Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Thyssen & Reina Sofia Museums: The Golden Triangle

A small area in the heart of Madrid, called the “Golden Triangle of Art,” holds some of the world’s greatest art treasures. When the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum opened in 1992, Madrid added the second point to its 'Golden Triangle', which also includes the Prado and the Reina Sofía National Museum, with the private collection of the late Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, widely considered the most important in the world. With over 1,600 paintings the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection. The Baron's decision to sell his collection was doubtlessly influenced both by his wife, Carmen 'Tita' Cervera, a former Miss Spain, and by the offer to house the collection in the then-empty Palacio de Villahermosa, an early 19th-century ducal palace that was superbly reconverted by architect Rafael Moneo at fantastic cost. One of the focal points is the early European painting, with a major collection of the 14th and 15th centuries Italian paintings by Duccio, and his contemporaries, and works of the early Flemish and Dutch painters like Jan Van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, and Hans Holbein. Other highlights include works by the most famous Renaissance and Baroque painters, including Titian, Sebastiano del Piombo, Caravaggio, Rubens, Van Dyck, Murillo and Rembrandt. Also important for the Museum's collection are Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by artists such as Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as twentieth century masterpieces, such as Cubist work by Picasso or late works by Piet Mondrian and Edward Hopper.

The late Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza with his vast art collection, widely considered the most important in the world, comprises Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

'Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni' by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1489 - 1490

'Self-portrait wearing a Hat and two Chains' by Rembrandt, 1642

'Hotel Room' by Edward Hopper, 1967

Portrait of Henry VIII of England, by Hans Holbein the younger, 1537

Opening its doors to the public in 1992, The Reina Sofía Museum contains a collection dedicated to 20th century and contemporary art, including the world-famous Guernica painted by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The large majority of the works exhibited are the creations of Spanish artists, including some of the most famous names of the past century: Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró, as well as artwork by other famous international artists such as Diego Rivera, but also cinema and photography. 

The stunning interior courtyard of the Reina Sofia Museum modern wing

Oiseau lunaire (Moonbird), by Joan Miro from 1946 located in the Sabatini Garden of the Reina Sofia

Calder mobile featuring the colours of the Spanish flag

Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi was specifically created for the Museo Reina Sofía by Richard Serra, and consists of 4 solid blocks of steel

'Christ of Blood' by Ignacio Zuloagua, Madrid 1945

'Garrotte' by Ramon Casas, Barcelona 1894

'Portrait of Madame Jeanette Gris' by Juan Gris, Madrid 1916

'Los Nacionales' by Juan Antonio Morales, 1937

'Picture' detail by Manuel Millares, Madrid 1957

'Guernica' by Picasso, completed in 1937

Numerous black and white films were playing on screens throughout the Museum such as 'La Guerre e Finie' by Alain Resnals, 1966

Lavapiés bohemian district of Barcelona

The oldest cinema in Madrid built in 1923

Basque beer at Restaurante Achuri, and old Anarchist's bar in the Lavapiés area of Madrid

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid: Tapas & Treats

Stunning architecture and delicious food come together in one gorgeous space. One of Madrid’s oldest and most beautiful markets, the historic wrought-iron-and-glass Mercado de San Miguel, just off Plaza Mayor, is considered among the finest examples of iron and glass architecture in the Spanish capital, along with the spectacular Crystal Palace in El Retiro Park. One of the liveliest culinary spots in the city since it reopened in 2009 after a nearly six-year major restoration, the market has become a gastronomic temple with a vibrant, high-quality food culture. From wonderful wine and fabulous tapas bars to colourful stalls selling all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood, long opening hours along with special events make this stylish market one of the most unique gastronomic, cultural, and entertainment experiences in Madrid. No visit would be complete without a sampling of the markets celebrated tapas stalls, such as El Señor Martin for Calamaris Fritos, fresh burrata, ricotta and fior di latte crostini at Mozheart, ajoarriero, brandade, Galician style octopus, smoked salmon and cod foie gras at La Casa del Bacalao, a handful of crisp croquetas as well as a glass or two of wine at any one of the fine wine or sherry shops. The real challenge however is finding a vacant stool to sit and enjoy the veritable smorgasbord of Spanish delicacies.

The exquisitely restored Mercado de San Miguel

Calamares fritos at El Señor Martin

Chorizos, chicharrones and salchichones

Norwegian Smoked Salmon, Santoña anchovies and housemade cod brandade tapas from La Casa del Bacalao in Mercado San Miguel

Jamón ibérico and salchichones

Sliced to order Jamón ibérico

Croquetas de jamón and seafood, comes from the verb “croquer” (to crunch), and often made with fillings that usually include any leftovers like ham, chicken, mushrooms or shrimp, mixed with bechamel sauce and deep fried in olive oil — absolute heaven

Monday, April 23, 2018

Prado Museum: The Crown Jewel of Spanish Art

Madrid is paradise for museum lovers, with some of the best museums in the world, including the world-famous Museo Del Prado, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, which are all located by one of the main boulevards of Madrid: The Paseo del Prado, the oldest urban garden in Madrid, earning the area the name of “The Golden Triangle of Art.” The Prado however is the crown jewel with the most comprehensive collection of Spanish art in the world. Its walls are lined with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, including Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Founded in 1819 thanks to the determination of Queen Isabella of Braganza, the 18th-century Neo-Classical building that was initially designed to house the Natural History Museum, finally accommodated an important part of the royal collections. Years of private donations and acquisitions enlarged the museum's collection which now comprises one of the world's finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and the single best collection of Spanish art.

Having made prior arrangements for a private tour of the Prado with an expert art historian, we were given an excellent opportunity to appreciate the history of Spain through the works of Velasquez — the most important Spanish painter of the 17th-century — and Goya — the most talented Spanish artist of his time. Both artists had much in common, especially a rebellious spirit against the institutions of their époques and innovative techniques that were later applied by numerous great painters. Enjoying a fascinating 2-hour private tour of these two extraordinary painters who broke the rules of style and paved the way to modern expression, our guide focused on the artistic and political prominence with which they endowed their masterpieces. A unique and unforgettable Prado experience, we then continued on a private tour of Old Madrid, that of the Hapsburgs, with its narrow streets and fascinating history.

Sculpture of Velasquez outside the Prado 

The vast interior with the most comprehensive collection of Spanish art in the world

Las Meninas by Velasquez

Goya's 3rd of May

Juana the Mad Holding Vigil over the Coffin of Her Late Husband, Philip the Handsome, by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, 1877

Central panel of Jheronimus Bosch 'Garden of Earthly Delights', c 1500

The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest by El Geco, 1580

A grand arcaded square, Madrid's Plaza Mayor was first built in 1580 during Philip III's reign and was the town's most popular market towards the end of the 15th century

Bronze statue of King Philip III at the centre of the square, 
created in 1616 by Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca

A rare but expansive opening in the tightly packed streets of central Madrid, this square is a winning combination of imposing architecture and vibrant street life coursing across its cobblestones

 Lined with charming Baroque architecture, stylish boutiques, Plaza Mayor is a marvellous but pricey place to relax, enjoy some good Spanish wine, sample some tapas and watch life go by

Fresh Tomato and Lettuce Salad with a cold Spanish beer on a hot sunny day 
at Café Zarra on Plaza Mayor

Manchego and Jamón

Chorizo with Patatas Bravas 

Friday, April 20, 2018

El Paraguas: Refined Asturian Cuisine in Madrid

Nestled in the heart of Madrid's elegant Salamanca district, El Paraguas is a cozy and sophisticated restaurant well known for its high-quality Asturian cuisine popular with old-guard Madrileños. Opened in 2004 by Sandro Silva and Marta Seco, with the aim of providing a new vision of Asturian gastronomy, which hails from northern Spain, El Parraguas in known for their rich stews, fabulous fresh seafood, and signature dishes by chef Silva including grilled sea urchin in its own shell, oxtail meatballs and stuffed colmenilla mushrooms with foie gras. Dark-tone lampshades, stained glass panels, and plush seats give the ground level dining room a warm European elegance, while copper pots add a whimsical country kitchen feel. Of the more than 100 wines available, most are tintos or reds from Rioja vineyards such as Valenciso and Ramon Bilbao. A delightfully elegant spot for lunch or dinner, El Paraguas has shaded outdoor tables in the summer, and number of small private dining rooms on the upper floor, perfect for enjoying a long leisurely Madrileño lunch.  

Marta Seco and chef Sandro Silva

Specializing in fabulous fish and seafood, the menu at El Paraguas is a pescatorian's dream

A bowl of warm lightly salted fried onions arrive as diners are seated

Spanish sparkling Cava to begin our lovely lunch

Seasonal Greens and Ham Hock Soup amuse-bouche

 Langostinos Rellenos de Espinacas: Spinach Filled Prawns

Zamburiñas Gratinadas: Scallops Gratin

Colmenillas Rellenas de Foie Gras: Morelles filled with Foie Gras

 San Pedro a la Ribereña: John Dory with Ribereña sauce

Merluza a la Sidra con Compota de Manzana: Hake with Apple Compote Cider

Cochinillo Confitado: Pork Confit

Tarta fina de manzana con helado de chocolate blanco: Apple Galette with white chocolate ice cream

Almond Tuiles