Day 2 began very well. I woke up refreshed and ready to start my second day in Madrid.
First things first, breakfast.
I loved, loved, the freshly squeezed veggie and fruit juices. I found that fresh veggie and fruit juices were very popular in Spain. The breakfast here would end up being my second favorite out of the three hotels we stayed at.
And guess who I ran into in the breakfast room?
I decided to crash their party and sit with them and enjoy eating my breakfast and drinking my veggie juice. You could tell I had definitely gotten a good night sleep. I was practically jumping around in my seat ready to see everything.
Before we ventured out of the hotel we took a few pics of the inside of our hotel.
When we stepped outside I actually had a chance to really appreciate how pretty it was. It was still early in the morning and the streets were quiet and the temperature was just perfect.
I was amazed at how nice the weather was in Madrid. Even though it got up to the nineties, it was a pleasant nineties with no humidity and in the shade it was quite nice and you could always feel a slight breeze.
I also noticed for the first time the gorgeous fountain in the middle of the street, the Fountain of Neptune.
Here’s a good picture of our hotel as well.
Our plan for the morning was to go to the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum but it didn’t open till 10am so we had a little time to kill, so Marion found a coffee shop for us to try. On the way there we passed the beautiful Cybele Palace that was built in 1909 as the headquarters of the postal service, but now serves at Madrid’s City Hall.
We then walked by San Jerónimo el Real Church, which is situated right across the Prado Museum that we would be visiting later. It was closed at this time and we thought we could try later when we got back this way.
We decided to make our way back over towards the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum that was just down the street from our hotel. We still had about a half hour before opening but people were already lining up so Mom made sure we got in position in front of the gate.
The museum occupies a Neo-Classical mansion from 1806 and many critics see this museum as the world’s most important private art collection. Assembled by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and his sons Hans Heinrich, it illustrates the history of Western art from the primitive Flemish and Italian painters, to 20th century Pop Art. With over 1,600 paintings, it was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection.
With such a wealth of art, this magnificent museum attracts almost one million visitors every year. It further makes Madrid the envy of the art world, since the city outbid everyone else for the collection (including the Getty Foundation) and it was a great deal for the Spanish capital, since although valued at an estimated $1 billion, the collection was bought for $350 million.
This museum turned out to be my absolute favorite art museum we visited while in Spain. The layout of the museum was well done and easy to follow and there wasn’t a stuffiness about the museum that you sometimes get. It was bright and open.
Pictures were allowed and I took quite a bit but I will try to restrain myself with only sharing a few so I don’t bore you to much.
We decided to start on the second floor because most people will all rush to the first floor and then go to the second, so this way we weren’t surrounded by a bunch of people.
The 2nd floor, which is home to medieval art, includes some real gems hidden among the 13th and 14th century Italian, German, and Flemish religious paintings and triptychs. The 2nd floor also holds the old Masters of Renaissance and Baroque art.
Next is my favorite painting. There’s no special reason it’s my favorite, it just makes me sing when I see it.
Room 11 is dedicated to the famous Spanish painter El Greco and his Venetian contemporaries Tintoretto and Titian.
There were two Tintoretto’s next to each other, The Annunciation to Manoah’s Wife and The Meeting of Tamar and Judah. Both done between 1555 and 1559.
I’m not familiar with the next painter, but I really liked this painting.
The next room had a painting by my favorite painter, Caravaggio.
In the next few rooms were some exceptionally rendered views of Venice by Canaletto.
I was in Venice a few years ago and not much has changed from how Venice looked in the 1700’s to what it looks like today.
Rooms 19 through 21 are devoted to 17th century Dutch and Flemish masters, such as Anton Van Dyck, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Rubens and one Rembrandt.
Here are two Rubens: Portrait of a Young Woman with a Rosary 1609-1610 and Saint Michael expelling Lucifer and the Rebel Angels 1622.
The Rembrandt is a self portrait of the artist.
Now before heading downstairs I have to share a very funny story, but I can’t reveal who the “culprit” is.
So we are all standing in one of the rooms, each one of us looking at a different painting, when all of a sudden someone in our group passed gas loudly. Now that would have just inspired a little giggle in us and then we would have moved on, but we weren’t alone in that room. There was another family of about four in there and I stayed in the room acting like a didn’t know what had just happened while the other two in my party left the room. The family, not realizing I was with those other two, started cracking up. Let’s just say when I caught up with the culprit, they were two rooms away with the brightest shade of red I have ever seen on someone’s face.
That’s all I can share without revealing who it may have been 😉
Now we can move downstairs. This is where you will find Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, Goya, Manet, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Gauguin, Pissarro, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, and Picasso.
I literally could have stayed here all day but we ended up having to rush at the end because we had a tour time we had to make at the Palace of Linares.
We met up with Sissy at Starbucks and started the fifteen minute walk over to the Palace of Linares.
The Palace of Linares is located in the beautiful Cibeles Square and dates from the 19th century and is Madrid’s most emblematic palace and is considered one of the finest neo baroque designed buildings in Spain. It was built in 1873 by the Marquis of Linares and had once housed Spain’s old Silver Mills and the Royal Granary.
There is a sordid little story about the Marquis of Linares and his wife that when Mom asked the tour guide about, she said was untrue, but she may have been trained to automatically say no to those nasty little rumors. I will tell you what that story is and leave it up to you to decide what you believe.
The Marquis’ father had educated him to choose a wife without consideration of her financial or social class which is what he did when he married the tobacconist’s daughter. What he didn’t know was that his father had had a relationship with the mother and his wife was the result. He only found out when his dying father, sent him a letter to inform him of the situation.
The Pope at the time, Leo XII, had to issue a papal bull which allowed them to live together but in chastity. In order to forget the shame the Marquis threw all his energy into the building of his palace, where budgets and time had no constraints. The Marquis and his wife told the architect that they would like the Palace to be split in two, with him taking the ground floor and the wife the upper floor. What is interesting is that they didn’t have a kitchen, but instead relied on food being delivered from a restaurant.
There is a legend that before knowing they were siblings they conceived a girl, which the family decided to remove from the environment to safeguard the good name of the house. The girl’s mother, very upset, accepted that her daughter was taken to a orphanage. In the Marquis’ will him and his wife pleaded to not having had children. It is said that the daughter is the ghost that haunts the palace from time to time, crying because she had no “mummy”.
Who knows now if there is any truth to this story, but it is quite a scandalous story to say the least and people working at the Palace have reported seeing ghosts. There are also other tales of what happened to the little girl, like being bricked up behind a wall in the Palace or being drowned and then buried in the Palace. I sure hope those are just exaggerated tales.
The tour was about an hour long and guess what, it was in Spanish. The tour guide did throw out a few things here and there in English for us. We weren’t allowed pictures inside but here are a few pics of the inside of the gorgeous palace I borrowed from the web.
Sissy and I together on a tour, especially one that we are unable to understand, is not always a good thing. Her and I get a bit too giggly. I was reading the descriptions of each room from the brochure we were given and I was making up stories from them and telling them to Sissy like I knew exactly what I was talking about. I think I came up with some good stories that definitely kept us entertained.
As we left the Palace and began our walk to the next place on our agenda we stopped to take a picture of the stunning Bank of Spain and Madrid’s famous Cibeles fountain.
30 meters below the Bank’s surface is an area where the central bank stores its gold. Before modern security was installed, the room was flooded in case of danger by water coming from Cibeles Fountain.
The Cibeles fountain is named after Cybele the Roman goddess of nature and is seen as one of Madrid’s most important symbols. The Cibeles fountain depicts the goddess, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. The fountain was built in the reign of Charles III between 1777 and 1782.
The fountain has been adopted by the Football Club Real Madrid, whose fans use the area to celebrate its triumphs in competitions.
Our next stop was a big one, the Prado Museum.
This Museum is Madrid’s top cultural sight and one of the world’s greatest art galleries. They have a dazzling display of works by the great European masters such as Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Rubens, and Bosch that is housed in an 18th century Neo-Classical building that opened as a museum in 1819.
We had gotten our tickets a few months earlier, so we were able to walk right in without standing in any of the long lines. Once inside the first thing we did was stop at their very nice cafeteria and get something to eat because we were starving.
I tried their cheese croquets and homemade fries and Mom and Marion tried their paella. I’m sorry Sissy I can’t remember what you had 🙁
Feeling better with some food in our belly’s it was time to start exploring the Prado’s huge collection of art.
The sheer scale of the Prado’s collection is almost overwhelming, so it helped that we all had our list of what we were really interested in seeing. Sissy even had a list of the paintings she wanted to see.
Pictures weren’t allowed but here are a few of the top paintings at this world renowned art museum.
The museum’s most famous painting in it’s vast collection is Velazquez’s “Las Meninas,” showing the princess Margarita and her two ladies-in-waiting as well as the artist himself with paintbrush and palette in hand.
There was even a Picasso like take on this painting hanging in our hotel lobby.
Another one of his famous works hanging in the museum is “The Triumph of Bacchus,” which shows the god of wine with a group of drunkards.
The other major artist of the collection is Goya, whose depiction of nudity in the painting “The Naked Maja” led him to be accused of obscenity.
There are actually two versions of this painting, the original naked version and the later clothed version.
Goya’s works make up such a large part of this museum, that they have a statue of him that stands outside the main entrance.
Another famous painting at the museum is “The Garden of Delights” by Bosch, whose several other works are also represented at the Prado, as he was one of King Filipe II’s favorite artists.
This particular painting Marion had really been looking forward to seeing. It was definitely a favorite at the museum, this was a painting that a lot of people congregated about just trying to see all the details on this fascinating painting.
The painting is a lot bigger than I expected.
There isn’t a lot known about the artist or exactly what this painting is suppose to mean, but there have been a lot of interpretations on it’s ultimate meaning.
The triptych was most likely intended to be read from left to right, as each panel’s meaning is interconnected. The outer left panel shows God introducing Eve to Adam and the right panel depicts the torture of damnation. The central, and most well-known, panel is what the piece takes its name after. This garden shows the surreal and bizarre temptations on Earth. Thus, reading from left to right, we can see how man was created, lived, and then failed due to his own behavior.
What I didn’t know was that if you closed the triptych the world is shown in detail, encased in a clear globe. In the upper left corner, it’s possible to make out the tiny figure of God, who is wearing a Papal tiara. Next to him an inscription from Psalm 33:9 reads “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
Peter Paul Rubens’ work could also be found here.
Once we finished up at the Prado we started heading out towards our next destination, Plaza de España.
To be honest I wasn’t quite for sure what was suppose to be at this Plaza de España, but Mom and Marion had it on their list and we had a tour coming up so where they went, I went.
But Sissy on the other hand parted with us once we arrived at the Plaza to do some exploring of her own.
It turns out the Plaza de España is one of the largest and most popular squares in Madrid.
The most popular sight, the one Mom was most excited about, is the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, writer of the world famous story of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his trusty squire, Sancho Panza. Behind them is a statue of Cervantes himself, looking over his creations.
This was a very difficult place to try to get a picture without twenty other people trying to do the same thing.
Not far down the street was the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation where we had a timed tour.
The Royal Monastery of the Incarnation is a convent of the order of Recolet Augstines. The institution mainly interned women from noble families and was founded by the Queen Margaret of Austria, wife of Philip III. The monastery was built adjacent to the then extinct Real Alcázar (today, the Royal Palace), and had a passageway to allow the royals direct access. The monastery was inaugurated on the 2nd of July, 1616, a few years after the queen had died.
Guess what, the tour was only spoken in Spanish, but there was an extremely nice gentleman from France that was there with his wife that kindly offered to translate what the tour guide said. The tour guide was nice enough to allow him to do this, even though it made the tour a bit longer. Another lady on the tour was also very grateful for his translation as well.
Inside the convent is a nice cloister, a fine Baroque church with a frescoed ceiling and a large collection of 17th century art. The highlight of the monastery is the relics room, where a variety of relics of saints contained in gold and silver reliquaries are displayed. The collections contains 700 pieces made of bronze, coral, ivory, and fine woods from Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. The most interesting of these relics is the blood of Saint Pantaleon, which is kept in a glass orb. Every year on July 26th (a few days after our visit), the eve of his feast day, the blood is said to miraculously liquefy. If it does not, then disaster is sure to follow. I’m curious to know who is it that watches this vile to see if it really liquefies.
Pictures weren’t allowed inside but the relics room really was something to behold. So many things to see. Lots of bones of feet, not for sure why.
After we left here we grabbed a taxi and headed to our next destination, Hermitage of San Antonio De La Florida.
A side note on taxi’s in Spain, they were the best I’ve ever dealt with in Europe. The taxi drivers were honest and the fares where very fair.
This simple looking church was built between 1792 and 1798 by Italian architect Francisco Fontana and was financed by King Carlos IV, who also commissioned Goya to paint the vaults and the main dome. It took Goya 120 days to complete his assignment, painting alone except for a little boy who stirred his pigments.
The frescoed ceilings are one of Madrid’s most surprising secrets and are absolutely stunning. It’s been recently restored and is also known as the Panteón de Goya. The frescoes on the dome depict the miracle of St. Anthony, who is calling on a young man to rise from the grave and absolve his father, unjustly accused of his murder. Around them swarms a typical Madrid crowd.
Goya himself is actually buried in the front of the alter. His remains (minus the mysteriously missing head, who takes a persons head?) were transferred in 1919 from Bordeaux, France, where he died in self-imposed exile in 1828.
This wasn’t the biggest or most impressive church I have visited but there was something about this small church that was very charming and peaceful.
We headed out and grabbed another taxi and asked the taxi driver to drop off us off at the Temple de Debod that wasn’t far from the Plaza de España.
This ancient Egyptian temple once stood in the Nile Valley of Egypt and was built in the 2nd century BC. It was dedicated to the god Amun and the goddess Isis.
How did an ancient Egyptian temple end up in Madrid, well in 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples, the Egyptian state donated the Temple of Debod to Spain in 1968. The temple was carefully dismantled in 1969-70, then put on a ship to Valencia followed by a train to Madrid. It was then reconstructed and was opened to the public in 1971.
Inside the temple are hieroglyphics and photos that document the long history of the temple, including the reconstruction project in Madrid. Unfortunately, the inside was closed to the public starting May 2017 and currently has no dates of when it will open again.
This is one of the few sites where you can view a complete set of ancient Egyptian archaelolgical remains far from Egypt itself.
I could have definitely sat here and watched the sun set. The sun reflected beautifully off the water and gave off a very peaceful feeling here.
It had been a really long day, so we grabbed another taxi and headed back towards our hotel where we ran into Sissy and decided it was time to sit down and enjoy some dinner.
Marion pulled out his phone and Googled restaurants and found one that had a high trip advisor rating and we set out down small alley ways to find this hidden place.
The walk seemed like it took forever to get there, probably because we were so tired and hungry but oh boy was it worth it. This turned out to be one of my favorite memories of our trip.
As you can see, it’s a small entrance that you could have easily walked right by without really even noticing it. It turns out that El Sur is actually considered one of Lavapiés (the area of Madrid we happened to be in) top ten restaurants.
It was still early for normal dinner time according to Spanish customs, so the tables hadn’t filled up yet and there was a perfect table just waiting for us.
The menu had some pretty interesting options and most items were about 5.99 so we were all thinking that they were small portions. So we all ordered a few items each. I ordered an eggplant lasagna that was a traditional Greek option and a quiche.
So as you can see they were very generous with their food portions. My eggplant lasagna was so delicious that I even forgot that they hadn’t brought out my quiche yet. By the time they brought my quiche I was so stuffed but once I took a bite of that quiche I couldn’t stop devouring it. Everyone was sharing it with me and Marion even said that was the best of everything we had ordered. All the food was amazing but this quiche was something else.
The restaurant started to really fill up shortly after we had started eating and the bar was packed.
The servers there were very nice and most of them spoke some English, but it was really fun to watch them try to figure out what Mom was asking when she wanted to know what dessert they recommended. She had all the servers trying to help understand what the lady was trying to ask. It was really cute.
They all agreed that their passion fruit cake was the best, so that is the one Mom chose for us. The rest of us kinda figured they may have just said anything to her and weren’t quite for sure if this was really going to be their best.
We all shared this one piece and it didn’t take long to realize that the servers were dead on when they said this was the best. It was so good. We left that plate absolutely clean once we were done.
El Sur was the perfect place to end our day in Madrid and as we were walking out there was a couple that looked as if they were trying to decide if they should eat there and I told them that if they were looking for a great place with excellent food, they had definitely come to the right place.
It was interesting how the walk back seemed to be a lot quicker than the walk there. It probably had to do with the fact we had sat for awhile and our tummies were very full and happy.
We got back to our hotel and headed off to get some sleep because tomorrow was going to be an early morning because we had a train to catch to the old town of Segovia.
Stay tuned to hear all about this quaint little town.