Can you have too much tapas? Is the Prado great for kids? Too many questions for one post?
1 Deciembre 2016
You might think we basically ate our way through Spain. And you'd probably be right. This was our first full day in Madrid and we'd already stopped to eat 3 times and it wasn't even lunch time. So lunch would be stop number 4. We were site seeing but not touristing very hard. Madrid was gearing up for Christmas so the tree (not a tree) was up in Puerta del Sol. The Christmas street lights were up in every street. The huge Netflix billboards, also at Puerto del Sol, were advertising Netflix latest hits, Narcos and Stranger Things. The billboards were so big they overshadowed the neon Tio Pepe sign. I'd heard the iconic sign had been taken down for a few years. However it had been returned to the plaza in 2014. I'm sure it wasn't in the same position as before but my 10 year old memories were hazy and I couldn't be bothered googling it. But it was back. Throw in the cos-playing beggars that was a lot of things to see and do in one day. True, just turning around on one spot for 10 seconds would take in most of these sites but you get my point. I hope. We were seeing stuff. We'd pencilled in a visit to the Prado Museum for the evening but first things first. Lunch.
Estado Puro was conveniently near by the Prado and partly why we chose it. Estado Puro is another of those modern tapas bars. Traditional tapas with a modern twist. Not super expensive but not cheap either. 7 or 8 euros for tapas for example. But it was good. Foie gras sandwiches, slice pulpo (octopus), fried anchoa (anchovies) and something with a soft poached egg (see the pictures) were standouts. I really should keep better notes. Otherwise my blog will be filled with we had something somewhere sometime and it was really good, I think. We sat next to a large window so Brandon kept himself amused trying to attract the attention of passersby.
The Prado Museum
The Prado is no Museo del Jamon. For one you can take as many photos of the jamon and pork products as you want at the Museo del Jamon. A jamon boccadillo is a work of art after all. Unfortunately you can't take photos inside the Prado. That's the reason I think we don't have any photos from inside the Prado. I'm sure I would have at least a mobile phone photo but nada. That is Spanish for nothing. I do have some Spanish skills. Not great, but better than my French. Hola, estoy Shane. Soy Australian. Muy buen eh mate?
Lunch was late so we got to the Prado around 5-ish. If you get there after 6 pm the Prado is free until closing time if you just want to dip in and out, see a few exhibits and leave. It is open to 8 pm (7 pm on Sundays). We arrived too early to get in free but kids get in free all the time anyway. How kid friendly is that? For the rest of us it is 15 euros. A small price to pay for this extraordinary museum. It would have to rank as one of the best museums in the world.
One of the reasons we went later was to limit the amount of time we would be tempted to stay. Wandering around a huge museum with a couple of little kids, 3 and 5 years old, had the potential to be boring and tiring for them. Oh boy was I wrong. They loved it. Georgia especially loved it and asked more questions than I was capable of answering. It was 3 hours of constant what is this one? Who are they? What are they doing? What is this about? My favourite comment from Georgia was "Gee dad, there are a lot of Jesuses aren't there. Why are there so many Jesuses?" The questions weren't every so often. They were asked at every painting and statue. Every single one. Do you know how many pieces of art are in the Prado? More than 7000. You could probably see them all in 2 hours if you saw one every second. We had 3 hours. Plenty of time for 7000 questions. All you need is a little knowledge that encompasses the entire history of western civilisation for the last 2000 years and you can keep an inquisitive 5 year old happy. By the end my throat was dry and I was nearly hoarse. A vino tinto or cervaza would fix that though.
The art is extraordinary. Of course the collection is top heavy, in a good way, with Spanish art. Velazquez, El Greco (not Spanish but they claim him) and Goya are probably the best known. The Flemish masters are represented, Rembrandt and Rubens, as are the stars of the renaissance. You can save yourself 15 euros and check the collection on-line at the Prado here. But do yourself a favour when you're in Madrid and go in person. How else can you traumatise your 3 year old with graphic images of dismemberment. We knew Goya was dark but I forgot just how dark his black period was. We turned a corner to be confronted with Saturn Devouring His Son. Just like the title says, a monster biting the head off a man. Just what you need to make sure your 3 year old will remember his visit to the Prado... forever. The Prado has made the painting available for download for private use on blogs. So I am allowed to show it here. Like all great art it is better seen in person though. Don't miss it.
I was traumatised by the just how ugly the Spanish Royal family was hundreds of years ago. I know looks aren't everything but these people probably brought inbreeding to new heights. The masters were masters because they could show beauty in the mundane and the brutal. Goya really had his work cut out for him with Carlos IV and family. I can only imagine what he had to work with if these royal portraits were flattering. I'm being unfair of course, nobody is perfect, but Goya didn't pull any punches. He seems to have painted them true to life.
We were still trying take it all in when closing time came around. Is the Prado good for kids? It is fantastic for kids. After this visit we'd have no hesitation in visiting other galleries and museums. I'd probably get Georgia an audio guide next time though.
Michelle had earmarked a number of restaurants for dinner. Mostly concentrated up to the north of the Gran Via. A bit of a walk up through Puerta del Sol, across Gran Via, and then some narrow streets and alleys. This part of central Madrid is the, let's say, grittier part of town. Lively and full of crowds heading to dinner or finishing shopping or whatever else one does on a Thursday evening. The bong shop caught my eye. As did the hash pops for sale. Brandon wanted a lolly pop. Not these ones mate. Ol' dad could be tempted though. In another life maybe.
Celso y Manolo
It was a long, tiring walk up from the Prado. Because it was approaching 9 pm many places were already full. We eventually found Celso y Manolo tucked away in one of the back alleys. The Michelin guide lists it as a "Plate" restaurant which means "Good cooking". Of course good cooking in Madrid is about the same as simply superb elsewhere. I don't know how we got in. The front bar area was full but we were ushered around to the back restaurant area, pram and all, and shown to a table. I'd describe it as atmospheric which could also mean barely lit and dark. Quite soporific for the kids as they struggled to stay awake. They perked up a little when the food arrived. And the food was so very good.
I don't think I've ever had a better tomato salad - four types of tomatoes with four different oils and salts. The languostines were a winner, the cheese and cured meat boards were sensational. Georgia loves steak tarter, we all do, and this one was particularly awesome. As was the grilled foie gras in some sort of sauce (foie plancha al palo cortado). The service was fantastic too.
Was that only the first full day in Madrid? God, I think I am going to eat myself to death.