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Spain 2005
Never send back the wine...

Day 2-Madrid

We wake up late, 10:30 AM, and are out by 11:30 with a quick stop at, yes, Starbucks. Mom has to, but the Travel Tyrant vows not to let us do so every day. As it turns out, it would be our only Starbucks purchase, though we would certainly see them all over.

We walked to Sol where we take the metro to the RENFE Atocha station with the goal of going to Reina Sofia museum. Looking back, I suppose we could have used that trip to buy our train tickets to Sevilla, but I had no idea we'd be going there. Plus, it was nice to get it done before leaving the airport, ensuring we'd have seats when we wanted.

Leaving the station by the first exit we see, we walk out the wrong way, and once outside wander a bit trying to figure out exactly where we are in relation to the museum. This wandering about, lost with a map in hand, is not unusual for us. To get to the museum, we wind up walking around the outside of a large construction site next to the station, against traffic, in the street.

The Reina Sofia  is in a large old building with two shockingly modern glass elevators on the exterior from which there
reina sofia are fantastic views over the rooftops. It holds a large collection of modern Spanish art, including the very famous "Guernica" by Picasso. The last time I was in Madrid (1991) this work was housed in a small offshoot museum next to the Prado. After the Reina Sofia (which is free on Sundays), we stopped at a nearby bar, El Brillante (Atocha 122) for some tasty, yet expensive, fried calimari, una caña (a small glass of beer) and a coke (11 euro).

From there, it was a walk to the Prado, where we contemplated going into the botanical gardens, but since there was a long line, we decide to leave it for next Sunday. Instead, we enter the Prado by it's side entrance across from the Botanical Gardens (this is at the opposite end of the building from the main entrance) which was very easy, and also free on Sundays. What followed was a quick walk through room after room of exhibits (including being let in the exit of a separate, paid entrance exhibit), in a mad, circular dash of trying to find a bathroom. They certainly make it difficult; the first one we find is in the cafeteria, but has a huge line and the next was so hidden and out of the way, it is virtually empty (once we finally find it). I know we hit the highlights of the museum and saw some fantastic, famous works of art (Goya's Majas and Saturn Devouring One of His Sons, and Ruben's Three Graces), and but honestly, the rest was quite a blur.


After the museums, we go back to the hotel, where we're able to change rooms for one with a view onto the plaza. This room was slightly larger than the last, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a small balcony. It was quite nice, and we were both pleased with the change, even for one night.

view from balcony

View from our balcony onto the plaza, above.

After changing rooms, we go for a walk in my old barrio of Chueca. The neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the last 14 years with the more seedy elements (drug dealers and transvestite prostitutes) replaced with a decidedly gay demographic and lots of trendy clothing shops and restaurants. Unfortunately for us, Sunday is the day all the stores are closed.

El Castillo    


We found the apartment where David and I had lived in 1991, and a closed El Castillo, the family run restaurant in the bottom of the building. After that, we go in search of Pizzeria Vesuvio (Calle Hortaleza, 4) where we used to go for our late night pizza cravings. It's still there, and open, so we share my favorite pizza with olives, artichokes, anchovies, and jamon. I ordered a Fanta Limon (a refreshing, not too sweet, lemon soda) and Mom has her first taste is now a convert as well. The pizza is wonderful, just as I remembered, and were were fortunate to get in and sit at one of the 12 counter seats before they closed for afternoon siesta. Across the street is the famous bakery, Horno San Onofre (calle Horteleza, 9) where we buy buenellos, which are little cream puffs filled with different flavored creams.


On our way back to the hotel for our own siesta, I point out the Mc Donald's we used frequent to my Mother and tell her how we would sit upstairs and watch the prostitutes walk the street outside. We would time them to see how long it would take them to go upstairs and return with their "dates". I say, "Well, it looks like the neighborhood has been cleaned up", but apparently I speak too soon as we pass 3 such "working girls" on our way down to the Puerta del Sol.


At some point, we walk over to the Royal palace, but by the time we arrive it was closed for the day. Actually, I don't remember this, but I have photos, so I know we were there. :-)


Never send back the wine, or, the Customer is Always Wrong

For dinner, we go out on our own little marcha on Calle de la Cava Baja and Calle de la Cava Alta. These two streets, southwest of the Plaza Mayor are loaded with restaurants and tapas bars.

First stop is Taberna Algorta (Calle Cava Baja, 28), with Basque style tapas (pintxos vascos). We have 2 glasses wine and a tapa de pulpo (piece of toasted bread brushed with oilve oil with a slice of cooked octopus and a dusting chili powder) for 6.8 euro.

Next is Tempranillo (Calle Cava Baja, 38) which is very busy by the time we arrive. They have tons of wine by the glass, all listed on a chalkboard. I order an Izadi Roija and my mother, strangely, orders a Syrah.

She takes one sip and says loudly, "how do you say this is $#!&?" Nice, eh? A Spaniard, standing at the bar next to us, tells her exactly how to say it in Spanish, but I really don't want her trying that out on the bartender.

She insists the wine is bad, as in, it had been in an open bottle too long. The Travel Tyrant says, "why would you order an a Syrah in Spain anyway?" But I learned long ago to keep the peace, so I tell the bartender she said it was bad and he just shrugged his shoulders. I order her another glass, a rioja this time, which is fine. We also order two tostas; one of soft goat cheese and the other of a rustic paté on toasted bread.
I cringe while my mother flirts with the thirty-something yuppies to my left.
When I ask for the bill the bad wine is on it. I tell the bartender again that it was bad, not that she just didn't like it. He glares at me with this look of immense irritation and then turns to the other bartender and tells him what I'd said. The other bartender uncorks the wine, pours some into a glass, sips it and proclaims it just fine. At this point I figure it's not worth arguing over 2 euro so I pay the 11.20 Euro check and we leave.

The final stop on our tapeo is the Museo de Jamon (Carrera de San Jeronimo, 6)- These places are all over Madrid (there are 6 of them) and from the outside appear touristy, but inside is packed with Spaniards. We have a mixed plate of jamon (cured ham, very much like prosciutto) and manchego (a firm goat cheese), a caña, and a fanta limon for 5 euro.


We end the night with ice cream near the hotel.

Day 2 miles walked- 7.9

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