Due to train, plane and meeting schedules, it made the most sense for us to spend a day in Madrid on the way home from Seville. We actually ended up with a bit over a full day – we got to Madrid mid-afternoon on Wednesday and our flight isn’t until Friday morning. Wednesday evening, we did another Rick Steves audio tour. This one was a bit chaotic. Madrid is busy! The center of the city on a weeknight evening is just throngs of people leaving work, going out for the evening, or just strolling. It was honestly a little overwhelming, especially coming from serene and laid back Seville. The heart of the city, Puerta del Sol, is being reconstructed right now. That means that the crowds are crammed into smaller paths which definitely exasperates the issue.
We still learned plenty on the walk. The highlight was visiting the San Miguel Market for snacks. It’s another gorgeous indoor food hall, where we got toasts with anchovies, grilled vegetables, cheese and an oxtail stew-filled bun. We definitely love the Spanish system of eating small bites, constantly.
We ended our night with a trek to a small bar making churros and chocolate. We wanted to get out of the tourist zone, and this place rewarded us – it was a festive atmosphere, with regulars playing cards, ducking behind the bar to fetch things and placing their own orders back into the kitchen.
Our visit to Madrid meant there was a chance for Kat to visit the Prado for the first time. We made sure to be there right when they opened, in the hopes of beating the rush of tour groups. That turned out to be a bit optimistic, but we still had a great visit. The Prado is extra strict about enforcing their “no photographs” rule, so we don’t even have any sneaky shots. I’ll do my best to paint a mind picture.
We followed the guide to the Prado from the Rick Steves book. The Prado is absolutely huge and overwhelming, spread across three (or maybe more?) floors and hundreds of galleries. You could aimlessly wander all day and still miss big chunks of it. The guide does a good job of taking you to the highlights, while also weaving together a relevant narrative.
Perhaps the best reason to visit the Prado is to stand in front of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. As anyone who’s ever seen the painting can imagine, it’s a piece that rewards a careful eye – there’s so much going on, and so many layers. The colors and lighting of the “hell” panel really pop and play with your eye in a way that doesn’t translate to prints. It took some elbowing to get to the front of the crowd, but Kat revelled in her chance to soak it in.
From Bosch, the guide covers a progression of Spanish or Spain-affiliated artists like Velasquez, El Greco and Goya. But perhaps the biggest surprise was Fra Angelico’s Annunciation. It absolutely pops off the canvas with luminescent colors in a way that totally shocks you. The metallic gilding and glazed tempura create an iridescence that changes with every shift in position. The impossibly blue tones and the texture of the goldwork are a delight for the eyes.
After our visit to the Prado, we walked down to Matadero Madrid, a mixed use arts / coworking / cinema space which was both amazing and perplexing. In part, it turns out, because most of the buildings don’t open until later in the day. And in part because it wasn’t clear which parts of the site were for visitors and which weren’t. Matadero is in an old slaughterhouse complex with shockingly well preserved buildings, and from the photos online it seems to host all kinds of fun events. We mostly enjoyed wandering around the site.
From Matadero, we walked back to our hotel so we could both join various work Zoom calls. Exciting!
For our last meal in Spain, we went to the Malasaña neighborhood, which is popular with hip young people like us. We had a really delightful meal at a tiny restaurant called Dolores y Lola. The only other folks there all seemed to be friends of the owners (and the dog of a friend of the owners). We stuffed ourselfs with a beautiful roasted pork, fried eggs with jamon, and a sardine and tomato salad.