I woke up early and ventured out with McKay to find something for breakfast in Barcelona. No luck. The Ramblas, which the previous night was flowing with thousands of people, was totally deserted. The stores were all closed and the only living souls out were either cleaning the streets or making deliveries. I asked a few people for suggestions on where I could find some food and they each gave me the same look: Dumb tourist, don't you know where you are? Spaniards are not early risers!
We made do with leftover bagels (I knew we saved them for a reason) and two apples I had been hauling around in my backpack since Salt Lake. Note to self: buy breakfast food when you're out and about with the rest of the townsfolk at 10pm the night before. We caught our fourth plane in four days (enough already!) and headed to Madrid. On the plane, I made a list of foods I had to eat before we left Spain. These are mostly memory foods, things I loved as a kid.
Danup (very runny drinkable yogurt)
Bread (real Spanish Pan)
Good cheese (Manchego!)
Arroz con leche
Paella (of course, though I never liked the seafood kind)
Tortillas (the Spanish kind with potatoes and eggs)
Pechugo de pollo (breaded chicken)
Churros y chocolate (the thick kind that's like pudding)
Nocilla (pronounced no-THEE-uh, a chocolate and hazelnut spread)
Horchata (almond drink)
Ensaladia (potato salad)
Real White Chocolate
I'm happy to announce that by the end of the two weeks, we had consumed every one of these foods (plus lots of other yummy things besides). My conclusion on several of them (including paella, pechugo de pollo, arroz con leche, and ensaladia) is that my Mom--whom we ironically left behind in the U.S.--still makes the best Spanish food I've ever tasted).
We settled into our Madrid apartments (I'll have to write about these in detail later; they were fantastic and perfectly located within walking distance of the "Gold Triangle of Spanish Art"). We met up with more of our group (My brother Jim, his wife Julia and daughter. My sister Anne and her baby. My brother Thom, his wife Robin and their 3 boys).
These are the kids (so far; we'll gain a few more in a couple of days when my brother Steve's family arrives).
Then we hit the Reina Sophia, the first of the three world-class art museums in Madrid (thus the Golden "Triangle"). The most famous resident of the Reina Sophia (and essentially the reason this museum was built) is, of course, Picasso's Guernica.
Seeing Guernica in person for the first time was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. No, I didn't cry. But I was in a sincere state of art-lover's ecstasy for a while. The thing is HUGE. Even bigger than I had assumed from all the pictures I've seen. Sure, I knew it was 11 feet tall and nearly 26 feet wide, but these dimensions don't sink in until you see it looming on the wall in front of you. Some of the figures, even the partially-severed ones, are far bigger than lifesized. I know this because I could compare them with the guards standing soberly on either side of the canvas. Four more guards strolled around the room reminding people to put away their cameras and step back from the painting if they were even within 3 feet of it; I've never seen security like this in ANY museum. It speaks to the volatile history of this painting and its power as a political symbol. I teach all of this in my classes but what a privilege it was to see it in person.
We wandered through the Reina Sophia for at least another hour as a group until the kids had really had enough. Some of the adults (thank you!) took the kids to Retiro park so the rest of us could see more art. I have to confess, as much as I enjoy Dali and Miró and Picasso, once you've seen Guernica, everything else in that museum is a step down.
My second favorite painting was probably Antonio Saura's Shout (1959). I have certainly had days like this, haven't you?
I especially loved the detail of the shouting person's fist dripping paint down the canvas like blood.
We met up with the kids in the park just in time to see a spectacular sunset. I cursed myself for not following through with my goal to become a fantastic photographer (or at least understand how to use half the features on my fancy camera) before the trip. This is my best shot. Sorry.
I did snap one more picture on our walk back to the apartments, one that captures the flavor of Madrid (and all big Spanish cities) quite well, don't you think? Tiny cars, even tinier parking spaces. I mean, how's this guy ever going to get out?
Ken and I and the boys ate dinner on our own at a little restaurant called Los Rotos. Gabie was so infatuated with everything about this place that he saved the placemat and taped it into his journal. We ate pan (of course) croquetas (blah), patatas (meh), Gaspacho (the best we had in all of Spain), Fried chicken strips with a honey sauce (delicious!) and, since Ken was brave, a scrambled egg dish called Pistos with all kinds of mystery foods in it that was quite good. The second time we ate here on our last day in Spain I think we decided that one of the mystery foods was eggplant. I think one of the others was some kind of fish. Yeah, I make a great food blogger, don't I?
We ate dinner, by the way, at 10pm. This is pretty standard for Spaniards and became a regular routine for us as well. It doesn't really get dark until after 9pm and who wants to eat early when there's so much to see?