The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

From Ballarat to the world beyond…

  • The Author

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1 other follower

Posts Tagged ‘Madrid’

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.

Posted in Art, Travel | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Arte Reina Sofia, The Crystal Palace & Other Observations…

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on June 4, 2009

This morning we´re off to the contemporary art mecca here, the Reina Sofia, which will likely eat up several hours.  Picasso´s Guernica is the star piece there, but there´s all sorts of other jewells as well.  They have a feature exhibition on at the moment of the sculptural work of Juan Muñoz.  He makes strange and amusing people who are slightly shorter than real people, in dark grey fibreglass, and there is a whole room full of about 70 or more joyous looking Chinese men in Red China uniforms (they´re all sculptures) and you can wak in amongst them, and imagine you´re hanging out with Mao´s army during a uniquely happy moment.  Sounds simultaneously spooky and uplifting to me, so I must experience it.   After that we´re going to check out the Crystal Palace in Parque del Retiro, and then view the antique Railway Station, which is said to  be fabulously  evocative of a far grander period of train travel.   After that Laurie wants to go for a late luch back at our new favourite Huertas taverna, Maceiras, for seafood paella and cerveza.

Last night we had tapas ol fresco, as it was such a  warm night, and the food was outrageously good.  We had mussels in provencial sauce (the best I´ve ever tasted), grilled mushrooms with speck type ham & herbs, and honey glazed aubergine, which was the just the best.  We are also finding the quality of the wine here to be very good; both affordable and deliciously velvety.  I now fully understand why the Brits love Spain.  It is a sort of paradise, it seems to me.  The locals are quite irreverant and quirky, which I like.

One thing I meant to mention when in Paris is how gorgeous it is to find men playing the accordian in the plaza´s and in the metro.  It really adds an overt European charm to day-to-day life, and while I realise its a bit cheesy, I really like that they hold to these traditions.  I also really like the fact that they let real ´live´painters sit in the Prado, and create copies of their favourite master-pieces.  It´s amazing to watch these people work, and really good for the children to witness how its done.  Madrid is a really lovely life-style city.  I passed a jazz band playing ´Summer-time, and the living is easy´in the park yesterday, and I think that sums up the mood here perfectly.  Off to a photographic exhibition in Centro tonight, then for a stroll up into Chueca, the gay barrio of Madrid, with bars galore.  Window-shopping and sight-seeing is always fun.  Even from our little Juliet balcony, outside our 3rd floor hotel window, there are interesting things to see happening down below on the street.  If only we didn´t need to sleep!

Posted in Art, Autobiography, Cuisine, Culture, Travel | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »