Snow? Snow!

Friday and Saturday in Madrid (March 16th & 17th)

We had a pleasant Friday despite the cold and sometimes rainy weather.

From the Madrid Tour bus with threatening sky

There is a good coffee maker in our apartment so we don’t have to go outside too early for breakfast. On Friday we didn’t get outside until 10:30 and it was still cold, with the temperature in the low 40s. That’s not really cold, of course, but it isn’t great walking around weather, either.

We had our desayuno just a few steps away, at the Brown Bear panaderia. It was busy but we managed to find a table wedged in a corner. I had the “deayuno especial” which included, of all things in Spain, a scone. We were surrounded by lots of chatter in Spanish.

We walked down to the Prado museum, which is only about 10 minutes away. So far, no rain. When we got there, the line to simply buy tickets was about 200 meters long. It wrapped around the front of the museum and almost all the way down the front. Still cold and windy and no rain, but the skies looked threatening. We decided the prospect of standing in line for at least an hour in the weather wasn’t all that appealing.

From the tour bus. Shots had to be quick and angles were funny.

So, what did we do? Did we go inside someplace where we could be warm? No! We got on one of the ubiquitous red tour buses to get a quick look at the city. Did we sit inside? No! We sat on the top level (think London double decker bus with an open top) in the partial sun and full wind. Did we have a good tour? Yes! This bus took us to areas we had not seen before and we learned al lot. We kept an eye on the darkening sky, which threatened to soak us at any minute. Once we recognized an area around Puerto del Sol (a large transportation hub, shopping area, and plaza) we hopped off the bus and made our way through Plaza Mayor (the big, central plaza) to the Mercado San Miguel.

Mercado San Miguel–this amount of crowding is the norm

The Mercado San Miguel was once a “real” market but has in recent years been transformed into a covered area full of shops that sell high-end fish, small food stands, places to get wine, tapas, bocadillos (sandwiches) and lots of other treats. We ate there several times last year. It is always crowded (and I don’t like crowds) and noisy (and I don’t like noise) but I like some of the food. We had paella and then pizza. Just before we got our pizza, the rain began. So what? We were inside and dry. Until… The wind came up and started blowing the rain under the eaves and into the Mercado. Again, no big deal. We just moved a bit. Then the hail—that’s right, the HAIL (el granizo)—began. At that point all of the people who had been outside, decided to come inside and so did all of the birds. The birds were nervous and rained down indications of their unease. We decided to brave the elements instead and head back to the apartment, about 15 minutes away. We waited for the hail to stop and left. We were in the rain all the way back.

The rain continued and we stayed inside Friday evening and ate bread and cheese and drank sherry. It was a good day.

To avoid the ticket line for the Prado museum on Saturday, I purchased tickets online. Unfortunately, I had no printer, so we were going to have to stand in some sort of line. [Foreshadowing]

Saturday morning we decided to have breakfast at another little place we like around the corner and on the way to the Prado. It was cold and it was rainy and it was windy but we figured we would make the trip in two stages. First, to the café. It rained hard on the way. We got inside, spotted a table (one must grab them), and headed for it. ¡Detener! (Stop!) ¡Paraguas junto a la puerto! We had forgotten to leave our umbrellas by the door in our rush for the table. We looked at the menu—posted on the wall—and had traditional tostas with juice and coffee. Patricia saw “tortilla” on the menu and asked about that but in this case the tortilla español was served as a sandwich. When she found that out, she decided to skip it. Just about the time we finished out desayuno, the waitress/cook came out and said she had just made a traditional tortilla español (not as a sandwich) and did we want it? We did, and are we glad we did. We split what must have been one of the best tortillas we have ever tasted. The tortilla español is not what you might think. It is not a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling or one used for quesadillas. These tortillas are made with potatoes, olive oil, and a little onion. Sometimes they are called omeletes. They are often served as a snack at room temperature. This one was warm from the oven and it was great.

While we were eating, it began to snow. SNOW! (nieve; there’s a word I hadn’t planned on using in Spain). It only lasted for a few minutes, but it was a good indication of how cold it was. After the snow, the pouring rain didn’t seem much of an impediment to the rest of the walk. We did have to stand in a short line to convert my online purchase into actual tickets before we could go inside. It was still raining.

When we did get inside we had to go through a security and bag scan. I left my umbrella on the scanner. When I finally remembered, I went back to the security station where I saw my umbrella in front of the guard. It was in a transparent plastic bag. [Some places hand out the bags when there are lots of dripping umbrellas.] Mi paragua, I said, pointing. ¿Como puedo saber?, she said. [How do I know?] Not catching on, I said Mi piragua! with a little more emphasis and more pointing. ¿Como? I finally figured out she meant that I had to describe it before she would give it to me. I finally managed to get it back.

We spent 3 hours in the Prado art museum seeing things we know and discovering new things. We spent most of out time with the “Spanish” painters, many of whom, like El Greco, came from other lands. For us, about 3 hours of art is the limit for one visit. There is just too much to process.

The Prado does not allow photos. It was my memory that they did, so I was disappointed. But it is you, dear reader, who should be disappointed because you don’t get to see some of the art we did. You can always go online. The Prado website is very good.

The mural behind the stage at Villa Rosa

We came back to the apartment and no, it was not raining, but it was still very windy and cold. We streamed some NCAA tournament basketball [isn’t technology great?] before going to see excellent flamenco at Villa Rosa. We saw Vanesa Coloma y Juan del Puerto, baile. Al toque David Durán y al cante Ismael de la Rosa ‘El Bola’ y Ana Polanco. We were very, very impressed with Ana Polanco and Juan del Puerto and David Durán. 

Ana Polanco was full of energy and is very talented.

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