Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Spain 2016 - Madrid, Prado and Plaza Mayor.

I had a traditional Spanish breakfast today. Tostadas may be served with olive oil (instead of butter) or with tomate as this was. I was then passed olive oil and salt in case I wanted to add it. The tomate is literally mushed tomato, not quite pureed consistency, but almost. Once you get around the idea that it is not jam, therefor not sweet, it is rather a nice breakfast.
I walked down to Museo National del Prado (really know the way now inspite of the often confusing streets, no grid pattern here) and was there just before 10 when it was to open.
The photo above is of the imposing front where you buy your ticket but as I already had a ticket I lined up at the, less interesting looking,  Jeronimus Entrada.
I took this for Pat, the whole place is being converted to LED lighting.
I was surprised to discover that you were not allowed to take any pictures, not even sin flash, or of the sculptures, or of the building itself - just no photos period! There were staff in every room to police this, though it wasn't unusual to see people sneaking a quick photo using their phone.

I anticipated being disappointed in the Prado, one of the reasons I had left it 'til the last day, I thought I would just skip out and do something else if I didn't like it. I am happy to say I enjoyed it. I wish I could have taken pictures, there are so many paintings and sculptures I would like to be able to look at again. I had thought it would be mostly old, dark, religious paintings, sombre, unremarkable, uninspiring. Oh yes, there were some of those, especially on the top floor but there were also paintings that were amazing, brilliant (in execution and colour) and the Prado did an excellent job with their labels of each picture. Each area had an explanation about the time period and genre, artists that were prevalent, their influences, in Spanish and English. Most of the paintings also had Spanish and English information, not just title, date and artist (like the other two museums) but also a comment on the subject matter (description of the myth or the location or the family portrayed) and on how the piece came to be at the Prado (commissioned by x, inherited or purchased by y etc etc). Often those explanations were as interesting as the piece of work itself and all were written clearly and concisely (no artistic lingo).
I was surprised by how bright and colourful the paintings were and looked up "Prado restoration work"when I got back:
"One of the main roles of the Prado Museum is to guarantee the protection and conservation of the items of Spanish historical heritage that are entrusted to it.   Much of this work is carried out by the museum's Restoration Division, which consists of 31 experts from various cross-disciplinary departments. Their combined work enables preventive conservation, study and analysis, as well as restoration of the works when necessary." from the Prado Museum Restoration Workshop website.

High points: a sculpture, in stone,of a woman's head in a veil (even examining it, it amazed me that the artist had achieved this). The Dauphin's Treasure which was a collection of crystal and precious stone plates, goblets, jugs etc. Goya's "cartoons", to be used to create tapestries. A series of night paintings by Georges La Tour in which the only light source was a candle or a brazier. I found that I loved Rubens and the Prado has lots of his.
The Prado is huge and I admit I did some "walk through"s but still spent about 3 hours there and then out into the sunshine (still cool though). Ate a picnic outside listening to a street musician and watching people interact with a street performer dressed as the Mad Hatter, complete with a mouse in a tea cup.
On the first evening I was here I went to Plaza Mayor and the San Miguel market but my camera battery had quit so I decided to go back to get some pictures.
I had thought that it would just be a big plaza but it is enclosed and has lots of these entrances off the surrounding streets.
Its a major tourist destination and has a large tourist office, under the towers to the right, which I visited my first night.
One of the things the guidebooks say you should do, in Madrid, is have an overpriced drink at one of the restaurants. So I did, while sketching some impressions. (4 Euro for a glass of wine, 3Euro for plain water!)
Phillip III saw its completion in 1790 after fires destroyed it, so its his statue in the centre.
Fun to watch the tourist action. These guys keep a hold of the strings on their blankets and can pick them up and take off with the big bag over their shoulders if they spot the police coming to chase them off.
You can buy souvenirs in the colourful shops in the arcades.

Get your picture taken as a flamenco dancer or a matador.
Buy a painting or get a caricature done.
Or chase bubbles.
Out the arch opposite the one I had come in is
This is the last metal market building remaining in Madrid (2 others have been demolished)

Although there are a few produce vendors
it is basically a tapas market with
about 30 vendors selling tapas and pinchos
of a great variety.

When I was here on Sunday, at about 5:30, I couldn't move in the place
let alone take pictures.
Today, Wednesday, at about 3, there were people eating but room to move around
and take pictures.
Unfortunately I wasn't
or thirsty, but it really is a fun place to visit.
Back out of the market and going around the outside of the plaza, to go back in at another entrance, I realized that it is on a hill and there are restaurants and bars on the outside that are in the basements of the buildings on the inside.
Popped back into Plaza Mayor and then out the other side as I had stayed within a certain area for the last 3 days and I thought I should see what other parts of Madrid were like.
Occasional statues
and fountains.
I found the shopping district  and
Puerto del Sol, Madrid's "Time Square" with it's Tio Pepe sign.
The theatre is having a production of Numancia written by Miguel de Cervantes (of Don Quixote fame) as he died in April 1616.
By now I was getting hungry so found the restaurant that I ate at last night and had some more pinchos.
Had some more Salmorejo (because it is delicious) then the one in the front is crab salad with little crackers and smoked salmon. I didn't eat the bun but the inside was carmelized onions on goat cheese on chicken.
Finished off with an egg salady thing with shrimp on top and a strawberry cheesecake. Glass of Rioja of course.
Now its home to blog, pack and book my seat for tomorrows flight home.

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