We hadn’t seen Jonathan (my old boss from the early 90’s) and Mercedes for many years but it felt just like old times, just continuing from where we left off. Our first evening at one of their favourite local tapas and seafood restaurant was a fantastic start. The next morning, Mercedes and I caught up to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – the entrance ticket I booked online for 10am was a little too early for Anthony so it was nice to have company and be able to discuss various artworks with Mercedes rather than going alone. I feasted on the many Dalis and Picassos and other Spanish artists such as Miró. The museum was fairly empty so it was wonderful to be able to linger in front of favourite paintings and enjoy the details, especially the Dalis.
A visit to Madrid would not be complete without visiting the Prado, Spain’s national art museum which holds the best collection of Spanish art and one of Europe’s finest collection of European art. Like the Louvre, it is impossible to see everything in a single visit. Anthony and I met after lunch and spent a few hours meandering through this massive museum, selecting the artists and periods of personal interest – otherwise, it is easy to become overwhelmed when presented with so many works.
Here is my favourite one of the day by Dutch renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder:
Having spent my childhood in Saint-Quentin, in Picardie, northern France, I had to visit the grand monastery and palace which King Philip II of Spain ordered to be built to commemorate the 1557 Spanish victory at the battle of Saint-Quentin against King Henry II of France. The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, named after Saint Lawrence, the saint day of the deacon who was roasted on a gridiron for his religious beliefs, was built in the shape of a gridiron. Scenes of the battle adorn ceilings around the monastery. Pity I eventually found out photos were not allowed – the royal library is remarkable but sadly no photos allowed.
Unsurprisingly, El Escorial and surroundings were declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1984.
Sunday 8th December, yes the blog is very late, saw us taking a lovely drive out into the countryside with Jonathan and Mercedes, lunch in a small village restaurant followed by a walk in the woods.
It is funny how we can be creatures of habit: the hotel recommended a local tapas bar just a couple of blocks down the road on our 2nd night – it was so good, we just had to return to on our last night. The same locals standing in their favourite spot, our table by the window waiting for us, obviously, the waiters and waitresses welcoming us like regulars. We have the roasted artichoke with Pedro Ximénez vinegar and crushed cashew nuts again, talk about our plans for the future. The food and atmosphere are fantastic. An elderly couple, one of them with a walking stick arrive, the place is now full, so I give up my seat. Time for us to leave. “See you tomorrow night” one of the locals called as we left. I felt sad we couldn’t explain we wouldn’t be back. But maybe I didn’t want to try and explain it because it felt good to feel like we belonged in a place… It really is time for us to go home.
And so, quick as flash, our 3 days in Madrid were over. So much more to see and do on a future visit.
Next stop, Singapore for a few days, to see our godsons and our friend Alicia. It is funny how we have been to Singapore so many times, but always to visit friends. One day we’ll stay longer and do some sight seeing. This time, it rained heavily so staying indoors was the best place to be anyway. Connor at 13 years of age is going through the typical teenage silent phase while at 11.5 Connor is still as affectionate as ever. Precious times with them all, pity Michael was away on business.
We leave most of our luggage at our hotel for our return in 3 weeks’ time. Vietnam next.