Sunday, 21 February 2010

14 February 2010 - Madrid

Happy Valentines Day! We were all up and heading out to fill our day by 10am. Quickly getting our bearings we headed towards Gran Via then on the Paseo del Prado seeking a recommended breakfast establishment. Lovely hotel on Gran Via that looked to me like a large wedding cake!

Weather was pleasant enough, sunny but cold. We continued our walk down towards the Prado Museum behind which was Cafe El Botanico. A very traditional cafe inside and we were soon tucking into bread with shavings of spanish ham on a tomato paste, lovely coffee and croissant. Yum. Just what we needed. Then it was back on the walking trail towards Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. One of Madrid's 3 major art galleries.

It was such a pleasure to stroll down the street towards the gallery. Seemed we were not alone either with many locals out strolling or jogging as well.

Then after a relaxing 10 minute stroll we arrived outside the Reina Sofia. The original building used to be a hospital and it had a 79 million euro extension added to the rear. The glass escalators looked like a recent addition too - and proved very scary!!

And yes we braved the glass lifts right to the top floor. You can see the height of this vast structure below.

I wasn't that convinced about the new extension designed by a French architect Jean Nouvel. Sounds more like a chef than an architect! Still at least Amber had fun playing behind a rather large centre piece. I was trying unsuccessfully to play hide and seek with her. Not sure if you can just spot me peeking out.

The gallery space was immense and filled with art which would appeal to a broad spectrum. Naturally the highlight was Picasso's Guernica which is simply enormous! It was Picasso's response to the Spanish Civil War bombing of the basque town of Gernika in April 1937 by the German Luftwaffe who were in cahoots with Franco. The painting itself is immense and the exhibition includes Picasso's drawings of different parts of the painting prior to him putting it altogether. Obviously Picasso wasn't too enamoured by Franco's antics so he insisted the painting be displayed outwith Spain, in New York of all places and remain there for as long as Franco was in power. It eventually returned to Spain in 1981 six years after Franco died and 8 years after Picasso died. Which is a shame since he never got to see it displayed in it's homeland.

Other highlights of the gallery we can recall are works by Salvador Dali, Gris, Miro and Leon Ferrari. Out of all 3 galleries this one was our favourite.

Heading back up Paseo del Prado we spotted a discreet metal sculpture of an elephant. I'd love to see the original elephant that posed for the sculpture!!

You can get an idea of the scale of the thing with someone standing below it.

And in Madrid they have a different style to gardening. Now this horticultural selection would drive you up the wall surely!!!

You had to remember and look up as you walked in case you missed some of the rather weird shop fronts. I have no idea what this shop was selling or showing!! Any ideas?

And just what you expect parked in the middle of one of Madrid's promenades.............. a crazy looking caravan!!!

Amber spotted this building which reminded her of the structures you used to build from a pack of cards.

Now as if the elephant sculpture earlier in the day wasn't enough..... what was this big lady doing lying down right in the centre of a busy junction? You can see folk walking in the background to give you an idea. She truly was a big mamma!

You have to applaud Madrid for just throwing up sculptures all over the place. Whilst the elephant and big lady were quite obvious as to what they were I have no idea regarding this rather alien looking sculpture below a busy underpass. And it's by Alberto Sanchez.

There were more sculptures in this area which are further on in the blog.

All in all a great first day and a wonderful taster for the city of Madrid. We did have to get used to timings of the eateries around lunchtime. They seem to open around 1pm and close towards 4pm. Then that's them until around 8.30pm in the evening when they re-open for dinner. Cafes are a bit different and tend to be open throughout the day and well into the evening. We managed to find one eatery still open and that was an Argentinian restaurant called Cleric. Plenty of beef on the menu for meat eaters but the thing I would recommend is the apple croque and vanilla ice cream dessert. It was like a crispy topped crepe, slightly burnt round the edges giving it a delicious flavour with the vanilla ice cream. Worth a try!

We headed back to hotel........sorry hostal, only to discover there was a Starbucks right opposite. How handy is that? After resting for a short while we headed back out to explore more of what Madrid had to offer and to do a quick reccy on some of the places we planned to see during the week. With daylight fading we quickly sought out a suitable cafe for some evening tapas. The place was called Gijon and amongst many things did a yummy house tortilla and a wicked Arrez con leche [rice pudding]. But I would definitely NOT order bread with caballero (Andrews made up cheese name) which is the stinkiest most offensive cheese imaginable. Eugh!!! For those who like history the cafe has been on the go since 1888 and is decked out with beautiful Cuban mahogany and antique mirrors.

Finally headed back to the hotel at midnight passing the local council workers salting the pavements for the next day - Stirling Council take note!!!!

1 comment:

Pamela said...

Love the elephant.