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Madrid

- by Don Harris

Madrid is a lighthearted city with an appealing climate, located in the approximate geographic center of the country. In terms of the long history of Spain, Madrid is a young city – about the age of Boston – created as the central seat of government when Philip II thought nearby Toledo was too ancient and crowded. Of course, being the location of the royal court, Madrid became the center of many cosmopolitan activities.

It goes without saying that Madrid’s museum offerings are extraordinary. The welcoming Prado has El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez, as well the works of Flemish masters, including Rogier Van der Weiden’s arresting Descent from the Cross. The collection of the neighboring private Thiessen Museum is comprehensive. A short walk away, the Reina Sophia museum has with a vast collection of modern art including Picasso’s Guernica. Two of the lesser museums which we enjoy revisiting are the Archeological Museum, with its precious Visigoth crowns, and Museo de América which has Mayan, Inca, and pre-Colombian art, including some amazing artifacts of pure gold.

Madrid is a melting pot for all of the gastronomies of Spain, creating a madrileño type of cooking that incorporates the best of the regions. The tapas scene is well developed in the city, serving the locals as well as visitors from around the world. We remember fondly our tapa-hopping nights in Madrid, especially the skewers of spicy pinchitos; creamy croquetas of bacalao (cod) and jamón ; and sizzling gambas al ajillo, little shrimp cooked in olive oil and garlic.

For breakfast we enjoy café con leche served with a flourish from shiny espresso machines. The bartender often lines up about a dozen little cups with an envelope of sugar in each saucer so that he can serve with efficiency. You see, coffee in Spain is not just a matter of pouring from a pot, it is a ritual: the barista first disposes of the old grounds by rapping the individual container against the espresso maker; next he grinds the new coffee; then there is the steaming and frothing of the milk. Finally the café con leche is served. A toasted baguette and some mermalada is a frequent accompaniment. Or it may be time for a special treat of crunchy churros – dipped in very thick chocolate.

Madrid's ambiance and variety of cultural opportunities makes the area an appealing place to visit.

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COMMENTS

"I love to read all your stories about Spain. They are well explained. You practically think you are watching a movie instead of reading about it. Keep it up. They bring a lot of joy. You forgot tho De madrid al cielo y un agujerito pa seguirlo viendo..........Which translate. From Madrid to Heavens, and a little peephole to keep it in sight. Very important for the madrileños.
Thanks,
Pacita"
Pacita, Palm Harbor

"Dear Pacita, thank you very much for your note and I am glad to hear how you like the way I write. I think you're right that dictatorial writing helps a person really get deeply involved in the subject. And that's exactly what I want people to do when they read about Spain and its remarkable family culture. Maybe we'll get a chance to meet one day, should you ever pass through Williamsburg, Virginia. Abrazos, Don" - Don Harris

"Mi sugerencia seria que las recetas que alguna vez las ponen (como chorizo a la sidra) tambien la hagan en español, habra personas hispanas (soy española) que como yo no entendemos el ingles, y me gustaria si tienen sidra y si se puede mandar a OK."
Pilar Kemmitzer, Collinsville, OK

"Querida Pilar, Muchisimas gracias por su correo. Tenemos sidra fresca from Asturias!!! El Gaitero sin alcohol y Trabanco, la cual es sidra tradiccional y la que creo estas recordando. Aqui tienes el enlace: http://search.tienda.com/search.html?keywordsearch=sidra Entiendo su frustracion al no poder entender las recetas pero a pesar de que nos encantaria hacerlo, no tenemos la abilidad de traduccir todo al Español. Podrias usar http://translate.google.com/ o llamarnos si tiene alguna duda. Atentamente." - Don Harris

"Madrid is so unique and you capture the flavor and taste that make it so special. Sitting at a cafe in the Plaza Mayor, all the museums, shops and tapas bars within walking distance, makes it our favorite European city. You capture it perfectly."
Richard Friday, Ft. Myers, FL

"I think it is the opportunity to mingle with Spaniards which makes it an especially memorable place to be." - Don Harris

"I love getting your e-mails, I used to live near Madrid when I was young. My dad was in the Air Force and we were at Torrejon Air Force Base. I have very fond memories of our 3 years there. I have ordered some things and have been very pleased. Also gave my brothers and sister some things and they loved how the good memories came back! Thanks!"
Deb, USA

"Hi Deb, I am delighted that we have been able to bring you some memories of Spain. Have you bee back there often? You should. The culture is the same -- whether or not the buildings are new and shiny." - Don Harris

"Thanks for your many great articles about Spain. Madrid was the subject of a Rick Steves show tonight on our PBS station, and it (and your article) brought back many happy memories of enjoying tapas in Madrid. Congratulations on your receiving the Cross of the Order of the Civil Merit from the Kingdom of Spain! It is well-deserved, as you have helped create legions of fans (like us) for Spain."
Lyle, Boston, MA

"Thanks a lot for your message. I see it comes from Boston, which is where I was raised. Thank you for your encouragement, I am glad to hear you like my writing." - Don Harris