26 July 2007

the harbinger of things to come...

(Um, more Madrid stuff will come later this week. Sorry I've been so slow about it.)

Way back when I got my first passport ever, a friend of mine looked at the empty pages and said "this is going to get full of stamps..."

Well, I'm on my second passport now. I just got back from the US Embassy because I had to get new pages put into this passport, as I'm running out of un-stamped pages. Just like I had to do with my first passport...

02 July 2007

Madrid - more museums

The Prado report is out there. Here are the other museums we visited while in Madrid:

We went to La Reina Sofia on Saturday the 19th. Our primary reason for visiting was to see the Picasso and Dali exhibits (oh, and I like modern art in general, so I wanted to come here), but there were lots of other interesting things to see, including the works of Miro and Man Ray.

One of the more “memorable” (hah) exhibits was Jesús Rafael Soto’s Penetrable - an interactive piece of art (I don’t think it’s part of the permanent exhibit). It was an 8mX8m curtain of plastic "tentacles" (well, tubing) that you could walk through. Fun stuff. Kind of freaky. Another amusing one was a work of Carmen Calvo that was a canvas with lots of plaster bananas on it.

The Picassos are on the second floor of the museum. We saw Woman in blue of course, one of the most famous paintings in the museum (people were crowding around it as if it were La Gioconda), but we weren’t overly impressed…

Salvador Dali was one really weird character. I saw a lot of his stuff when I was at the Dali Museum in Figueres (near Barcelona) in 2003, and I even bought a book about him. It’s equally fascinating every time though. There is an incredible amount of details in each of his paintings. You have to spend a good amount of time in front of each painting, and you still don’t catch everything the first time.

Oh, and there was this freaky metronome on exhibit. I can’t forget to mention that ;-)

Oh, there are a few cool sculpture exhibits outside of the museum as well…

On our final day in Madrid, a rainy Sunday, we decided to go to some more museums as we had a late-ish flight and time to kill. We were pleasantly surprised to find out admission was free on Sundays... :-)

National Anthropology Museum. This museum is interesting, but very small. It took us less than an hour to go through the whole thing.

National Archaeological Museum.
This is an excellent museum with a lot of interesting, well-presented (aside from not being able to read the information in Spanish) exhibits. We could have spent hours here had we been a little less tired. Unfortunately, I didn’t write many notes about this place :-/

Madrid - Corral de la Moreria

We went to a flamenco show (with dinner) while we were in Madrid - to Corral de la Moreria. Several trusted sources recommended this place for both the dinner and flamenco show, even though they're otherwise the type to not recommend such "touristy" places. So we booked a table for our second evening in Madrid (16th of May). Everything went fine at first... the booking for the evening we wanted went through (we made the reservation via the Website), but we had to confirm our booking the day of the dinner and show. No problem. Or so we thought. There was a moment of slight panic when we got there, as the idiot who supposedly confirmed our reservation managed to write down that we had changed our booking to the following evening. But we still got a good table. I was happy about it, but it was kind of annoying. I wonder how many other times that person taking in the phone calls has fucked up people's bookings.

The locale was rustic and cosy, with lots of tables placed closely together around a stage. It looked to be fully-booked and that wasn't any real surprise; there was article about Corral de la Moreria in the New York Times around that time, and it’s mentioned in some book about the top 100 places you must see before you die (not sure what it’s called, not going to look it up either). Corral de la Moreria attracts a lot of Spain’s and the world’s top flamenco artists as performers, and it attracts a lot of celebrities as guests. If there were any celebs there, we didn’t see/notice them, nor would have we cared. We had a good table and the atmosphere was lively; this was what we were after!

Anyway, we ordered the Menú Degustación (tasting menu). The first thing that came was a shot glass filled with cream. (This was something everyone got, and wasn't on the menu.) Yuck. I can't consume cream on its own (or with strawberries for that matter). I'm sure it would have been good for making ice cream or a sauce or whatever, but a shot glass to drink down? Eeeww...

Next was a glass of sherry. The sherry was dry and OK tasting, but it's not my favorite thing to drink. Sherry to me is stuff you use for cooking, not for drinking on its own. Then we got two rolls each, one white and one wholegrain. This was kind of interesting, as it seems like wholegrain bread is non-existent in Spain. But who were we to complain? And right after we got our rolls, our first starter arrived - a plate of cured hams and sausages. One of the hams was made from pigs that have been fed a diet of acorns. Spain is known for its cured meats and sausages, and we weren't disappointed here!

The next starter was a vegetable-cream cheese concoction served with some shrimp. It was OK, but not the most exciting thing in the world. Nothing worth writing any more about.

The main course was roast lamb. Now after what we had gotten so far - two small portion starters - we were expecting some slices of lamb with potatoes and sauce or something along those lines. Oh, no. What we got was a whole big chunk of lamb. Dang! It was very tender and flavorful and FATTY. Mmmm... That really stuffed us, and we still had dessert to come! At least we had a good pause before they served dessert and coffee. Ooof ;-)

The wine served with the second starter and the main course was Montecillo Reserva 2001 (Rioja). Color - didn't get this. It was too dark to figure it out. Nose - spices and earth (barnyard), perfumey. Palate - Powerful, medium-bodied, slightly acidic with soft tannins, flavor of cherries. Definitely a wine for serving with lamb, but we agreed that it would also go nicely with cod or wolf fish (or other really "meaty" fish) that is served with a rich sauce. It was a nice wine, but only worthy of a :-) in our database…

Dessert was served just as the flamenco show was about to begin.

We each had a "sampler" plate of different Spanish desserts - rice pudding served in a cinnamon cookie mini-"bowl," some kind of caramel pudding (flan, I guess), and vanilla ice cream, also served in a little cookie bowl. They were each very nice. Dessert was served with a glass of Pedro Ximénez. It was kind of weird; it was black and tasted sort of like licorice and raisins. We also had coffee with our dessert. We needed that coffee after such a big meal. Otherwise we would have slept through the whole flamenco show, despite how loud it was ;-)

The flamenco show itself was quite interesting, energetic, and at some moments rather exciting.

In the first part of the show, only women were actually dancing, but there were both men and women sitting around in a ring, singing and clapping. One guy was playing a guitar. The dancing involves lots of movement, clapping, stomping, and intense facial expressions. During the second part of the show, more singing and guitar playing and clapping and stomping, and both men and women were dancing.

One of the men was stomping like mad at one point... he was pretty much stomping in place, like a kind of running in place but more stompy, at über-top speed. Very impressive. Very intense. Very captivating. (Hah, and on our way out, by the separate entrance for the artists and staff, we saw him outside. Smoking.)

Since I’m no expert on flamenco, and can't give a proper critique of the show (other than I really enjoyed it) or any information about flamenco itself, I’ll give you the following flamenco-related links:

Flamenco World
Foro Flamenco
Wikipedia’s flamenco page