Of course, we can’t forget that Dad came to Spain for an actual reason besides the Argelich Barcelona Tours Inc. getaway experience (and no, that is not a real company. But it probably should be). That’s where Madrid comes in.
On Monday we packed up and headed to the airport to fly to Madrid for a meeting on Tuesday. We spent Monday night lazily, and went to a really cool restaurant in la Plaza Mayor, selected by Agustín, to eat tapas. What was cool about Madrid was the inescapable historicalness (yes, that’s a real word) mixed with the undeniable cityness (that one’s not); as we sat in la Plaza Mayor, admiring the centuries-old buildings that surrounded us, our peaceful evening was unbrokenly molested by a man dressed as a baby making a constant racket with a kazoo, collecting money for whatever talent that qualifies as. There was also a human tree and an overweight Spiderman who is apparently on Facebook. Outside of la Plaza Mayor, it’s similar; gorgeous historic buildings, fountains and statues pepper streets stocked full with taxis. It’s kind of a cool juxtaposition of cultures and times.
On Tuesday, Dad, Agustín and I went to a meeting, the details of which I won’t bore you with because this is my “fun in Spain” blog, not my “day in the life of a telecommunications consulting firm secretary” blog (I hope I haven’t severely disappointed anyone with this news). After the meeting, Agustín took Dad and me to an excellent steak restaurant. It was a cook-it-yourself hot plates restaurant: raw steak and a seriously hot plate were provided, and we cooked the steak on the plate itself until it was to our liking. It was delicious.
Afterwards, Dad and I went to the palace. It was really cool! As with most palaces, there was fine furniture, cool rooms, lists of people who died in each room that make you feel a little weird for a second, and an assortment of carpets, china and paintings that are always bound to impress. One thing that caught Dad’s and my attention was the serious affinity that the Spanish monarchs had for clocks; a clock was the centerpiece of choice on every surface, and in one room there was a piece in which a giant clock actually was the surface. Dad made an interesting observation when he whispered to me, “You know, someone had to go around and wind all of these!”
We took a little respite in a nearby café and planned our next move, which included both dinner and buying gifts for Mom and Lizzie. We didn’t walk more than two blocks before I noticed the word “chocolatería” and wondered aloud, “A chocolate business? What can they possibly sell there that actually provides enough money to make a living?” Dad said “Alright, we’re going.” That was the day I learned about drinkable chocolate. To the right is a nice picture of Dad looking very cultured in la chocolatería that should give you an understanding of what this chocolate looks like, served. The shop was adorable, the staff incredibly friendly, and the chocolate, well . . . marvelous. It was such a great experience that I actually took the staff up on their invitation to like them on Facebook. I’ll do them a solid and provide that link, too.
Next, we ambled through the historic downtown section of Madrid, looking for a place to eat. We bought some gifts for Mom and Lizzie, and I showed Dad El Corte Inglés, the impressive Spanish version of Macy’s which is always nearby no matter where you are and is always ridiculously large. (The one in la Plaza de Catalunya is eleven floors, and this one was divided into perhaps five different buildings. I actually lost Dad for a little bit.)
Dad flew out of Madrid the next day, so we said our goodbyes in the morning and then I killed time in the city until Agustín was finished up with a couple more meetings. I went to El Prado, the large and impressive national art gallery. It was just the perfect way to spend a day alone, walking around, looking at art, thinking about history, and not really talking to anybody. To the left is a photo taken in El Prado of an artist copying a famous work (note that this was taken before I knew about the no-photos rule, so I didn’t knowingly break any rules). When I had picked up my map at the beginning, I had gotten out a pen and circled all of the artists whose works I wanted to see: Velazquez, El Greco, Rembrandt, Durer, Titian, Rubens, etc., etc., etc. I spent two hours walking around, stopping for a long time to look, read, and meditate. It was nice, but after those two hours, I was ready to go. Then I opened my map and realized that there was a whole second floor to the museum boasting Byzantine art, High Renaissance art, Goya’s work, and a freaking ancient vestibule covered in paintings from floor to ceiling that was imported from a chapel in Rome. It was weird because I was both excited but also a little mad. There was no way I was leaving without seeing it all, and I felt that the museum knew that and had tricked me into staying. It was actually very irresponsible of me to stay so long, because I was light-headed with hunger yet refused to buy more than a soda and a piece of bread at the offensively expensive museum café. Here’s another illegally but not consciously-illegally-taken photo of a portrait that I had to share, just so I could add this caption:
If you get it, high-five to you and also caput draconis.
In the end, I spent four hours in El Prado. And while I jokingly complain, it was a wonderful and totally relaxing afternoon. I met back up with Agustín after leaving El Prado and we boarded a bullet train to Barcelona. The trip was two hours long, the seat comfortable enough, and the view spectacular. I really got to see Spain, and it was a beautiful sight.