Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 1 Madrid: Exploring Madrid, Museum Reina Sofia, Tapas Bar Hopping and Chueca Nightlife

After a couple of long flights from LAX with a connection in New York, I arrived in Madrid on Thursday morning at 9:45am and somehow managed to stay out until 3-4am (none of us actually remember what time we got back to the hotel).  We stayed at the Hotel Paseo Del Arte right by the Atocha train station. It turned out to be the perfect location, as it was right next to the train station, basically across the street from the Reina Sofia Museum, a few blocks from the Prado and Parc Buen Retiro, and right on the #1 metro line, which took us directly to Sol, Malasana and Chueca, where we spent most of our time.  It was a big, clean hotel, the beds were really comfortable, and at USD$150 for three people, pretty reasonable.  Like lots of European cities, Madrid is really easy to get around; it's very walkable and convenient by metro, train, taxi and bus.  I took the new Aeropuerto Expres bus from the airport to Atocha for only 2 euros. Beat that LA! 

We basically walked around a lot, did some shopping along Gran Via and Fuencarral, visited the Reina Sofia Museum (for free, between 7-9pm), went tapas bar hopping in La Latina along Cava Baja and then to a couple of bars / clubs in Chueca for some serious drinking and dancing.  One of the most noticeable difference between this visit and my last visit to Spain four years ago was the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. A really great change, for me at least.
Breakfast: bocadillo mixto (sandwich with ham and cheese) and some chorizo (and not pictured, a cerveza)
Plaza Mayor
Catedral across from the Palacio Real
Palacio Real
Reina Sofia Museum: I like contemporary art more than the older stuff. The museum itself wasn't particularly attractive, but I liked the art. It's free from 7-9pm, which is just about the right amount of time for me in a museum.  I'm not one of those people who can spend all day in one museum, but I do enjoy them for a couple of hours at a time.
Photo from the web: the most famous piece in the Reina Sofia: Pablo Picasso's Guernica.  It's really evocative in real life, the painting is humongous.  What's also really cool is that they have practically a whole room dedicated to sketches made in preparation of the larger work.
Tximiri on Humilladero, 6 in the La Latina district. Bigger sized portions than most of the other places.  We also learned our first tapas hopping lesson: no more than one glass of wine / beer per place
Champis (Mushrooms) stuffed with foie and caramelized onions
Hamburguesa Unai, one of the signature dishes made with beef cheeks
Tapas from Txacoli from top clockwise: Polpo (octopus), pimiento relleno topped with anguilla (stuffed red pepper with baby eels) and morcilla (blood sausage) wrapped with potatoes (?) and topped with a fried egg
I believe this was at Txacolina
Tempranillo Bar, last tapas stop for the night
From rear to front: rabbit, anchovies and cheese, and eggplant (I think)
Husa Paseo Del Arte
Atocha, 123

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