We arrived on a bright but cool morning after what seemed to us to be a brief seven-hour flight from Philadelphia. Certainly brief compared to getting to New Zealand. We managed to pack in a full day, especially considering it was the brain-dead arrival day. The hotel didn’t have a room ready when we arrived but that wasn’t surprising given it was 9 am on a Saturday morning.

Our hotel, the Villa Real, was in the older part of the city, a short walk to the Prado, which was the planned destination of the day. It’s in an area with a lot of government buildings, so it was quiet given it was a weekend. Since we had to kill a couple hours waiting for our room to be serviced we first went for a coffee to get our brains restarted then went over to the museum to get in the ticket line. It was actually a short wait, short enough that we still had to explore the area.

We both wanted to change clothes so we didn’t go straight into the museum even though we had the tickets. Once in the room we found it be comfortable enough, with a nice view out the front, visible in the above photo.

Next was lunch, which we often skip while traveling but we thought a little fuel would help. As I said, we were in the old city so nearby neighborhoods were filled with narrow streets and plenty of shops and restaurants, quintessentially European in other words, and in another departure in form for us, we didn’t overthink where to go. Our choice was a little bistro, not sure what the Spaniards would call it, called Stop Madrid. The business was started in 1929 and is in a building that dates to the 1800s. We had a traditional tapas lunch of meats, cheese, olives and bread. When in the Motherland of “jamon y queso,” it’s what you eat. (We’ve been down this road before in Argentina.) We were able to sit at a window table and watch the street traffic, as well as two guys that were basically drinking their lunch. I thought they were locals, but before leaving they were taking selfies with the proprietor, so maybe not.

Then it was off to the Prado. It’s the 200th anniversary of the museum this year, so that is a cool thing. Its collection consists primarily of Spanish artists, though not more modern painters like Picasso. There is another museum for that which we will hit when we return in a week. The best known artists would be Goya, Velasquez and El Greco. The number of works on display by El Greco seemed a bit limited, but there was plenty of Goya’s works, including from his so-called “black” period. The works are indeed dark but interesting and ahead of his time. While a famous museum, the Prado doesn’t house a single signature work that everyone needs to see, like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, but what is well done is that every work has a detailed explanation of the background of the piece in Spanish and English. It makes it easy to do a self-directed tour. We spent 2.5 hours, though I needed a caffeine jolt part way through.

Fish stew in green sauce.

Well this missive is getting long so let me wrap by saying we then napped and went to dinner at 9 pm, very Spanish, and somehow managed to stop out for another copa de vino (or two) in search of music. We thought we’d found a place but the band had already wrapped up by midnight. Thought they were Night Owls in Madrid? All in all, we did damn well for rolling off an overnight flight. Can’t believe I had the brainpower to compose this on the train to Seville, our next stop.

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