Today we were putting our wine obsession aside (for a few hours at least) and setting out to explore some of Madrid’s cultural offers. The 4 of us have exceedingly different views on art and since I had visited the Prado the last time Maeve and Ruairidh kindly conceded to go to the Reina Sofia – a more modern offering than the traditional Prado. First however, breakfast! Due to our indulgent eating I was feeling absolutely great and so we headed off on the metro to meet Maeve and Ruairidh and check out Pum Pum Café which came highly recommended and for very good reason. We had to wait in the sun for a few minutes until a table became available but we watched a very pretty dog which we had the good fortune of being sat right next to when a table came available. I went for the eggs benedict and avocado toast which was the most exquisite combination washed down by a strawberry smoothie which I had to wait quite a while for but was definitely worth it in the end. The others all praised the coffee too so definitely worth checking out for a cool brunch spot near to the famous gallery triangle.
Feeling satisfied we made our way along the pretty streets to the impressive entrance of the Reina Sofia. You can get free entry to the gallery if you are a student or young person so it is worth seeing if you can fit into any of their exceptions prior to visiting. The first thing to point out is that the gallery itself if absolutely beautiful. Even for those not particularly interested in art it would be a joy wandering through the arches of the building and enjoying the views of Madrid from the terrace. But it was the art that we were here to see and so after purchasing our tickets we took the lift up to the second floor and began to explore. There was a really interesting painting by Angeles Santos entitled a World which made you really think about the layers of civilisation completely juxtaposed by some beautiful Dali works such as Girl From the Back. Girl at a Window has to be one of my favourite of his pieces, just so calming and serene. In between the paintings there were some great sculptures including a gorgeous one of a polar bear which I got into trouble by one of the guards for photographing. It is pretty difficult to follow the rules in the Reina Sofia when it comes to photography so I went with the attitude that unless they told me otherwise it would be fine. In total oxymoronic fashion my other favourite Dali painting was Systemic Cycle, the Lobster which was just fascinating. It is so interesting to view two pieces of work by the same artist side by side which are so hugely different in style. Another slightly more wacky Dali is the Face of the Great Masturbator which I also absolutely loved and could quite honestly have stared for hours at. Even with art that I absolutely love, I get to a point whereby I care less and less about the paintings I see and it is at this point that I usually take my leave. Fortunately, the gallery had a lovely ground floor café where we took the opportunity to have a light refreshment before hitting up the gift shop (the highlight of any art gallery for me really).
Just across from the Reina Sofia is Copas Rotas, another delightful 1 Euro bar which was decidedly nicer than our previous 1 Euro haunt next to Sol. We enjoyed some Cava and a selection of 1 Euro tapas, well why not, and while none of it was mind-blowing for I Euro it was pretty great and definitely filled a gap for us. It was a tough call to finally leave the 1 Euro cava behind but the sun was shining and after spending the morning inside and then lunch also inside it was definitely time to get out and explore the city in the sunshine. Given our location and need for vitamin D it made sense to make our way over to El Retiro Park whereby the activity of choice is rowing a boat on the gorgeous lake. The walk through the park was lovely and made for excellent people watching given that everyone was out making the most of the sunshine. One of the must-do activities is hiring a rowing boat and so we put our rowing action to the test by hiring 2 boats between the 4 of us. Ruairidh hands down wins the best rower award but Maeve and I took a more leisurely view to the activity and took it in turns to make our way around the lake making sure to stop and soak up the sun every few minutes. We were on holiday after all. The rowing was so much fun and I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fun afternoon activity in the city. As the afternoon wore on and the sun began to fade for the day we made our way back through the park, making some short stops at the Palacio de Velazquez for a toilet stop and the Palacio de Cristal where there were some very cute turtles in the lake and an interesting exhibition with ships and old televisions and tape players in the glass pavilion next to it. After our busy afternoon of exertion we made our way back to the hotel to enjoy a couple of chilled hours before our evening on the ‘town’ in Moncloa. I also managed a visit to the bakery next to the hotel called Los Alpes for an empanada to enjoy as a nice snack, well-earned after the afternoon activities
Given the swimming pool disaster we were determined to ensure that we got our money’s worth from our hotel and as such made plans to all meet up again at sunset on the rooftop terrace for ‘the best sunset views in Madrid’. I have to say given our previous experience with the hotel’s facilities descriptions my expectations weren’t high but I was pleasantly surprised by the set-up. The rooftop bar was made up of a collection of white chairs and tables and after ordering a very tasty but overpriced red wine we were witness to one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen outside of Africa. The pink, red and orange tinges danced across the sky in beauty and it made for a lovely start to our night. Given that none of us knew much about Moncloa we decided to head out to explore and after less than 5 minutes’ walk found an interesting looking bar where you could pick the tapas your drink came with. I wanted to try something different and so opted for the Gulas (a sort of grey worm type looking pressed fish) which was despite the look very tasty. The bar was really interesting inside and had a lot of famous landmarks graphitised on the wall which gave it a cool edge, although the main entrance was very traditional and quite different in comparison. After some more wine we headed off again to find a dinner venue.
Maeve and I had done some research on the area in preparation for our night and after a 10 minute wander finding nothing decided to rely on our trusty research to recommend Bar Casa Paco. The bar apparently specialised is tortilla – Spanish Omelette and so we headed over to check it out. Firstly, this place was absolutely packed and we were really lucky that a table became available just as we arrived, the gods were clearly set on us having tortilla. We ordered some wine to share which came with some lovely huge meaty olives before opting for the morcilla, bulls tail and caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tortilla with a side or bbq pork flavoured croquettes. Disclaimer: this tortilla will change your life. I have had a lot of tortilla’s in my time but none have ever matched the fine levels of these masterpieces. Every single one of them were delicious and also really filling. The croquettes, albeit a bit strange, I also enjoyed although they were not to everyone in the party’s taste. Of all the meal’s we had in Madrid this was the definite highlight and I cannot recommend Bar Casa Paco enough to anyone visiting the city.
Feeling full we were ready for some more drinks and so headed back to the happening (if a bit sketchy) Lizzaran Moncloa next door to our hotel for an after dinner beverage. The wine was not great which was disappointing as it is difficult to find bad wine in Spain generally and so after one we headed back to the Mercado de Moncloa underneath the hotel for a cava nightcap. This was a pretty perfect end to our night and while the cava was maybe slightly pricier than anywhere else around it was delicious and very handy for us going to bed and for Ruairidh and Maeve getting the metro home. Bliss.