The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

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The Palace, an Epicurean Market & the Thyssen

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 7, 2009

Spent our last day in Madrid gazing, with dropped jaws, at the extraordinary opulence of the Palacio Real, built for Joseph Bonaparte (Napolean’s bro) several hundred years ago.  It really defies desciption, as it is just so over the top.  The porcelein room is unbelievable, as is the throne room, and the likely value of the bulding and contents is completely beyond my comprehension.  Suffice to say that the current Spanish royals can’t bring themselves to live there, as it is clearly way beyond acceptable levels of indulgence for these curent times  (That said I’ve just spotted a bottle of whisky worth more than my whole home here in the Hong Kong Airport, so I suppose I’m just to poor for words, really…)  In any case, the Palacio Real offers a fascinating insight into the splendour of previous dynastic tastes in interior decorating.  It’s a must see in Madrid.

After that we wandered over towards the Plaza Mayor, and chanced upon a very civilised epicurean market-place at Plaza de San Miguel, on the way there.  You can buy modest sized rations of exquisite seafood bruscetta, or huge individual oysters, and all sorts of delicious delights, with a vermouth to wash it down.  Aside from being  a sort of epicurean fast-food emporium for well-heeled folk on the run, it also doubles as a fresh food market.  After examining all the fare on offer there, we went for a sav blanc in Plaza Mayor, and thought about how much nicer it is to sit in a plaza in the sunshine in Madrid on a Friday afternoon, than it is to spend a Friday working…  As this was our last day in Spain, such thoughts naturally cross one’s mind.  Irk…  That’s right…  Life is not an endless world tour – What a shame!  So, with that disturbing realisation in mind, we scurried off to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to view yet more art-works while we still could.  A wide ranging collection, with some great cubist works.  What was particularly striking about the Thyssen was the colour of the walls throughout the space.  They’ve used a peachy rose colour throughout, which is an odd choice but it really works.  Being owned by a female entrepreneur, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, one might presume that this colour choice is her point of differentiation.  It does create a memorably warm ambience, albeit in a slightly claustrophobic 1980s fashion.

For our last night in Madrid, we went to Bar Labra for battered cod and vermouth, both of which were outrageously good, and then on to another tapas bar for the most succulent calamari we have ever tasted.    Madrid has won my heart – quite honestly.  We will be returning to Spain – no question about it.  Viva Espania, I say.  And now, as I peer out over the misty Hong Kong landscape from the confines of this pristine glass and steel airport transit lounge, I look forward to nothing more than a good lie down!  These long haul flights really are hideous.

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