The museums in Madrid knocked my socks off-I was literally retracing my steps in the Prado Museum searching among the masterpieces for my lost socks. The Prado, filled with great works by Spanish masters such as El Greco, Velasquez, and Goya, also amazed me with its collection of foreign art, including Titian, Bosch, and Fra Angelico (complete with a Fiesole shout-out!). I had never learned much about Spanish art, aside from Picasso's Guernica and Velasquez's Las Meninas in high school Spanish class, but I finally got to see those two paintings plus much more over the course of the week. Other than those, my favorites were from Goya's Black Paintings, including Saturn Devouring His Son and Two Old Men Eating Soup.
The other most enjoyable part of Spanish culture for us was the food, which can of course be considered an art in and of itself. Shawn and I discovered a tapas place in La Latina called Casa Lucas that we adored and ended up dining at twice! The croquetas melted on our tongues and the extravagant ahi tuna was delicious.
Ever wondered about the origin of tapas? Apparently innkeepers in bygone years, concerned about drunken pilgrims and journeymen traveling through their villages, began putting a "lid" (tapa) of bread with a slice meat or cheese atop their glass of beer or wine. Not only did it keep the bugs out, but it kept people from drinking on an empty stomach. And today, the concept is much the same, only the execution has become much more sophisticated!
Another interesting factoid I learned is that Corona beer is called Coronita in Spain in reverence to the royal crown. Incredible!
My favorite place for breakfast became an old cafe in Puerta del Sol called La Mallorquina, where I always ordered a café solo (espresso) and a sweet bread with jamón inside.
I learned that there's a law there requiring restaurants to offer a set priced menu of the day for workers unable to go home for lunch. We sure profited from those deals, finding three-course meals, drinks included, for 10-16 euro. What a steal!
In Shawn's neighborhood of Chueca we explored the great new market building with chic stands ranging from sushi to Greek to gourmet hamburguesas.
On my final night in Madrid, God blessed us by having us happen upon the Jamón Fair in Plaza Mayor. We payed a set price for a plate of jamón serreno and two small beers (cañas) and got to take our pick from at least 15 different stalls of farms slicing their own jamón. We were both giddy with excitement (I think our friendship is 75% based on our mutual foodie tendencies), and we gobbled down our jamón before continuing on.
What a delicious week! When I got back Jadwiga the housekeeper said she thought I'd lost weight. I laughed at her and told her it simply couldn't be true-I must just look really satisfied!