square with bar terraces all around. Croquetas, Pinchos and a class of Mahou later, we were off to visit the old quarter – some ruins, the Palacio Real (royal palace), the Cathedral Almudena and the delightful Plaza Mayor (a must see).
Lunch was at place called Cafe De Oriente located facing the Palace and the pretty garden in front of it whose name I cannot remember. Cafe de Oriente is from the early 1930s and has beautiful antiquated furniture and fittings. The curtains and the wallpapers are luxurious yet understated silk and things from the old world like brass sinks, the olden telephone and painted portraits made me feel like a very underdressed princess on the titanic. To this I must add that the instrumental version of “my heart will go on” was playing in background. Groan.
Lunch it was a 5 course meal that was reasonable to start with and grandiose to end with. After a boring asparagus and cordoons (a local vegetable) stew and a poached cod with octopus (that I didn’t quite like), they served us beautifully done duck breast on spinach with a bittersweet orange sauce. Delish! And dessert was the crown jewel – a fresh take on bread and butter pudding… fried bread with a caramel brulee exterior served with custard and vanilla anisette icecream. And Cafe con leche of course.
After lunch I did a bit of window shopping.. mostly because I didn’t like what I saw. Then in an attempt to find my favourite shampoo brand Lush (besides Rusk, relax Casa!), I walked a gazillion kilometres… from Sol (the centre of town) to Puerta de Alcala… I slowly traced the building numbers and only got to the 60s while Lush was at 104. So I gave up and made a phone call. I met my adorable b-school friend, Costa. We had beer at his lovely apartment’s terrace (in the centre of madrid). His wife joined us and we headed out to dinner/drinks.
This was in the very trendy gay district of Madrid – Chueka with lovely bars and restaurants that are both new and old. I couldn’t resist another Clara at Libertad, a young noisy bar.. and then we got our table at Bazaar. Bazaar’s a very creative restaurant that serves up mediterranean food. Everything we ordered was both familiar and unique at the same time… liver pate and goat’s cheese with raw red pepper corns, poached eggs and salad, asparagus risotto, carpaccio and of course a chocolate explosion.. a warm souffle (with the liquidy centre that I so love). All washed down with great company, tons of jokes and scandalous stories and a bottle of cava. Salut!
Costa’s wife insisted that instead of wasting my day at the hotel far away from madrid, I crash on their couch and use the surplus time to see Madrid a bit more. So Costa and I went at 1am to retrieve my baggage and brought it back to his place. Now I must confess that all that driving and eating of rich food and way too wine ended up in some mild throwing up, after which I slept like a baby.
This morning has been utterly productive and truly satisfying. Woke up late and headed out to Calle Fuencarral aka shopping road.. I walked furiously with the explicit purpose of finding Lush. And I did. And I spent an hour and over 50 euros buying all sorts of luscious things for the face, the body and the hair. Then I walked over to Mango.
Now I must emphasize that both Mango and Zara are extremely disappointing this season with their stupidly loose designs and their woolens that are of no use to me. But still I ventured into this second mango store as if… as if a force not known to me was guiding me in. And then I saw it. A sign pointing upwards with the words “MANGO OUTLET”
Leading the junkie into a carton of pills, isn’t it? But well, being broke as I am I couldn’t take advantage of some of the beautiful things in this outlet.. ladies.. this is the place for business suits and jackets and trenchcoats. Cheap and amazing.
As for me, I bought a delectable and very spanish short skirt in black white and red, and a very simple brown dress. Just because.
Very satisfied with this little appetiser of a shoppping experience (relative to what I am capable of), I took the metro to Atocha to see Museo Reina Sofia.. the museum of modern art. The collection here is spectacular and meticulously complete. Dali, Miro, Picasso – some of their most iconic works are housed in Reina Sofia’s permanent collection. (Funny though that I didn’t catch the Old Guitarrist here either). I am kinda proud of myself for having seen most of the iconic works in the world. (Next on my list: the sisteen chapel and all that roman awesomeness).
Outside the museum I spoke to a friendly vendor and picked a rather whimsical and funny present for Brendan. A poster of a flamenco dancer and her partner with some subtext about a supposed performance and the show times/dates. The catch? After the text that translates to “featuring the spectacular performances of “, you get to stencil your own name in. So my poster says “Gran Festival de baile flamenco con la sensacional actuacion de Jupiter y Brendan”.
Costa approved of all my purchases and so I am guessing Brendan will like this comical little ode to us. Plus it’s sorta relevant given we went to see flamenco in Barcelona? Don’t judge me, it’s hard to buy presents for men. Not really, but I am broke.
After hurriedly packing everything in, I took my cab to the airport where I have picked up the most adorable fridge magnets and a bottle of Rioja wine. Fridge magnets are predictable, yes I know but these are cute. It’s a flamenco dancer and a bull fighter (with holes in their faces where you can stick your own picture in). That is cute. So there.
And then I sat down next to my boarding gate writing this and hoping I don’t miss my connecting flight this time. And now they call for me. Adios… hasta luego