Magnificent Madrid

I first visited Madrid a year or so after Franco. It was cheap. The streets seemed deserted. The Prado, the world’s largest paintings museum, was a rather dark and dusty place.

But oh, the art! The exhibition that captured my fancy was about the symbolism in the court paintings of Spanish artists like Goya. It showed how Spain’s best painters made the sad, ignorant rulers look even worse (without, evidently, offending them) and added little touches to the pictures that told the careful observer what the painter really felt about the dingbats in office.

We ate in restaurants serving the most fantastic food I ever tasted in Europe. Elegance was cheap. The dollar was strong.

I remember fondly the “drunken chicken” happily doused in sherry and left to simmer for hours before becoming my dinner.

Across from us sat two prominent and elegantly dressed gentlemen richer than dirt who argued the whole time. Each time the waiter came over with his pad at the ready they shoved aside the menus and the first described a fantastic dish he wanted prepared especially for himself. Then the other had his go at describing an even more fantastic dish. As soon as the waiter turned to leave, the dynamic duo went at each other like dogs. They didn’t eat a thing, but did make the effort to order three extravagant courses before dessert.

When the waiter came to clear away the last of the final, uneaten food, man number one started to describe a fantastic dessert. It gets me hungry just thinking of it. Suddenly the waiter, the veins in his temples visibly throbbing, his cheeks warm with color, halted proceedings and lashed out at the dynamic duo. The food was valuable these lean days! There were people more deserving of it than them!

And thus, he announced, he would not be serving them desert. The two men looked at each other as if they had lost their dog and had no idea of where to look for it. As the waiter turned smartly to leave, I wanted to yell, “Bravo!” but stopped myself just in time. Who knew then what the political implications might have been?

Today, Madrid is a thriving city of people who have come to know the value of good food and good living. Madrid never sleeps. And these days you can get into the renovated Prado free in the evenings–from 6pm until 8pm from Tuesday to Saturday and from 5pm until 8pm on Sundays. Thus you can go each night for a tapa-sized helping of art, so you don’t contract the dreaded Art Overload Disease.

And remember, because Madrid never sleeps it’s a great place to go when you’ve just gotten off the plane and your internal clock is all discombobulated anyway. You can party until the sun comes up. Or not.

Madrid vacation rental apartmentWhat you need, then, is a place to stay where you can sleep any time without suffering the embarrassment of having the maid waltz in to change the sheets while you’re sawing logs under them in the altogether. I suggest this charming city center apartment in Madrid.

You’ll have your own bed to sleep in when you want, without interruption. And you’ll have a washing machine to erase the evidence acquired from those long nights out on the town when you’re not in any shape to pay attention to the sherry dripping down your chin in a brown stream that drunkenly stripes the front of the white shirt you unfortunately chose to wear.

And for you women out there–this vacation rental has an independent shoe cupboard! You can go crazy shoe shopping in Madrid! (In the interest of journalistic gender neutrality I suppose I have to admit that men might also acquire an inordinate desire for obscene multiples of cow-based foot coverings for which there is no known treatment. I should know, my mother has this disease and is untreatable.)

Anyway, travel on. Shoeless or not.

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