Art and Cookies in Madrid

Monday, 30-03-2015. Day 222.

all because of a man named Alfonso.

The big event of the day was to find the cookies baked by nuns that we'd learned about on our walking tour of Madrid the day before. And find them we did, but that's a story for another time. It was an ordeal though, and by the time we were done we'd worked up a powerful hunger. Fortunately for us, we ambled by Sabrino de Botín just after they opened for the afternoon. We didn't have a reservation or anything, but we thought we'd give it a go anyway. Lucky for us, the place was sort of empty and we were seated straight away.

Botin Menu.

Botin Menu.

It was one of our more expensive meals and the food was just okay, but now we can say we've eaten at the oldest restaurant in the world. By the time we left, the place was packed, and that seems to be the secret of eating in Spain. If you want to get into a place, be sure to arrive when they open.

From there, we headed over to the Prado Museum to take in some art. Plus we had to walk off a little of that heavy meal.

At the Prado Museum

There was no photography allowed in the museum, so you'll have to settle for a mostly verbal description of what we saw. We could take pictures on the outside though, where there was a statue of the museum's most famous, Francisco Goya. He looked like Martin Van Buren.

Goya or Van Buren?

Goya or Van Buren?

Inside we saw a lot (like really a lot) of portraits of the Hapsburg Royalty we'd learned about the day before. There were also seemingly endless pictures with Jesus on the cross and baby Jesus and his mother Mary. There were also many sculptures of Roman emperors, including Hadrian, one of my favorites (he was one of the five good emperors, after all). I surprised my family by recognizing his bust from a distance—it's the small victories in life I crave.

There was also a lot of Hieronymus Bosch on display here. I was surprised to see so many paintings from a Dutchman in a Spanish museum, but it seems Felipe II was quite a fan and worked hard to buy up as many works by Bosch as he could. And one of those he managed to acquire was the famous Garden of Earthy Delights.

Garden of Earthly Delights


I had no idea that Bosch's I remember studying this painting in college, and it was a pretty cool thing to see in person. It's a big painting and even crazier up close than it is when viewed in a textbook.


The Mona Lisa?

Also, we were really surprised to turn the corner and see the Mona Lisa hanging on the wall. Of course it's not the real deal—that one hangs famously in the Louve in Paris. We'll report back on that when we get to France.

But this one is notable because it's thought that it was painted alongside the real Mona Lisa by one of Da Vinci's students. I can't speak to the veracity of that, but it did look a little bigger than the real one.

From there we wandered the length of the museum to take in some of Goya's work—it was the least we could do after eating at the restaurant he used to wash dishes at—before we headed back to Plaza Mayor and hooked up with our guides for the evening's tapas tour.

Tapas Tour

Even though it was billed as a tapas tour, it was more like a drinking tour. The two events are closely aligned in Spanish culture.

Tapas was allegedly invented in southern Spain when the king went to have a drink at a restaurant. There was a heavy wind and so his waiter, a gent named Alfonso, served the king's  drink with a plate of food over the top to keep sand from polluting the king's refreshment. When the king asked him what was up with this plate of food on top of his drink, Alfonso replied, "Oh, that? That's a tapas, a little thing we do down here." (perhaps I embellished a bit there). Anyway, tapas is from the Spanish verb tapar, which means "to cover."

At our first stop we had white wine with Sprite, which was quite refreshing and surprisingly good—the white wine analog to the more notorious red wine and Coke. At the second stop we drank red wine out of a wineskin (bota), and at the third stop we drank a cider that didn't have any carbonation. So to get some fizziness in the drink it had to be poured from a great height and consumed quickly.

Fizzying up the cider.

Fizzying up the cider.

After trying this out, I will say it would be easier just to add the carbonation during the brewing process.

After we were finished with the tour (actually, it was finished with us first; we stayed behind after everyone else left), we walked back to the hotel. In the morning we had to get our first rental car in more than six months.

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Art and Cookies in Madrid
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