Hoping to beat the Sunday crowds, we woke early and caught a bus to the Prado. As we boarded the bus, we saw a group of oddly dressed people…wearing high wooden clogs… walking down the street, followed by sheepdogs. We later found out that a group of shepherds had led 5,000 sheep through Madrid on an annual migration to warmer grazing grounds….and they had traveled right through Puerta del Sol!
Drat….I wish our hotel had told us about it! That would have been quite a sight. Oh well, we might have misssed the sheep, but at least it helped us miss the crowds at the Prado.
The Prado, housing one of world’s best collections of European art, is laid out on two floors…..with such a compact space, we were hopeful we could see the highlights in a few hours. Wrong! Five hours and four sore feet later, we met up in the cafeteria….tired but satisfied.
The art was amazing…..Titian, El Greco, Velasquez, Goya, Reubens, Rafael, Rembrandt, Dürer, Bruegel….they were all here.
Not normally a fan of religious art, I was in awe of Roger van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross.” With it’s life-sized, almost sculptural figures and brilliant colors, I felt immersed in the scene…..I could almost hear the sobs of the grieving soon-to-be Christians.
This was my first real experience with El Greco. His 16th century works seemed too modern, too colorful…..reminding me of the kitch art of the 50’s & 60’s. Guess I’m just not a fan.
Another artist who seemed to be way ahead of his time was Hieronymus Bosch, who’s fanciful “Garden of Earthly Delights” could have been painted by a 60’s hippie on an LSD trip.
We looked forward to viewing “Las Meninas” by Velázquez…..considered by some to be the world’s best painting. When we finally entered it’s small room and inched up through the crowd to see it, we were quite disappointed. Vermeer’s attention to detail was far superior and this painting’s disproportionate layout seemed odd. Our disappointment was short-lived. We took one last glance before we left the room and were astonished at how very different the painting looked. We had been too close! To fully appreciate this masterpiece, it must be seen from a distance…..where it’s figures seemingly come to life.
To reward our tired feet, we hopped on the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus for a pleasant overview of the city. We hopped off at the hotel that Kris and Paul were staying at. They had just arrived and we were anxious to see them and share stories of our travels. We adjourned to the patio for cocktails and tapas and made plans to meet for dinner.
We hopped back on the bus and finished our tour of Madrid. Kris and Paul met us at our hotel and we walked to tonight’s dinner destination, La Posada de la Villa, known for it’s authentic Spanish menu. After a few map-reading, location-verifying stops along the way, we finally found the restaurant in a charming 17th century inn.
A suave maitre d’ recommended their house specialty…..one-quarter lamb for two. We all wanted to try it but questioned the portions…..half a lamb is a lot of lamb….even for four people. “Oh no,” we were assured….. “this is only the shoulder of a very small lamb.”
Feeling almost (but not quite) cannibalistic, we ordered lamb for four and two appetizers to share…..grilled peppers and shrimp. The smoky peppers were so delicious, we decided to save them for dinner, but a glass of sherry with the sauteed shrimp (which were accompanied by a few crayfish….shell & head intact) were an excellent start to an excellent meal. The lamb was tender and moist with just a hint of smokiness. The portions were large….but appreciated…..not a morsel was left.
After dessert, we bid each other a good night…..looking forward to more adventures before we would meet up again in Marbella.