Pictures at the Prado
Our entry into Madrid has an unexpected prelude. After a good breakfast in San Sebastian, my wife Deborah and I meet an elderly Swedish couple in the hotel lifts. At the train station, we run into the same couple. It turns out her husband had not only been to Perth, but had once visited Margaret River. As we part — they’re waiting for a different train — the woman yells, “You must visit Sweden!”
The train takes around four hours. We travel through some spectacular scenery: mountains, villages with decaying churches, vast expanses of green. As we approach Madrid, the countryside gets flatter and drier.
Our taxi drops us at Atocha. Our hotel, the Catalonia Pureta del Sol, is central and comfortable, with ancient staircases guarded by lions.
After refreshing ourselves, we catch up with a friend who works in a nearby bookshop before having dinner at a vegetarian restaurant. It’s a lovely evening, but we retire early for the main course the next day: the long-awaited visit to the Museo del Prado, one of the world’s great art galleries.
It doesn’t disappoint.
The astonishing colours of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation. Goya’s “Black” paintings — that symphony of muted tones in one of his most disturbing paintings, The Dog! The cat with the mouse in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch — or El Bosco, as the Spanish call him. Another dog, painted with such sympathy and affection, in Las Meninas by Velasquez.
El Greco, Titian, Claude, Poussin, Caravaggio, Ribera. Rogier’s hypnotic Descent from the Cross. Breughel’s The Triumph of Death. Bocaccio’s Scenes from The Decameron... what a visual feast!
In the gift shop, we buy some fans before heading to a restaurant for al fresco paella. We feed the birds to the strums of a flamenco guitarist. The music creates a not unpleasant counterpoint to the distant tinkling of a piano from an open window across the street...
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