In Madrid art by day, flamenco by night.
As I have recently written, my wife and I embarked on a combined pilgrimage-vacation to Rome, the Eternal City. We returned home by way of Madrid for what was my first visit. Our main object was to feed our inner culture vultures at two of the world’s greatest museums; but we became entranced by the power of flamenco song and dance along the way.
Our hotel, the charming and well-appointed Hotel Catalonia Las Cortes, had been recommended to us by friends of my daughter, one of whom was Spanish, the other German whose visiting relatives had stayed there. It is not a large hotel but an exquisite one, occupying a completely renovated 18th century palace, a four-star establishment near the Plaza Santa Ana. It is within walking distance of the museums we intended to visit and, providentially, a fine flamenco club.
The Plaza Santa Ana is a great public space in which we spent an inordinate amount of time consuming, er, refreshments, while seeing and being seen. This space was much to our liking, being of smaller scale and more neighborly than the famous Plaza Mayor. We enjoyed a delightful dinner with our friends in one of the many restaurants on its perimeter.
Close at hand was the street on which Cervantes lived, the Calle de Cervantes.
Madrid. Whenever I utter the word, I hear a single, sharp strum of a classical guitar. The name embodies a certain dignity or élan, which I always associate with the Spain.
Madrileños are a sophisticated, cosmopolitan set. Like the Italians they are very stylish and fashionable in their dress. Sunglasses are mandatory. They are also eschew any Puritanism in the matter of smoking, which is quite common as it was in Italy.
For the newcomer it is hard to discern the impacts of the current economic crisis in Madrid, or Rome for that matter. Spain is experiencing 25 percent unemployment, 50 percent for those 25 years of age or younger. Our friends confirmed the strain the economic downturn is causing throughout the country.
The Mediterranean climate in early spring is ideal for sitting outside for hours on end. Unlike the summertime, it is cool and refreshing but still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. Madrileños, like the Romans, are social beings. They can be found enjoying each other’s company, not just during the day but late at night, indoors and out, throughout the city. After all, they take siestas in the afternoon and dine very late.
We had trouble finding a reservation at most restaurants before 8:30 p.m. and that was pushing it. Dining that early was simply not done, and restaurants are not usually open at that hour. We went out to dinner one night with my wife’s niece who is studying in Madrid. The restaurant started filling up only at 10:15 or 10:30 p.m., just as we were leaving. Still, with enough time, we thought we could learn to like this lifestyle as long as the siestas remained part of the deal.
We had set aside most of two days for the Museo del Prado, one of the world’s great temples, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which was unknown to us but for the strong recommendations of friends for whom we will be forever grateful.
We would start our day with a walk to a nearby church for Mass, and then saunter over to a coffee shop. We sat outdoors and listened to a local group playing American jazz and popular music.
These guys looked like they just got off work from the loading docks. They were talented and spirited in their performance of the classics, very much enjoying themselves. The ensemble included three alto saxophones, two accordions, violin, guitar, bass and a drummer. They even had their own CDs for sale.
Refreshed, we moved on to the ultimate object of our desire.
The Prado is immense. It is the repository for so much of Western art, such as the two great Spanish artists who are very prominent in its collection, Velázquez and Goya. It is a massive neoclassical structure, the 18th century Palacio de Villanueva, with more than 3,000 paintings on display, less than half of the 7,000-painting collection. Notwithstanding its vastness, the lighting and presentation of its paintings and sculptures are fantastic. You may get lost but find yourself in Paradise wherever you finally come out.
The Prado contains art works by Titian, Tintoretto, El Greco, Zurbarán, and many Dutch painters including Van Dyck and Rembrandt. This list is meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online