fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,
fauxklore
fauxklore

Madrid - the patron saint of hot chocolate

So I went to Madrid. Going to Europe for a long weekend is insane, but there was this really good fare and I'd never been to mainland Spain before and I've still been operating on the idea that it is worth going somewhere if you can spend three times as much time there as the travel time. I'm now leaning towards a four times rule for places I haven't been before, but I break travel rules as much as I make them.

Flying on Thanksgiving Day still works well in terms of being relatively uncrowded. I had a window seat with an empty seat next to me, so was able to doze a bit on the plane over. The formalities took no time at all. Madrid may be the only airport in Europe in which it is easier to find an ATM than it is to find an exchange booth, by the way. (American Express is on the departures level, but there is no exchange on the arrivals level). The Madrid metro proved to be easy, clean, and efficient, even though I had to change trains twice to get to my hotel. And at 2 euros, it is a real bargain. (It's 1 euro within the city, but there's a supplement for the airport.) The hotel room was actually ready even though it was just about 9 a.m., so I was able to shower and feel a bit more human before setting out to the Prado.

I have a new theory about European museums. See, it costs 8 euros to get into the Prado and I spent just about 4 hours there. The next day, I spent 6 euros to go to the Reina Sofia and spent 3 hours there. So, obviously, art costs 2 euros per hour. The Reina Sofia is more to my taste, overall, though the Prado does have some impressive classical (Greek and Roman) sculpture and a lot of "important" works, e.g. Bosch's "Garden of Earthy Delights." While I was looking at that, three men came in dressed in what I can only describe as comic opera palace guard uniforms, with red sashes and little stuffed tigers pinned to them. I didn't have the nerve to ask them what that meant. As for the Reina Sofia, the most famous work there is, of course, Picasso's "Geurnica," but my personal taste runs more to Manuel Valdes. There were no stuffed tigers involved there.

The other sightseeing I did was divided between one of those hop-on hop-off bus tours (Madrid Vision) and just general meandering around. There is some impressive architecture, particularly in the area referred to as "Madrid of the Austrias" (i.e. the stuff the Hapsburgs were responsible for). The modern sections are fairly awful, though. The Torre Picasso, for example, which was designed by the same Japanese architect who was responsible for the Twin Towers, is just a white block. More or less what I think of as the Lego school of architecture.

The other notable thing I did was find my way to Chocolateria de San Gines. If you are walking down Calle Arenal, there's a little passageway you can go down, near Iglesia de San Gines, next to the Joy nightclub. I am not sure who San Gines is (St. Augustine, maybe?) but based on the cafe there, he must be the patron saint of hot chocolate. They may sell other things (and, actually, I did see somebody having a beer) but everybody gets hot chocolate with churros. Neither the chocolate nor the churros are particularly sweet and dunking a bit of fried dough into thick chocolate is just amazing. I heard a lot of moans of pleasure, not the least my own. It makes for a great late afternoon break on a chilly day and if you should happen to be in the general vicinity a second day in a row, well, how often is one in Madrid?

I could have used a couple of more days since I didn't see the inside of the Palacio Real and didn't meander as much as I'd have liked through a few neighborhoods. But it was still worth the trip, despite all the unpacking that didn't get done at home as a result.
Tags: art, food pornography, travel
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