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Museums Here We Came! – June 21, Sun
By now, I have developed this craving for jamón, which is cured ham in English. It is kind of chewy, with a ring of white fat. Cynthia freaks out every time when she eats jamón attempting to tear off the layer of fat. Needless to say, she does not get as excited as I do when it comes to cured ham sandwiches.
By now, we have developed a good sense of European basic cost of living. A decent dinner costs 40€. A decent lunch inside a decent restaurant where napkins are provided costs 30€. Burger King or McDonald’s type of fast food costs 15€. Per person. Jamón sandwich with a cup of coffee costs 10€. Now you understand why I don’t mind eating jamón for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Still, 10€ is like US$15, or S$20, or HK$110. For a tiny thin slice of cured ham, a piece of bread with hard crust, and a cup of coffee. Delicious though, nonetheless. Expensive, it surely was.
We learned that Sundays are the best time to visit museums. Shops may be closed, but museums open on Sundays. Some are free to enter on Sundays. Some are free at an earlier time slot than in the weekdays. Some allow photography without flash, which is great for the documentation of our trip. Others don’t.
Over breakfast, at the train station “Estación de Atocha”, after we returned our rented car, we took out the guidebook and started to plan our day. No. We could not cover all the museums in Madrid. Instead, I picked three for today.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Of all the museums we have visited in Spain, National Museum of Queen Sofia is our favorite. A good mix of paintings and sculptures, and modern art in 3D that comes with sound and lighting too. The ambiance is modern and spacious. The museum opened at 10 am and since we arrived early, we spent some time inside the tourist information booth (or a caravan). Admission on Sundays is free and we have rented the Audio Guide. A strong recommendation if you need some guidance in art appreciation. Like we do.
As you have seen in the photo album or may see later, my personal favorite painting is the one by Pablo Picasso titled as “La Nadaora (The Swimmer) – 1934”. The painting is huge. And if I recall correctly, Picasso painted this while he was in Paris inspired by the rather sad civil war happened during that time. The Audio Guide stepped through all the major components of the painting such as the sword, the fire, and the bull, and highlighted the symbols of hope – the dove and the light. I remember having seen one of Picasso’s very early work – a portrait of an old man – and it is nothing like this one. What triggered this transformation within Picasso? A genius, he sure is.
Juan Muñoz: Retrospective
Moving onto another level in Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, we had come across a large exhibition on Juan Muñoz’s work. From observation, his work is beyond being scenographic or theatrical. It prompts us to pay attention to the framework of narration. Through the gestures, and the light and sound, Juan Muñoz’s work makes us think: What are these figures trying to say? Why are some of them not facing each other? And it makes us to observe the tension between literal and imaginary spaces. Juan Muñoz is like an illusionist. Cynthia and I were drawn into his work.
In retrospect, I would recommend a visit to the National Museum of Prado even if you need to pay to get in (we waited till 5pm for the free entry); spend half a day to cover both level 0 and 1. As for us, after a cheap and decent lunch at a fast food restaurant, we took a long walk to Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, where later we learned that the art pieces were collected by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family over two generations. If you are into European artwork during the Renaissance and Classicism period, as well as the works of Realism and Cubism, you may enjoy the visit. The Audio Guide is very technical. Not quite our cup of tea as we do not study art.
The entrance fee was 6€. And for an extra 9€ per person, we got to visit the temporary exhibition galleries on the ground floor. It was a timed visit and since we had time – unlike some other tourists – we popped by the main galleries while waiting for our time slot. During our visit, the temporary exhibition galleries were used to showcase Matisse’s works produced in the period of 1917-41. If my memory serves me right, this is also a middle period that is less known. A period where he switched in between “painting of intimacy (pintura de intimidad)” and “decorative painting (la pintura decorativa)”. Now, what in the world is “heroic nude (al desnudo heroico)”? I have no clue. But I am glad that his models were all females.
Museo Nacional Del Prado
We were dead tired by the time we were finished with Thyseen-Bornemisza Museum. 4.30pm, we took a slow stroll to Museo Nacional Del Prado. I couldn’t remember what happened in between the two museums, like a momentary lapse of memory. I remembered Cynthia wanted to sit down and eat ice cream but we had sparkling water instead. There was a man selling cheap hats and hand-held fans at a park. I took a nap inside that park. Under the warm sun shaded by the trees. The chirping sound of the birds was my lullaby.
By the time we had reached the National Museum of Prado, there was a long queue of visitors waiting for the 5pm free entry. Would we want to queue up under the sun? Probably not. So we waited under the shade. It did not take long for the queue to clear and this museum is one you must visit if you happen to tour Madrid. Museo Nacional Del Prado contains European paintings by El Greco, Titian, Rubens, Velázquez, Goya, and more. Goya! Cynthia seems to know who is who. Amazing.
Knowing we only have less than 3 hours, or more correctly speaking, we only have limited energy left, I took out the map of the museum and marked out all the must-see areas. And we zoomed right into those areas and devoured the beautiful artworks.
Finding our way back to the hotel at Gran Vía was easy. The Metro transport system is as convenience as the one in Barcelona. I for one was delighted not to drive inside the city center.
Gran Vía is a major street in Madrid, and it is so full of live. So many people dressed in party outfits walking along the street at dusk. Up till near midnight – beyond which we often fell asleep – the streets were still full of vehicles. We randomly picked a restaurant in Gran Vía and had paella. The food was surprisingly delicious. I never quite thought that I would fall in love with paella. The one in Spain got me crazy over again and again every time I tasted it.
After a long day of museum-crawling, tomorrow – another full day in Madrid, we would be back to the visit of Cathedral and monuments, shopping and more!
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PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two. You may wish to view our photo collection for day 8 too.