Last day

Spent the morning in the Museo Thyssen–my new favorite museum. A small-ish collection–more Frick than Met, but amazing quality. I concentrated on Impressionism and early Modernism. Here is my favorite of the main collection. Franz Marc
After coffee in the courtyard, the special exhibition: quick quiz. Who painted this?
If you said Matisse, you’d be wrong. The correct answer: Raoul Dufy. But far more influenced by Matisse than I’d ever realized. A truly Protean artist, with multiple styles over his career, which encompassed not just painting but silkscreen for textiles, woodcuts, and other artisanal media.

I had made a lunch reservation in Salamanca–the Upper East Side of Madrid. The guy at the tourist info booth in Plaza de Cibeles had said it was a 5-minute walk, but I didn’t believe him. Google maps had estimated 1 1/2 miles and I was not wearing my sneakers. So I figured out how to get there by bus. Michael, you are absolutely right. Public transport I can deal with. And google maps was right.

Anyway, tripadvisor recommendation. Here is what I ate:
Amuse bouche: Grated zucchini in teriyaki sauce
From the traditional portion of the menu: shrimp in garlic sauce. A bit overcooked but the sauce was excellent. With an Albariño
Magret of duck in a quince paste with zucchini in an idiazabal sauce. With a Rioja.
Lemon sorbet with rosė cava.

Excellent sendoff. Tomorrow–coach. Iberia. Vaya con dios.

Market day

Too tired after yesterday’s marathon to look at more art, so decided to check out the local food markets. After breakfast of cold, leftover pizza from last night, I dropped Ellie off with the sitter. First stop: mercado de Los Mostensos, a city block worth of butchers, fishmongers, etc. (no prepared foods, though I did have a refreshing blackberry smoothie. Pretty authentic place where real madrilenos shop.



Then to the more touristy mercado de San Miguel, where I had a tapa of duck salad (excellent) and a glass of white wine. At 11:30!  Beautiful presentation but clearly meant for the hordes of tourists crowding in.



From there, stopped at a bar that had a sign advertising bocadillos of calamari (sandwich). Cooked to order but rubbery and tasteless. Probably because bar was right off Plaza Mayor.


Finally, ended up in the supermarket of the department store, El Corte Ingles, where I bought a healthy pre-packed chefs salad (comes with fork!), some yogurt and a banana for tomorrow’s breakfast, and of course, a bottle of wine.






No pix today. Not allowed in the museum, so didn’t bother to bring my ipad.
Dropped Ellie with babysitter this morning. Young American woman living in Madrid. She thought I was nuts (what else is new?) but it was great to be able to get around without the dog.
Walked about 6 miles all told, including inside the Prado. Concentrated on Spanish artists, primarily Velazquez (thanks, Sue, for the heads-up on Las Meninas–what a fascinating painting). image
Special exhibit on Goya in Madrid–cartoons for tapestries, but no tapestries !?! Is it me or are Goya’s eyes sort of Keene-like? Big, Bambi-like eyes that seem very out of place in his naturalistic world.
After 2 1/2 hours of close visual attention, I rewarded myself with a 10€ beer at the Ritz Hotel (along with some gratis Marcona almonds). Ran into a gay couple from Asbury Park whom I had met earlier and they showed me to a tapas bar they had been to. Croquetas of mushrooms, albodingas (thanks again, Sue) and risotto. The total, with 2 glasses of wine and Perrier was not much more than the beer.
Now, Ellie and I are both exhausted and planning to stay close to home.

Madrid, day 1

Not to rub it in, but it’s in the 70s in Madrid. Here is the outdoor cafe where I had lunch.

I seem to be in the Times Square of Madrid, just off the Gran Via. Sex shops, tourist souvenirs and lots of restaurants. I like it. It reminds me a bit of Paris, with the grands boulevards.
I did something very intelligent with the car. Instead of driving into Madrid and dropping it at the train station, I dropped it at the airport and took a cab. 30€ well spent.


After 6 days of fattening me up some more, I have left the sanctuary of MariJo and Lucio to strike out on my own. First stop, Burgos. Easy drive from Vitoria except for the 1 1/2 hours I spent driving in circles looking for the hotel. Lovely place. Here is the view of Burgos cathedral from my window.

Ellie was not permitted in the hotel dining room where I had the local specialty of roast lamb, along with a half bottle of wine made by local Cistercian monks. Somehow, they got a crust on a lamb shank–almost like roast pork. Ellie is now feasting on the bones.
Then to Burgos cathedral–certainly the most exuberant church I’ve ever seen. The audio guide was meh, but here is a google photo of one of the arches. Note the painted carvings and statuary. Gothic-baroque.
A siesta then a walk around the old city with Ellie. Tomorrow, last stop–Madrid.



News flash. There is more to Bilbao than the Guggenheim. Spain’s tenth largest city was once known as “the Pittsburgh of Spain” for its steel industry. Today, it’s a cosmopolitan center of art and commerce featuring works by architects including Cesar Pelli, Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava.
Calatrava’s bridge

Ok. Here’s the money shot

Another view

We also visited the charming seaside resort of Getxo, with Art Deco villas and a unique suspension bridge with a built-in ferry.

Some cultural observations on Spain and France
Dogs are not welcome in most places in Spain. They wouldn’t, for example, allow Ellie on the elevator to the top of the bridge. We managed to sneak her in to lunch at the very nice hotel across from the Guggenheim. As I was leaving, I thanked the maître d’ for allowing her to stay (very quietly, in her bag) and he winked and said “I didn’t see anything”.
The Spanish have very peculiar dining hours. Everyone knows they dine late, but it also appears they lunch late. We ducked out of the rain into the hotel’s cafe around 12:30 and were told lunch service would not begin until 1:30. We had wine and pintxos and waited until, punctually, service began. What was an empty space suddenly filled with business people doing deals. So if they go back to work at 3:30, when exactly do they get any work done?

Another car mishap

What is it with me and rental cars? I set off alone this morning to do some shopping in Vitoria and as I was driving, something was off. I turned off the highway to investigate and discovered that one of my tires was, literally, shredded. I tried to drive back to my friends’ house but it was clear I’d never make it. So I pulled onto the shoulder and checked my rental contract (fortunately bilingual) and called the emergency number. A nice English speaking man told me he’d send someone to change the tire. An hour later, he arrived, put on the spare and told me to follow him to Europcar in Vitoria. There, they told me I’d need to wait until tomorrow to get a new tire. I called Lucio (bless him) who said he’d pick me up in Vitoria later that afternoon. I walked about a mile through Vitoria to the department store I had intended to visit. I bought a book–some stupid Patricia Cornwall mystery, in English. Then I walked around, trying to find someplace to eat lunch. (I had left Ellie at home). Found a place that had some delicious looking tortillas (Spanish version–like a quiche). But I mistakenly ordered a tortilla con jamon. And got an omelette. A good omelette, but Lucio later told me I needed to order a tortilla con patatas; otherwise, I would indeed get an omelette.
Anyway, they picked me up and we recovered the car around 5 pm. One scotch and 2 wines later, I am feeling relieved it wasn’t worse. But I wonder.


MariJo and Lucio live in the province of Alava, which is part of Euskadi (Basque country). The next province to the east is Rioja, where the wine is made. But confusingly, there is also a section of Alava called Rioja, and that’s where we went today, to visit the well-known winery of Marques de Riscal.
We took a tour of the winery, which features a Frank Gehry addition which is used as a hotel. We had lunch there after the tour, at the bistro of a starred michelin restaurant. 5 course prix fixe, (with Rioja, of course) including a goat cheese appetizer, a fabulous potato soup with mushrooms and foie gras, a fish course, which they kindly substituted lamb for me and a main course of veal cheeks in a wine sauce. Followed by a creme Catalan and coffee on the terrace. Yes, sorry about telling you this but it was in the 50s today.


After lunch we visited the lovely medieval town of Laguardia, which is considered the St. Emilion of Spain.