Ger’s unplanned trip to Madrid

Nov 30th, 2018, 01:41 PM
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Agree with Botin, not the greatest food in the world, but certainly not bad, and if you have the opportunity to visit the oldest restaurant in the world you gotta do it. And yes, if you don't like crowds, Mercado San Miguel is not the place to be. I did like, though. Loving the report, and I hope to get back to Madrid some day. (Garlic soup sounds good).
maitaitom is offline  
Nov 30th, 2018, 07:14 PM
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Botin was actually better than we expected, which was a very pleasant surprise. Lots of families and couples there enjoying lunch.

We went for the bragging rights about going to the oldest restaurant in the world, unfortunately, not had the occasion to brag about it so far

Great TR, Ger, thanks!

Last edited by sugarmaple; Nov 30th, 2018 at 07:16 PM.
sugarmaple is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 07:04 AM
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Thanks for the report!

I 'm happy to hear you enjoyed the Devour tour, as I'm planning to take a couple of their tours next year, in Seville and possibly in Madrid, too. You explained perfectly why food tours are so much fun. I try to do one on my first day in any city.

Last edited by elberko; Dec 1st, 2018 at 07:06 AM.
elberko is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 08:38 AM
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On Oct. visit to Madrid a friend wanted to go to Botin

We looked inside....full of tourists..nah
moved to Mercado ..also a lot of tourist , but great fun ( when not too crowded)
danon is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 10:36 AM
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Monday 19th NovemberI worked from very early morning, had lunch at home and then headed to Reina Sofia for the entire afternoon.

Afternoon: Reina Sofia

It is a temple to modern art, from the early 20th Century to now. I strongly recommend you not try to see the entire museum in one visit, as there is too much diversity. Limit your visit to 3-3.5 hours, and come back another day.

If you only have 3-3.5 hours, then concentrate your time on the 2nd floor, which contains the magnificent Guernica, and several galleries built around that theme. You will never see anything like this anywhere else in the world.

Third Floor

Not knowing this at the time … I started on the 3rd floor temporary exhibitions. There were two excellent exhibitions, and one that totally pi$$ed me off – of the “chair against a wall with a broken teacup and piece of string” variety (I kid you NOT!).

However, the temporary exhibition I visited was excellent. I highly recommend it:

Dorothea Tanning: I love finding new artists

Luigi Ghirri:

I briefly visited the Luigi Ghirri photography exhibition, and would have liked to spend more time:

Second Floor:

I was there to see ONE painting which I saw as a child in a history book and it imprinted itself into my brain since the first time I saw it - Guernica.

On a trip to Paris this year, I visited the Picasso museum, where they had a temporary exhibition of various drawings and artefacts from Reina Sofia, but NOT the painting, as it is now too fragile to travel. His sketches were extraordinary, but nothing can prepare you for meeting the actual painting.

I am not ashamed to say that I wept, and I was not the only one. Like the Neolithic caves in the Dordogne, or the celling of the Sistine chapel, this is one of the most moving works of art you will ever experience. It is not only worth the entrance fee, it is worth the trip to Madrid. I visited it four times that day.

The surrounding galleries are also extraordinary. Again, if you only have half a day, go straight to the second floor and stay here for as long as it takes. It is the heart of the museum.

So, I left it at that point, as the day could not get any better.

Although you can take photos in most of the Reina Sofia, they are forbidden on Floor Two.

I had to attend a conference call at 1800, so I made my way to the restaurant, did the call, and had a glass of wine. Lovely restaurant, but expensive, relative to Madrid.

Some photos from the day:
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 12:34 PM
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Tuesday 20th November

This day, I was touring in the morning and working in the afternoon.


The Royal Palace is only 10 minutes walk from my apartment:

I was there by opening time at 1000, took the audio guide and set out. The Tour takes an hour.

Each to his own, as they say, but royal palaces are just NOT my thing. I live in London, and I have never visited Buck House or Windsor.

The decor is extraordinary, with wonderful artefacts, but is just SO remote from any degree of reality. It was a small elite with an excessive amount of money satisfying their dubious artistic tastes at the expense of the entire populace. Apparently, there are at least 3500 rooms, but no-one has managed to come up with an accurate count.

Like all palaces, it is vulgar in its excesses and the proletariat in me screamed ‘off with their heads’.

If you have limited time in Madrid, I would not be spending it here, as there are far more interesting things to see, but this is a very personal perspective, and I am sure many others will disagree!

I was a bit annoyed with myself that I had visited. I felt I had wasted a couple of hours and I should have known better.

As penance, I walked to Temple of Debod, which was not open (although it should have been), but you can enjoy it from the outside.

It is considered one of the top 10 things to see in Madrid. I was a tad underwhelmed, as I have been to Egypt. Yes, it is worth seeing if you are in the area. Combine it with a visit to the Cerralbo Museum, which I will talk about later.

I waked to the restaurant – Taberna Rayuela, recommended in:

Great local restaurant. Food was delicious. Menu del Dia was 17.50 Euros for starter, main, desert, wine and water.·

Starter was scrambled eggs with shrimp
Main was delicious pork: Secreto Iberico

Desert was Pineapple.

Pictures from the day:

Besides the lunch, with was excellent, I did not consider this a great day.
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 01:30 PM
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Wednesday 21st November



Of the three major museums, this is the one that is the least intimidating, most accessible and easily enjoyed, as all of the art is both important and attractive. You don’t need to know a lot about art to enjoy the gallery, as you will like what you see.

As an added bonus, there was an exhibition of Max Beckmann. Did not know about him, but want to know more.

Here are some photos of my favourites on the day:
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 07:08 PM
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We were a bit surprised at the condition of the Royal Palace. A guide said that the main and principal rooms are kept up, but there isn’t the money for much beyond that. We noticed paint peeling on the windows sills, not just in the odd spot, but all along the corridors. It left the impression of shabby gentility.
sugarmaple is offline  
Dec 1st, 2018, 11:11 PM
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Loving this! I love Spain but it’s been probably 8 years since we were in Madrid. I remember it as being quite an elegant city and I’m happy to hear a good word for the Reina Sofia.

Our first day in madrid was an introduction to Spanish culture. At midnight the streets were still filled with families, young people and old people, all together and all having fun. We thought there must’ve been some special celebration but no it was just Friday night in Madrid.

The weather was perfect and we enjoyed sitting in the garden of the Royal Palace feeling the coolness coming off the cascading water in the fountains.

Good memories...
natylou is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 09:57 AM
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Hello all:

Thanks for following along. More later this evening.

Mellen: Glad I have convinced you! I was talking this weekend to a girl who had lived in Madrid for a few months working, after graduating University. From the UK, she had done her last year, studying Engineering, in Valladolid, not having all but the basics of Spanish – can you imagine? She also had difficulty taking to Madrid, although loving the rest of Spain. What would be the best route from UK to you – via Bordeaux? Previously, went through Brive on Cityjet, but no longer possible, as only Ryanair flies now – NEVER going to happen. Where are you going in Greece? Noever been, and its on my list.

Cafegoddess: Thanks for your kind comments 😊.

maitaitom & sugarmaple: Thanks for the feedback. Agree, the food was better than expected. Elsewhere in the restaurant, there were lots of Spaniards, but I was seated in the section where they had the English-speaking waiters, which was sensible.

Elberko: Second tour with Devour and both great experiences, both with the guides and the enyoyable company.

Danon: I had every intention of visiting the Market, but it was so full it was just unpleasant. Its in every travel article about one of the top ten things to do, so it will only get busier.

Sugarmaple: Interesting about the palace. It is no longer a royal residence and is used only for state occasions, so I guess they concentrate on keeping those rooms up.

Natylou: I found the crowds at night overwhelming – from babies to ancient grannies all out strolling. I live in London: Londoners sprint, while the population of Madrid stroll at a snail’s pace – I found it difficult.

Back soon.
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 10:31 AM
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We really liked the Thyssen-Bornemisza. We had the museum explained as "major works by minor artists and minor works by major artists." All your reporting really makes me want to go back to Spain. I might have a GinTonic for breakfast Thanks.
maitaitom is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 10:59 AM
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Ger, where would you be coming from? Dublin?

The easiest/most obvious is EasyJet into Bergerac, but Whatever Airline into Bordeaux or Toulouse works, too. Then you're just down the road on a nice train ride.

You can't pay me to fly Ryanair - GOD, I hate that airline!

We are targeting the Ionian Islands, followed by Turkey, for June next year. I have been all over Greece, but not for many years, and not the Ionian islands. Was focused on the Agean, which was fabulous.

Off to Morocco in 4 days - now there's a lovely destination!
StCirq is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 11:06 AM
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Thursday 22nd November

I did a marathon the night before re work, so felt I could justify a few hours next day enjoying myself.

I planned a visit to the Cerralbo Museum (recommended by Martisella) and a walk around Retiro Park, as it was a lovely crisp, sunny autumn day, and lunch.


Cerralbo Museum (2 hours)

From Wikipedia :The Museum Cerralbo houses the art and historical object collections of Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, 17th Marquis of Cerralbo.

From Wikipedia:The museum, which is housed in the former residence of its founder, opened in 1944. The building was built in the 19th century, according to Italian taste, and it was luxuriously decorated with baroque furniture, wall paintings and expensive chandeliers. It features an interesting collection of paintings, archaeology and furniture, including works by Jacopo Tintoretto, Jacopo Palma the Younger, El Greco, Ludovico Carracci, Alonso Cano, Zurbarán, Luis Paret and many more.

I adored it! I got there at 1000, and there were just a handful of visitors – the very helpful and pleasant staff outnumbered the visitors 3 to 1.

I highly recommend a visit. The contents are simply gob-smacking, as we say in Ireland – a marvelous collection, chosen with great knowledge, care and love. I find it so very pleasant to see decorative arts in-situ, as it was used and enjoyed on a daily basis, rather than in a sterile museum setting. Although there are English cards in each room, I recommend renting the audio guide.

Here are some photos of my walk there and the interiors. The photos do not do justice to the pieces. The palace would not be to my personal tastes to live in, mine being minimalist tastes, but you must admire its extraordinary artistry.

Parque del Buen Retiro (90 minutes)
(click on the language icon to translate into English)

There are dozens of fabulous public parks in Madrid, and you could spend an entire week just visiting them alone, without ever stepping into an art gallery.

The Buen Retiro Park ( Park of the Pleasant Retreat) is one of the largest parks in Madrid. The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park.

It was a great destination for a sunny, crisp autumn morning, and I wish I had had more time to explore.

Here are some photos, including lunch.

Lunch: Marina Ventura

Another recommendation from the ‘Menu del Dia’ article posted above. BTW, as a foreigner, you often have to ask for the Menu del Dia, as although it is always published outside, they sometimes don’t offer it to you. Had dinned ‘a la carte’, this would have been an expensive lunch, as it is a very high-end restaurant.

Gorgeous restaurant with an amazing and expensive menu, but a with a relaxed and friendly service. It was packed at lunch on Friday, with the very well-heeled of Madrid.

Highly recommended for the Menu del Dia at 20 Euros for starter, mains, pudding, 2 glasses of wine (excellent selection) and bottle of water. Price in equivalent in London for a similar high-end restaurant – circa £60.

Starter: Garbanzo and cod soup – incredibly delicious and I would probably never cook this for myself

Main: Squid and rice – perfectly cooked and not rubbery

Pudding: WOW. I almost never have dessert, but the crème caramel was too divine to resist

Walked back to the apartment to do more work, to justify the opportunity to be in this great city.

Regards … Ger
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 11:16 AM
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Hi Mellen:

I would be coming from London, so lots of options. Like you, one of my options would NEVER be Ryanair. I wouldn't give the b**tard a penny of my money.

Enjoy Morocco. One of my pals sister owns a villa in the centre of Marrakesh, and has started a cooking school. We are thinking of planning a trip there soon.

I am planning my 2019 travel. I 'purchased' an extra month's holiday. So far, I am looking at Puglia and Croatia/Slovenia as the major Spring and Autumn trips, a week in Valencia with internet pals in Valencia for Las Fallas, long weekends in Milan, Paris, Lisbon. I just have to figure out how I can pay for them

Regards … Ger
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 11:35 AM
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Yes, well, that is always the dilemma, isn't it? Paying for stuff. What a pain.

If you care to share your Moroccan lady's cooking school info for Marrakech, I'm all ears.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 01:23 PM
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Friday 23rd November

A very long morning of work, starting at 0600, and was finally released to have lunch in another of the ‘Menu del Dia’ restaurant recommendations.

Lunch: Vi-Cool: The Bar of Two-Michelin Star Sergi Arola:

Their menu del día costs 13.90€ and covers 4 dishes but it doesn’t include a drink. With water and two glasses of wine, the bill came to about 20 Euros.

1st Starter: Delicious vegetable soup

2nd Starter: Spicy chicken wings, which I did not finish

Main: I chose the burger, as I had not had a burger in months. It was OK, but I could have chosen better I think. I don’t know why I order a burger, as I generally don’t like them

Dessert: Yogurt, fruit and grains. Very nice and fresh

Food was great, but maybe not quite as good as some of the other ‘Menu del Dia’ choices. However, and I progressed through each lunch, I was getting pickier.


The Prado

I had not finished my tour of the Prado on the previous visit, and wanted to get back to see the basement, and a couple of special exhibitions. There was no line-up, so I picked my free ticket up – free because the Prado is celebrating its 200 year anniversary.

I started in the basement, which houses the older works. ·

The Hermitage of the Vera Cruz de Maderuelo, 12th century, beautifully recreated in a church-like setting.

Hermitage of San Baudelio, from the 11th century – wonderfully primitive

Massive amounts of religious paintings from 11th – 16th century, most of excellent quality, but it is a whole days visit to appreciate it all

Hieronymus Bosch’s most terrifying and nightmarish works – they are SO modern. Clearly Dali just copied him. Don’t miss this room.

The Northerners – small, but excellent: Lucas Cranach, Durer - both favourites of mine. Self-portrait of Durer reveals he was quite gorgeous!

Roman statuary

The basement is a bit of mixture of great and awful art (IMHO).

There are a lot of galleries in the basement for which I have no real affection or interest. The portraits of ugly in-bred royals in gorgeous gowns and jewels are of no interest to me whatsoever. Neither are those later 18
th century allegorical and religious massive canvases. SO I just sailed through them.

The problem with the Prado is that if they shipped some of their less interesting works abroad, people would line up for hours to see them, but in-situ, they are competing against some heavy-weights.

That day, there were two temporary exhibitions of interest:

Bartolomé Bermejo: Ends 27th January 2019

Bartolomé Bermejo (c. 1440 – c.1501) was a Spanish painter who adopted Flemish painting techniques and conventions.

Weill worth the price of admission itself. Magnificent pieces. Beautiful and unique artistry, way ahead of his time.

Museo del Prado 1819-2019: Ends 3rd October 2018

A celebration of 200 years of the Prado. Very interesting and well worth seeing. It contains some of the Prado’s first purchases, and charts its history, and the effects of politics and social pressures during those years.

It was a great day, but I broke my own rule of the 3-hour gallery visit and was beyond knackered at the end of this visit.

It was a lovey evening to walk home to the apartment, open a bottle of wine, watch vacuous TV on YouTube, and think about what I wanted to do on Saturday and Sunday.

Regards … Ger
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 08:34 PM
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Glad you mentioned Cerralbo..It was recommended to me by friends who live in Madrid
What a splendid place.
It was not busy when I went, I started talking to one of the staff..he was eager to tell me a bit of gossip...The Marquis married a woman twice his age when he was 27.
She was a very wealthy widow whose son was C’s best friend
The family ( including the lady’s daughter ) traveled all over Europe, collected art and enjoying
their riches. Cerralbo had nine siblings, but decided to leave his house to the city.
He never remarried after his wife died. His friend remained single .
Sometimes it pays to speak the language.
danon is offline  
Dec 4th, 2018, 09:44 AM
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Saturday 24th November

First port of call was the Descalzas Reales Monastery (recommended by Maristella, who’s recent trip report was an inspiration for most of the best destinations on this trip – many thanks Maristella 😊. Highly recommended as planning source.). It opens at 10, and I got there at 0945, to be sure of getting in. Tickets can only be booked on the day for guided tours in Spanish and tour times vary depending on the day, so get the early to plan your tour.

From Wikipedia:

The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, literally the "Monastery of the Royal Barefooted", resides in the former palace of Emperor Charles V and Empress Isabel of Portugal. Their daughter, Joanna of Austria, founded this convent of nuns of the Poor Clare order in 1559.

Throughout the remainder of the 16th century and into the 17th century, the convent attracted young widowed or spinster noblewomen. Each woman brought with her a dowry. The riches quickly piled up, and the convent became one of the richest convents in all of Europe. Tomás Luis de Victoria, Spain's finest Renaissance composer, worked at the convent from 1587 to the end of his life in 1611.

Today the monastery houses only a few nuns, and the site is a well-visited national monument. The noblewomen's dowries were often invested into relics and their bejeweled exhibition pieces. Among the many relics on display are putatively pieces from Christ's cross and the bones of Saint Sebastian. Among the priceless art masterpieces are Titian's Caesar's Money, tapestries woven to designs by Rubens, and works by Hans de Beken and Brueghel the Elder.

The museum collection also includes such rarities as portraits of royal children of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from the late 16th century, referring to Polish–Spanish relations that inspired Calderón's La vida es sueño. Portraits of the son and daughter of King Sigismund of Poland were painted by Martin Kober in 1596 and were sent as a gift to King Philip III of Spain.

There were approximately 25 on the tour, Predominently Spanish, with a couple of Germans and Swedish.

The treasures are plentiful and stunning, and I considered it a highlight of the trip. Here are some of the many treasures:

The main staircase: An exuberant display of murals and trompe d’oeil

The Choir: Gorgeous gold alter with a very pretty statue of a young Mary. The polychrome Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) will make you weep, the tears glistening in her eyes as she watches her son ensure his ignominious fate

The Upper Cloister: Such treasures in cabinets line the walls

Two extraordinary paintings, among many: The Tribute money by Titian and the Face of a nun, Madrid school

The hall of the tapestries: Cartoons designed by Reubens and woven in Brussels

Photos are strictly forbidden, so I took the following photos from the book (in English) I bought at the entrance:

I doubly highly recommend this magnificent place. As tours are in Spanish (not sure if they offer English tours during high season), I would suggest you drop by a few days before, buy the book, study up before you go, and bring it with you on the day.


I wandered to the main Cortes de Ingles and found some delightful Spanish-designed dresses for my grand-nieces at 30% off in the Black Friday sale (Desigual - . I received the very best service from the delightful staff. Clearly, I was a ‘foreigner’, and in very broken English they steered me to the first floor, where I could pick up a tourist discount card which gave me and additional 10% off the purchase, which could be used on future purchases for a period of three days (used it later to by a dress for another grand-niece). Amazing! In London, you are lucky to find a sulky salesperson in a department store.

One of my sisters adores gloves and gave me a shopping list of colours to by her for Christmas. I had found this tiny store the day before on Calle Huertas, in business since 1896 and selling directly from the factory - Santacana. That day, everything was 30% off, so I scored another winner.

I had booked the restaurant at the Palacio de Bellas Artes for lunch, recommended by the about ‘Menu del Dia article (however, Menu del Dia is not available on the weekends) for 1200, as it was the only time available.

However, it was not to be.

Next: A change of lunch plans and the Archaeology Museum.
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2018, 11:39 AM
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I arrived at Palacio de Bellas Artes for lunch at noon. I was a bit surprised when I booked it that they served lunch at noon – very unusual in Spain.

It turned out that it was BRUNCH at the breakfast tables and certainly not the dining experience I was hoping for. Anyway, I bloody hate brunch – make up your mind, its one or the other. To me, brunch is just an excuse for restaurants to charge outrageous prices for a couple of eggs and a bit of bacon.

I was now in a quandary, as it is not easy to get a find a good restaurant in Spain on a Saturday for lunch it you have not booked ahead. I tried The Fork, and there was little available in the centre, except Indian restaurants. I called the sister restaurant of Marina Ventura, an Argentinian steak house - Restaurante La Cabaña Argentina, but they had nothing available.

I decided to make my way to that area, around Calle del Prado, as there are loads of great restaurants in the surrounding streets. At 1230, nothing was open yet, but staff were preparing. I popped into the Restaurante La Cabaña Argentina, just in case. The staff could fit me in at 1330, if I gave the table back at 1500.

I had a lovely walk through the area for an hour and arrived back at La Cabaña Argentina at 1330, where I was shown to my table.

Restaurante La Cabaña Argentina

Choice was easy: Rib-eye steak, medium rare, with a mountain of chips, half bottle of good Crianza and a litre of water. No starter or dessert, as the steak was enough to feed a family of four, and it was the smallest one. The steak was just perfect - I didn’t think I could get through it, but I did! To be fair, I only have a steak once every 2-3 months or so, as I never eat it at home.

Bill was 40 Euros, one of the more expensive meals, but worth it.

Next: The Archaeological Museum
OReilly64 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2018, 11:43 AM
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Am loving this report. I studied aboad in Madrid many years ago and returned with my husband a few years ago. It was better than I remembered! I studied at the International Institute and rememebered the Sorolla museum, which is some ways reminds me of the Rodin. We visited that and the gardens and mansion are as remembered. We also used Maribel's guides for most of our dinners (and a few lunches) and the places near Retiro that she recommended were casual, fantastic and reasonable. Keep it coming!!
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