Thirty-Six Hours In Madrid

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Thirty-Six Hours In Madrid

“I love thee as I love all that we have fought for. I love thee as I love liberty and dignity and the rights of all men to work and not be hungry. I love thee as I love Madrid that we have defended and as I love all my comrades that have died.” Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Check into Hotel Urso – a boutique hotel in the center of Madrid in the trendy Chueca district.

Have dinner at Media Racion – the delicious restaurant at the hotel.

Breakfast  -Urso’s continental breakfast in the  lobby bar did not disappoint. I had toast with tomato and oil, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee – not a bad way to start my first day in Spain.

Street Art Tour of Madrid . It is always my favorite thing to do in a city (more later.)

Lunch at the Reina Sofia

Visit Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia. The visually stunning Guernica is the favorite painting of my childhood from the  Museum Of Modern Art in New York.  It was returned to Spain in 1980 when I moved to California. At first glance, the painting looks like chaos – all hard lines, blunt angles, and cartoonish scenes of animals and people. But when you look at the details, you begin to see more. Here’s a woman, grieving for the child in her arms. There’s a fallen man, his broken sword lying beside him. The painting depicts the bombing of Guernica (in Basque Spain) during the Spanish Civil War. The Guernica takes up nearly an entire wall of the museum, and at eleven feet tall and nearly twenty-seven feet wide, it is simply massive – especially to a child. The painting always has the same emotional effect on me. I visited the city of Gernika (Basque spelling) in the Basque region on this trip. It was a peaceful quiet city and of course was nothing like the painting. But it was strangely poetic to be standing there. 

Visit the Spanish Paintings at the Prado. No museum in the world comes close to matching the Prado’s collection of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. Velazquez spent most of his life in Madrid as a court painter and is considered the greatest Spanish painter of all time. Las Meninas is one of the great Spanish paintings. There are eighty works by Velazquez in the Prado. There are over nine hundred paintings by Goya there as well.

Follow his trajectory from his early portraits, light and full of life, through to the dark intensity of his final works.There’s nothing quite like the Black Paintings. Painted directly on the walls of his house in the outskirts of Madrid towards the end of Goya’s life, they reveal the inner life of an artist disillusioned by politics and society, losing his health (and possibly his mind), and confronting his own death. These are dark, twisted scenes which stay with you long after you leave the museum.

Churros and Chocolate at San Gines  One of the great customs in Madrid for either breakfast or afternoon is a sweet pick me up. It’s the smell of the  intoxicating blend of hot oil, fried dough, and melted chocolate that lures everyone in. Hot chocolate in Spain bears little resemblance to its counterpart in America. Spanish chocolate is designed for dipping, so it has the consistency of something  like a warm, soft pudding. Those long, sugary sticks of dough sold at Disneyland or  Costco bear little resemblance to the authentic Spanish article. Churros must be eaten fresh from the fryer, are almost more savory than sweet, and are considerably shorter than their American imitations.

The spa at Hotel Urso uses the Natura Bisse Spanish products that I use at home. I am eager to try some treatments and spend the evening having a decadent facial, massage and body treatment. I take advantage of the steam and whirlpool facilities. It is an excellent experience to unwind and get rid of the jet lag.

In the morning, I leave for Bilbao – after I eat my new favorite tomato and olive oil on toast .

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Ten Things That I Want To Do In Spain This Time

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Ten Things That I Want To Do In Spain this Time

“There is no nightlife in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not nightlife. That is delaying the day.” Ernest Hemingway

1.Most of us have at least a short list of places we want to see before we die.. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is one of my places. I used to walk my dog near Frank Gehry’s house – on purpose. I’ve still never seen him. Modern art, pinxtos  Frank Gehry and the Basque region in one place sounds perfect.

2. Visit Guernica at the Reina Sofia and  the Velazquez and Goya paintings at the Prado I grew up with the Guernica by Picasso at the Museum of Modern Art. It was the painting that helped me to make some kind of sense of war – or at least understand that grown-ups didn’t understand it either. I often went to visit it. When I left NY in 1980, the Guernica went back to Spain and now resides in the Reina Sofia.  Seeing favorite paintings are like visiting old friends.  There is no art that touches me more than Goya’s Black Paintings. The dark, twisted, painful scenes have stayed with me, long after I left the museum,. 

3, Have some gazpacho and hot chocolate and churros (at San Gines) in Madrid.

4. The Camino de Santiago  is a medieval pilgrimage route ending in Santiago de Compostela in the northwest region of Spain. It is a bucket list thing for me to do the walk. Taking one, two, or five weeks (depending on where you start walking) to walk across the beautiful and diverse landscapes of northern Spain is a transformative experience and a great immersion into Spain as well. Since we will be nearby, we will try to walk a few of days of it. 

5. Eat at some Michelin restaurants in San Sebastián. San Sebastián purportedly is the city with the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita globally. The highly recommended Michelin starred restaurants in and around San Sebastián include Arzak,  Mugaritz, Martin Berasategui, Asador Etxebarri, and Akelarre.

6. Sample pinxtos in San Sebastián and Bilbao. Pintxos are Basque-style tapas known for being extra creative and delicious.

7. Walk through the Albaicin and Sacromonte areas of Granada. There are many neighborhoods in Andalusia where time seems to have stood still. Sacromonte is the original Gypsy quarter of Granada. High up on the hillside above Albaicín, many locals still live in dappled white caves carved out of the rock. The Albaicin is a  squashed-together network of winding cobbled streets, whitewashed old houses and jasmine-scented squares perches on the hillside on the other side of the Darro River from the Alhambra.

8.  Watch flamenco and listen to Spanish guitar in Granada. Flamenco in Spain is a fascinating tradition. It’s everywhere you look in Madrid. Flamenco is a constant presence and the souvenir shops are all selling polka-dot dresses and castanets. The dance started in Granada and the best shows are here. 

9. I have been to the old hammam in Istanbul  (baths) so I know how great they can be. Hammam Al Andalus is built over the old Arab Baths in Granada and I am booking my appointment before I go.

10. Eat tapas in Granada and Madrid. Small in size but full in flavor, there is a huge variety of tapas to try in Spain. The small bites give you chance to try many different kinds without feeling stuffed.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things I’ve Learned In Spain

“ When Columbus started out he didn’t know where he was going, when he got there he didn’t know where he was, and when he got back he didn’t know where he had been. “                               anonymous

Things I’ve Learned In Spain

Two out of the three bullrings in Barcelona have been converted to shopping malls.

Don’t eat fish in Barcelona on Mondays because the fishermen don’t go out on Sunday.

Rebaixes and rebajas mean sale in  Spanish.

The security at the Alhambra was not the best. Twenty-one out of the twenty-two ruling Sultans were murdered.

When a bull kills a bullfighter, both the bull and his mother are killed. (bad genes).

Olive oil cures everything. If you are sick, it will make you well. If you are fat it will make you thin.  If you are short, it will make you tall.

Ole comes from the Moslem Allah is great and Hola comes from the Moslem come with Allah.

If you have no sense of direction, trying to find the Beaux Arts Museum in Seville during siesta time in 107-degree heat, is probably not a good idea.

Christopher Columbus was quite the wild and crazy guy.  Today, he would have been in the movie business.

Many great cities in Europe have a Jewish Quarter, where they have killed the Jews but saved their buildings.  Spain has them.

Las Descalzas Reales is a working monastery in the center of Madrid near the Gran Via and Puerta Sol. A large number of wealthy women seeking refuge from bad marriages in the sixteenth century joined the convent. It became one of the wealthiest convents in Europe with an amazing art collection. Despite the wealth, the sisters had taken a vow of poverty and by the mid twentieth century they were living in starvation among a sea of art. The state intervened and opened it as a museum. The tours are in Spanish and given by the nuns who still live and work there.  You can figure it out and understand words like Titian and Brueghels, while watching the nuns  tend to their vegetable garden. It is a very tranquil place in the midst of a very busy city

The effects of inbreeding can easily be seen in the Velazquez paintings of the royal family in the Prado.

No one really knows why Goya painted those “black paintings.”  No biographer really knew Goya. He was the painter of the court and the painter of the people. He had no rival in life. Were the paintings a result of the Spanish Civil War – a decade before? His deafness or serious illness?

It is always my first stop at the Prado.

Bullfighting can be watched on TV in Spain . The close-ups and slow reenactments of the bull being tortured and killed are quite gruesome.  I have questions about the Spanish culture. (Of course, the thick hot chocolate with churros for breakfast does make up for it)

El Rastro is the oldest and most crowded  flea market in Spain (Madrid).  Once home to criminals and rogues  , now it is just pickpockets. The Nineteenth century writers Hilario Penasco and Carlos Camabronero wrote “There in muddled heaps, appear side by side a militia uniform and a chipped crockery set, a portrait of the Duke of La Victoria, a carnival cape, a mantilla and an eighteenth century swordsman. Therefore, the father of the household, the amateur actor, the industrious wife and the antiquarian will always find  at the Rastro something that answers their needs to satisfy their pastimes.”

My thpanish is tho much better thinthe I have been here. (they lisp because the King of Spain had a lisp so they all had to speak like that-it stuck!)

You can make a meal of tapas ( best with Spanish sherry or red wine (tinto).   You can go around eating tapas  and then have  a big Spanish meal at 10:30 at night. If you walk into a restaurant before 9:30 you are the only diners and  clearly  tourists.

I love  going to La Boqueria in Barcelona ( the big fruit and vegetable market  ) on Las Ramblas for a light lunch  ( they do breakfast but i cant eat like that for breakfast) at Bar Pinoxto.

Antonio Gaudi was very short for someone with such a huge imagination.

The Church of the Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882 so don’t complain about your renovations.

Gaudi’s influence is all over Barcelona and if you are walking down a side street and see a house that looks like his, it probably is.

They have Museums of Ham in Madrid.  You eat ham even when you don’t know you are eating it or expect it.

One of my favorite modern art museums in the world is the Reina Sofia in Madrid.  If you only have time for one museum in Barcelona go to the Joan Miro Foundation on Montjuic and skip the Picasso (his early works) and MACBA.  I tell you this because I already made this mistake.

There are no words to describe the Mexquita in Cordoba and pictures don’t do it justice. It was originally the second largest Mosque in the world. In the twelfth century it was reclaimed by the Spanish and turned into a Roman Catholic Church. The blend of architecture is confusing and amazing. My personal opinion is that it is sad that both religions can’t use it because it is a history of two religions.

There are way too many Corte Ingles in Spain ( a department store like Nordstroms) as in, turn left at the Corte Ingles and then turn right at the next Corte Ingles.

Grathiath,

Viajen con cuidado

JAZ

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