Diane and Paul in Madrid
the Hostal Armesto which we chose for its terrific location, near the three art museums and the Literary Neighborhood, and its modest price (about $70 a night for a double). But then we found it so clean and politely managed by Juan Miguel that we chose it again when we returned to Madrid.
Al Natural - This was the best vegetarian restaurant we encountered in Spain, with a calming, classy atmosphere and a wide variety of items, well-prepared. We received a complimentary appetizer of wonderful gazpacho, then had a Caprese salad revved up with pesto. Paul had a vegetarian paella and I had a three-cheese pizza. Then out came our waitress with her beautiful biceps and a complimentary liquer. The owner stopped by to ask how everthing was. It was wonderful! The restaurant's slogan translates, "May your food be your medicine, and may your only medicine be your food," and while it wasn't a cheap meal, the prices were appropriate and certainly cheaper that a visit to the doctor, though we felt quite healthy afterwards.
Finca de Susana - This was the classiest place we went to in terms of the food, which was amazing, and for the price, miraculous. The wine prices were so low, we thought we were ordering two glasses and had actually ordered two bottles, so scaled back to one bottle of Luberri Rioja 2006, a nice choice. Paul had gazpacho and fiduo (a noodle dish), and I had an appetizer of asparagus with brie, salmon, and tomato, followed by an entree of duck with plum sauce and couscous. We wanted flan for dessert, and we placed an order for it but never got it, in part because the weakest aspect of the Finca was the wait staff, who seemed untrained, disorganized, and delirious. Many many of the staff waited on us, as there was no assigning of tables or roles. But the food is soooo good. This place is very popular and there are no reservations, so it's worth it to wait in line before the opening hour.
Paul & I at Finca de Susana
***Where We Went
Three art museums
Our plane landed at 7:00 a.m., and we were at the Prado by the 9:00 a.m. opening. The usuals were as wonderful as ever: Las Meninas was surrounded by people standing near and far, trying to see what Velazquez saw, and Saturno devorando a su hijo (Saturn Eating His Son) and all the other Goyas and El Grecos and Velazquezes were glorious. But, too, since I was with Paul, I saw an artist I might have missed, Bosch and his "Garden of Earthly Delights," and then more Bosch, the supreme surrealist, centuries before Dali.
It's new and huge and exciting and just catty-cornered from the Prado, and though we spent two days here, we didn't see one-fourth of the collection, most of which belonged to a German magnate whose family collected European art, both old and modern and sold it off to Spain because his last wife was a Spaniard (and because Spain said please and paid a LOT of money.) The second day, there we saw a special exhibit of Van Gogh's last paintings, a very moving experience.
Named after the Queen, this museum's most famous piece is "Guernica," back home after years in NYC, where I first saw it decades ago, before the years of wrangling. But in addition, the museum has THREE paintings by Maria Blanchard, a Spanish painter I grew interested in fifteen years ago and wrote two poems about, though I had never seen any of her paintings except for black and white copies in old books, sent in overexposed photocopies in interlibrary loan. One of the poems, Marie Blanchard 1914 was published in Slant magazine, then reprinted in Letters to the World, the Women-Poets List Serve anthology coming out in 2008. It was so exciting to see Blanchard's huge, cubist works, then to buy a huge $150 book in the bookstore with prints of all her works, from her childhood paintings of dogs, to the paintings at the end which Lorca called her "dry search for God."
Parks, Plazas, and Stores
Before we went, Paul read about the Retiro's "Fallen Angel" (Angel Caido), the only statue in the world to Lucifer, and we looked it up first at one of the park entrances: huge, onyx-black and definitely a gorgeous winged guy on the way down. Then within moments, Paul found "The Rose Garden," which has existed all along. I just had to find the prince to take me there. (It only took 36 years! See my story, "The Fallen Angel," to the right here, about my first visit.) This weekeday, the park was nearly as quiet and empty as it was 35 years ago, though there were packs of lunchtime joggers. On our returned, we visited on a weekend, when it was crowded and lively. (See Madrid Again.) On the way out, we saw a relaticvely new statue to novelist Pio Baroja on the street of used book vendors. (Newstory of the Baroja statue and the street, in Spanish.)
I finally find the Park of Roses Two fallen angels
Barrio de las Letras ("Literary Neighborhood," or "Writers' Quarters")
This area, from our hotel to the Retiro and around Santa Ana, was supposedly home to Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderon de las Barca, and not to Lorca, but there is a great statue of him there, as well as of these and other authors. Many of the streets have been embedded with large bronze plaques engraved with quotes from great works: the first sentence of the Quijote, a stanza from Espronceda's "Cancion de la pirata," (Here is the whole poem, one of my favorites.) and many others. (Here is a brief video tour of the neighborhood. Click "Writers Quarter")
Plaza Santa Ana
My Life as a Student
My college I.D. in Spain
Three accounts written
about that year