Tuesday, February 21

Picasso, tapas and a wall of aging groceries

Garry and I have just returned from a relaxing-four day trip to Madrid. I was in town for two days of work, which we extended to include a weekend of tourist highlights. It was the first time in Madrid for both of us.

We arrived on Thursday morning, parking at the new Teminal Four in Barajas airport. This incredible work of art opened for business on February 5. It's a stunning building of red and yellow steel lattice, capped by an long, flowing roof of undulating 'seagull wing' waves. The complex was designed by Richard Rogers, a prominent UK architect.

Food, glorious food
We ate at some wonderful restaurants. Our first night was spent in the narrow, exposed brick basement of a tiny local establishment called, Arte Divino, located on edge of Plaza de le Provincia. The owner was delightful and keen to meet our every whim and the wine cellar was stocked with some fine products.

Our second night in town was spent in the basement of Bazaar, a local dining institution that even Lonely Planet raves about. Here we found ourselves seated at a table, surrounded by an eclectic collection of stark white shelves, piled high with grocery items from the turn of the century. Despite the rather stylistic surrounding, the menu was surprisingly cheap and filled with tasty dishes.

Our final night was spent at the ultra-funky establishment of Calle 54 in Northern Madrid. It's a bar come restuarant. Here the walls to the kitchen were made of solid glass, connected to the main dining area by an impressive automated glass door. This fixture had an efficient swishing noise each time it opened, akin to something you'd find on the Starship Enterprise.

Shoe leather shuffle
We spent most of Saturday wandering the streets of Old Madrid, visiting such well-worn tourist sights as the Plaza Mayor, the recently completed cathedral (it's only taken 112 years to build) and the Royal Palace. We also stopped for tapas in the late afternoon near Plaza Sol, considered the traditional heart of the city. It was here we also stumbled across call girls doing a roaring afternoon's trade.

Perhaps the most perplexing highlight was a statue of the city's emblem; a bear climbing a strawberry tree. I'm sure there's a story here, but we were at a loss to explain it.


The Royal Palace was particularly memorable. Here we saw multi-million dollar Antonio Stradivari violins from the early 1770s, stunning gilded thrones in a red velvet lined room and a spectacular array of Victorian pharmaceutical equipment on display in the royal dispensary.

Sunday was spent at the Sophia Museum viewing the works of Picasso, Dali and other modern masters. Most note-worthy was Picasso’s famous Guernica, a dark and foreboding protest on the horror of war. The canvas itself is almost eight metres long.


UPDATE:

I returned to Madrid for another visit in September 2007. Click here to read this post.

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