Went to bed with ear plugs last night because we had to keep the window open. There is no way to get any air into the room other than heat and that makes it too warm. But the noise from other rooms and from employees talking at the top of their lungs or even hollering at each other in the atrium out the window is amplified by the walls. I still managed to sleep 12 hours. I only woke up then when Leslie had removed the key to the room so she could slip out to go exploring.
Most people who know me know how rabidly anti-smoking I am. For years, when traveling I have just had to quietly deal with it since in most countries it hadn't been as taboo as in the United States. But now, it has become the law in most countries and smoking is banned indoors. And now it is here in Spain as well. But there is still a very high percentage of smokers in general. The streets are littered with cigarette butts and you still see people smoking indoors near the entrance to a place or directly outside an entrance. I even had a guy walk over to where I was sitting on a low wall in a square next to the palace yesterday, sit right next to me and light up. I had to get up and walk away to sit somewhere else. I may have wondered about my action but, gee, couldn't he have walked a distance from me thinking maybe I might not approve of being around a smoker? That gives you some idea of the level of acceptance that still exists.
Today we hopped on the Metro (the subway system here) and took it three stops to the Atocha station to go to Museo de Prado, the art museum which must not be missed. We also hoped to get to the Thyssen and the Sofia Reina art museums as well. It was about a 15 minute walk from the subway to the Prado and we got there not too long after they opened.
We spent hours in the Prado looking at examples of the Spanish masters all well represented. Goya, Velasquez and others of that school along with artists of many other periods.
I particularly enjoyed watching several artists who were painting reproductions of the art on display. I was especially impressed with an artist who was reproducing Velasquez's masterpiece, The Assumption. In fact I liked the way the reproduction was looking better than the original.
We also managed to get tickets to a temporary exhibit from The Hermitage in St. Petersburg in Russia. About 180 pieces were represented. My favorite pieces were the Scythian gold pieces. So ornate and intricate. I'd never seen anything made of gold that looked so fine.
We left the Prado and walked across the street to Taberna de Dolores where we had 3 bocadillos, little sandwiches (boca means mouth). We ordered a jamon de pato (duck), a queso roquefort and a bacalao, or salted cod. We accompanied it with two canas, little beers. It was a delicious lunch. I should mention that Americans may be a little put out by the lack of friendly service at some Spanish restaurants. It is just their way it seems. Professional, yes, but they hardly acknowledge your existence beyond taking your order and delivering it.
Back to the Prado we went to take in another floor. You'd really need to spend more than a day here moving right along, no lingering, if you wanted to see the entire displayed collection. We couldn't manage it and we tried.
Leaving the Prado we headed down the boulevard with the intent to go to the Sofia Reina. We'd given up on getting to the Thyssen. There just wasn't time. But along the way we came across a tasty looking jamon restaurant called The Museo del Jamon. Jamons hung from every window and ceiling joist. We went up to the bar and ordered a jamon and queso plate, some patatas and we shared una cerveza media. On the way out the door we looked in the bakery case and an elephant ear (didn't catch the Spanish name) dipped in white and dark chocolate caught our eye. "One to go, please!" and back out on the street we went.
Two doors down at Meson Romar, our eyes caught site of the squid, or bocadillo de calamares sandwich we were supposed to be heading for closer to the museum. In we went and ordered one along with a cana beer. I kept eyeing these little nuggets of what I was sure was pork rinds called chicharrones. The server saw me looking and handed each of us a piece. Oh, my! Before we knew it a plate of them was sitting before us. Soft, yet crunchy, greasy and salty. Yes! We couldn't finish them so they went in a bag to take along. Oh and the calamari sandwich was really good, too. Deep fried calamari rings stuffed in a good sandwich roll. That's it. Simple but delicious!
Finally, we got to the Sofia Reina museum and stood in line for the free tickets that let you in from 7-9 pm. Again, we couldn't begin to cover the museum. We managed only the floor with contemporary art up to the end of WWII. Our main goal was to see Guernica, the powerful painting depicting Picasso's statement on the bombing of the city of Guernica in 1937 in which the Germans and Franco's forces specifically bombed civilian targets. This huge mural hung in the MOMA in New York until the late 1980's when, after Spain finally became a democracy, Picasso's will specifically stated it should be returned.
A big day and another tomorrow.