By Linda Rodriguez Guglielmoni *
Winter in Spain in Mainly plane (cool)
I’m in Madrid during the winter for the first time and it’s a much livelier place than I remember. There are so many new cool little restaurants and bars and everyone is very friendly. Madrid’s famous department store El Corte Ingles has an entire wall with lights that flash and play tunes. I really think that Spain is more fun to visit in winter than in summer. I’d only been here during the summer and always found it to be way too hot!
My first stop was at the Prado Museum, it’s neo-classical building has a new wing and modern snack bar that reminds me of the coffee shop at the MOMA in New York. It was truly amazing to see so many Picassos and Goyas up close. My absolute favorite is the Maja Desnuda. Then I visited the old post office building at the Plaza de las Cibeles. It has been converted into a museum with a lookout tower.
Next I went to the Palacio Real de Madrid (the King’s ceremonial palace). It was like visiting the Sixteen Chapel. I took a guided tour and since it was a weekday there were only five people on our tour, so the guide was able to take us into sections of the palace that big groups don’t get to see; like the King’s private painting collection (he has a Caravaggio and a Goya). The King’s collection also includes a complete Stradivarius set of string instruments (perfect for quintets).
I then went to the Textile Museum an entire museum dedicated to clothes! The Textile Museum has a beautiful store where I bought the most beautiful purple and black silk scarf by Spanish designer Kanjimania (inspired by Japanese ideograms). The lady at the museum store recommended the Museo Romantico; dedicated to art from the Romantic era.
Later I went to a store specializing in Flamenco clothes located on a wonderfully named street: Calle de la Tahona de las Delcalzas, where I found a hot red shawl to wear over the black dress I picked for New Year’s Eve. Locals celebrate the new year under the Tio Pepe sign at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. I plan to bring my own bottle of Spanish Cava and twelve grapes (just like the locals do). When the clock strikes twelve we will all pop corks at the same time and eat the twelve grapes washed down with Spanish bubbly. Yes, Madrid is way more exciting than I remembered!
I had dinner tonight at Restaurante Sobrino de Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world and a Hemingway favorite. Their specialty is cochinillo (suckling pig) cooked whole in a brick wood oven. I sat next to the door that leads to their wine cellar while enjoying a fine bottle or Rioja wine. The servers were very attentive and the cochinillo was perfectly cooked and had absolutely no fat since they are all slow cooked for two hours. The waiter told me they had cooked 45 piglets that night and that on Saturday nights they usually cook 50! They’ve been doing this since 1725! And the dessert was amazing too; Torta Botin, a sort of tres leches with egg whites cooked to fluffy perfection. No wonder Hemingway loved this locale just off Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.
I’m really enjoying the winter atmosphere in Madrid, people are so social here. Everyone was out in the streets tonight with funny hats and wigs! And El Corte Ingles had people out in the street dressed as Mini Mouse and Mickey Mouse giving out toys to children. Madrid is so cool this winter that it’s making me feel like a kid in Disneyland. Only that there is nothing plastic about Spain, Ole!
Linda Rodriguez Guglielmoni is a poet and world traveler. Read more about Linda.