All day Friday was spent doing errands – getting a U.S. visa for the nanny, checking out computer prices at El Corte Ingles, pakcking the kids off to go and sleep at my friend T’s house for the weekend and tracking down our suitcase which finally appeared around at around 5:00 p.m. and turning in early.
We woke up early on Saturday to give us some time to explore the Madrid. After a wonderful breakfast at the Ritz, we crossed the street to the Prado museum which we always plan to visit when we;re in Madrid but never had the time to. Luckily, we didn’t have to queue for tickets and went straight into the new entrance right below the church of San Jeronimo el Real . We spent most of the morning walking through the Prado and admiring the works of royal painters Velazquez and Goya. Most of the works are religious-themed and realist that we realized we enjoyed our last visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza more. Unfortunately, the Rembrandt exhibit had already finished and the cloister was closed for renovation work so after a quick look throught the current sculpture exhibition, Among Gods and Men, we left past noon and walked back to the Ritz. On our next Madrid trip, we’ll make an effort to visit the Reina-Sofia.
After our cultural morning, we decided to visit another Madrid insitution, the Chocolateria San Gines. Located behind the church of San Gines on the pedestrian street, Calle Arenal, this is where locals come for their daily dose of churros con chocolate. Open 24 hours, this cafe/bar is usually packed in the wee hours of the morning when clubbers from nearby disco Joy Eslava have their snack before heading home. The young crowd is then followed by Madrilenos having their breakfast until about 10 a.m. Later on, San Gines is filled with non-Spanish churros lovers like ourselves who dare to eat churros out of the traditional breakfast schedule. We arrived to a semi-full cafe, plonked ourselves down on one of the marble-topped tables and hastily ordered a portion of churros with the accompanying cup of thick hot chocolate.
Fortified by our noontime snack, we went to Calle Serrano (near Colon) and made our way down Madrid’s main shopping street cutting through trendy streets like Jorge Juan and Ayala for some serious window-shopping before heading back to the hotel.
After a short rest, we walked towards the Las Letras area of Madrid and tried to find a tapas bar for a quick lunch. There are many right behind the Palace hotel off the plaza Neptuno (Neptune’s fountain) but all of the ones we entered were packed with smokers and eating in a cigarette-fogged atmosphere was out of the question so we walked towards Plaza de los Cortes and stumbled on a small corner tapas bar/restaurant – El Rincon de Cruz Blanca. The place wasn’t packed and there were only a few smokers at the bar having a beer. We settled onto a corner of the long marble-topped bar then asked for a few tapas – boquerones en vinagre and morcilla until we saw the entrecot con patatas (rib-eye steak with fried potatoes) and couldn’t resist sharing one as well. We finished off our meal with cafe solos (espressos). Service was quick and efficient and the food was surprisingly good so the restaurant turned out to be a good find and centrally located.