Chapter Eighteen: Madrid Art Museum Day

P1030140Chapter Eighteen: Madrid Art Museum Day

Day Eighteen – Bear With Me, The Meat Loaf Art Museum Tour (Or Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad), Best Art Museum…Ever, My Favorite Crazy Artist, Going To The Dogs, Rogier That, I Proclaim You King Of Spain, Lost In Translation, I Hope I Don’t Go Blind Looking At This, War What Is It Good For, Glorious Gallery, Picture Imperfect, What Reservations, College Reunion and What’s All The Fuss About?

It was a picture perfect day, but our day would be spent mainly indoors as we would tour Madrid’s “Big Three” art museums…Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Reina Sofía and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.  With that much art on our plate in one day, we needed to consume some food first.

P1030234Strolling to the nearby Brown Bear Cafe, we ordered delicious pastries and coffee, although strangely they had no bear claws.

IMG_2675On our way toward the Prado, we passed the 1794 Fuente de Neptuno (Fountain of Neptune) in the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo…

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…walked across the street through a tree-lined median…

P1010088…and within minutes were at the Prado.

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I will preface this by saying the Prado has become the #1 art museum we have ever visited (The Louvre has always been overwhelming to us especially when we nearly became mummies while becoming lost in the vast maze of sarcophagi…its “Walk Like An Egyptian” section). Upon entering the Prado, we picked up our audioguide, a brochure highlighting the museum’s “Greatest Hits,” and we were on our way.

P1010075After shooting one photo, Tracy saw the sign that said “no photography.”  For the most part, we adhered to that rule.

As Mappman led the way with our “Greatest Hits” map in hand, we wandered through beautiful room after beautiful room of artwork, but soon the “no photography” ban was momentarily lifted. “Have you ever heard of Bosco?” Tracy asked.

“Sure,” I replied, “I loved to drink that chocolate milk brand as a kid.”

“Bosco” turned out to be El Bosco (real name Hieronymus Bosch) an “Early Netherlandish” painter who had a slightly different take on life…and death.

P1030108 (1)His late 15th, early 16th century triptych “The Garden Of Earthly Delights” mesmerized me. From the first panel when God introduces Eve to Adam…to the center panel where naked people abound…to the third panel where life becomes a living hell, it is a fascinating piece of art. I shot a quick photo of the middle panel so I wouldn’t forget the painting by the end of our marathon art excursion day.

I hoped I wouldn’t go to hell for disobeying the rules (full triptych below is public domain photo from internet).

1920px-The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_by_Bosch_High_ResolutionBosch’s “living hell” was quite different from the next piece of art we saw; one where a woman’s body parts are devoured each week by a pack of dogs. Sandro Botticelli’s four-panel painting, “The Story of Nastagio Degli Onesti,” is a weird story with a happy ending (well, except for that aforementioned poor lady).

So the story goes: “Nastagio degli Onesti, a knight from Ravenna, whose beloved initially refused to marry him, finally weds her after all. First of all, however, he must remind her of the eternal agony in hell of another merciless woman, one who had also refused marriage, her rejected lover had to pursue her until he had caught up with her, killed her, tore out her heart and intestines and then fed them to his dogs.”  (public domain photo from internet)

Botticelli,_nastagio_degli_onesti_01It’s a four-part cycle, and the Prado has all but one of them (the last panel is in a private collection).

From Caravaggio to Reubens to El Greco to Titian to Fra Angelico, the Prado is a place you literally could spend days wandering through. The one artist who I found out I did not care for very much was Francisco Goya.  Hey, you can’t love everyone!

Before exiting, we stopped in an exhibition displaying the paintings of Rogier van der Weyden. Sad to say, our illustrious group was completely ignorant when it came to this Early Netherlandish painter. His stuff completely blew us away.  The colors and details in his work were mind boggling.

What I really enjoyed about the Prado was becoming acquainted with artists who I had been unfamiliar with before we visited (the €3.50 audio guide enhances the experience…we walked nearly five miles through the museum in our nearly three hours).  Before heading to lunch, we climbed the stairs to the adjacent church on the hill that Kim and I had seen the previous day.

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Iglesia Parroquial de San Jerónimo el Real (Parish Church of Royal St. Jerome) was founded in Madrid in 1503. It has changed much over the years and was, at one time, the official Royal Church.

P1030110King Juan Carlos I was proclaimed King in the church in 1975.

P1030113We saw the famous “Last Communion of San Jerónimo”

P1010085 (1)…and that same saint sitting on a sea lion (below center panel).

P1010083There were also beautiful stained glass windows featuring St. Eugene and Jesus carrying the cross.

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After wandering for a bit, it was lunch time.

P1030117In a little back alley across the street we came upon Tinto Y Tapas, Calle de Almadén, 14. It was blazing hot, but we were famished so we sat down inside.

P1010092Our lovely server knew no English (and I mean “no English.”) Kim, Tracy and I feebly tried our best Spanish and somehow were able to convey our orders. In what would become an ongoing comedy, Mary would try to ask her questions in English. Each time, the server would have the owner come over to interpret. Kim kept telling Mary that the server knew no English, but Mary kept forgetting and asking in English (we’re blaming the heat).

P1010090When the dust settled, and we were all on the same Spanish page, Tinto Y Tapas turned out to be a winner.

IMG_2677Total bill came to €45 (I highly recommend the pizza of jambon and arugula).

P1030116Now, once again (with trepidation), we would venture into the world of modern art at Museo Reina Sofía. Would we finally be transported to the other side where modern art takes a hold of our mind and spirit? That would be “no.”  On the plus side, the building is beautiful.

P1030118A couple of paintings were memorable, sort of. There in front of us was (above) Salvador Dalí’s Visage du grand masturbateur (Face of the Great Masturbator). “What does that painting say to you?” Kim asked.

“Beats me,” I replied. “I’m just glad I didn’t go blind looking at it.”

I did like one painting in the room.  I guess it reminded me of California and the drought.

P1030121In another room stands the giant mural-sized oil painting, Guernica, by our buddy Pablo Picasso. This was Picasso’s interpretation (below photo from internet…no photography allowed in that room) of the response to the 1937 bombing of Guernica, a Basque town in Northern Spain. This just proved to us there was nothing good about war…including this painting. We toured a few more rooms, and our modern art history lesson for the trip had come to an abrupt close (remember…these are only our opinions…many people love this museum, so go see for yourself).

PicassoGuernicaOur art museum tour was far from complete…we had one more place to visit…the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which we also entered by using the pass we had bought online before we left home.

We were told that this museum housed “major paintings by minor artists and minor paintings by major artists.”

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The Thyssen-Bornemisza was terrific, so, when it came to the three museums, as the great philosopher Meat Loaf once belted out, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

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At one point along our walk through the museum, we put on some clothing provided by the museum so we could be in a painting ourselves. The gang dressed me up, and thanks to Kim’s post photography skills, I am now a classic…or a relic as the case may be.  I really liked what he did with Mary’s photo.

IMG_2696There were lots of paintings we enjoyed, by the likes of Van Gogh…



P1030133…and André Derain.

P1030143I really liked “The Supper At Emmaus” by Matthias Stom.

P1030140We toured this museum for about an hour and might have even stayed longer…

P1030128…but at the end, we were so tired we couldn’t distinguish a Van Gogh from a Bellini (although a Bellini sounded pretty good at this juncture).

This was the night that our friends (Frank and Beth Ann) who we have known since our days at San Diego State were going to stop by the apartment for some appetizers and drinks. Then we would head for our 8:30 dinner reservations that Mary had made the previous evening.

However, when Mary stopped by our restaurant to confirm, they did not have our reservation, and La Mucca was full for the evening. After conferring, they had marked down the wrong time and had us for 6:30 instead of 8:30 reservations.  No harm…no foul…we would eat early as Frank and Beth Ann had just arrived the previous day and were still slightly jet lagged, while the four of us were tired from our art museum’s hike.

Dinner frankLocated at Plaza Carlos Cambronero, 4, La Mucca was part restaurant, part bar and pretty good, too.  From lasagne to risotto to steak to couscous, we enjoyed a nice evening with decent food.

As we do often, after the dinner the group started walking, and just like Chuck Berry, we had no particular place to go.  Madrid was happening. Outdoor cafés were slammed, and the vibe was electric and fun.

P1030154I had read a lot of negative accounts about Madrid, but we thought the city to be an overall wonderful experience.

P1030156It just so happened we finally ended up at a spot I had definitely wanted to see while in Madrid, the famed Chocolatería San Gines (Pasadizo de San Gines 5), home of the “world famous” chocolate churros.

P1030158I had heard this place was packed day and night, but on this night at about 9:30, the six of us were about the only people in the joint. Chocolatería San Gines has been churning out chocolate con churros since 1894.   We could not resist a few thousand extra calories.  Sharing them with the others, I am sad to say that these churros went on our dreaded “Elevator List.” The churros were, well, churros, and the chocolate tasted like it came from a can of Hershey’s syrup.  I did eat them, however.

ChurrosAfter walking around for another 15 minutes or so…

santa ana…we decided it was time to call it a night.

dogWell, almost.

Tracy and I popped over for a GinTonic nightcap at La Mucca (rocking out with music by now), and when we arrived back at the apartment my Fitbit told me we had walked nearly 16 miles. A bed never looked better!

We would add 15 more miles of walking tomorrow as we traversed back and forth across Madrid; a day that would even include an attempted pick-pocketing of both Kim and myself at about the same time. Fortunately, we used our super powers to ward off these would-be scofflaws. It would be just another eventful day in Madrid.

Next: Day Nineteen – Corpus Christi Strikes Again, Temple Of Doom, An Artist’s Tomb, Eating In Florida, No Good Meal Started With A Salad, Plaza Del Elevator List, Rumble At The Sport’s Store, Plaza Magnifico, Too Hot For A Cocktail, You Want Me To Sign What, Channeling Our Inner Bruce Lee, Blatter Infection and Dinner At The Mercado


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