Food, wine and art. And more food. Plus a recipe for a chocolate treat.
Madrid. The area has been inhabited since the Stone Age but the documented history of the city only goes back to the 9th century. Originally a small citadel built to protect the northern approach to Toledo, Madrid became the capital of Spain in 1561. Today, it’s a thriving metropolis of over six million people.
But enough history, let’s get to the food.
Tapas and Wine
We went to Madrid for the tapas and the Spanish red wine. Tapas are small servings of food that can be either a snack or combined to make a meal. Since each tapas is a small serving, you can order several different things during a meal. The small size also makes tapas perfect for sharing, which makes any meal more fun.
We took three separate tapas tours, each one different, where our hosts led us to four different bars.
The Prado and The Thyssen: World-Famous Art
Of course, you can’t eat all the time. We made good use of our “non-tapas” time to visit two of Madrid’s world-famous art museums: The Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The Prado, Spain’s main national art museum, is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world. Its collection is based on the former Spanish Royal Collection and is considered the single best collection of Spanish art. The collection includes works by Goya, El Greco, Vélazquez, Titian, Rubens and Raphael.
We recommend a small-group tour
We took a small-group tour of the Prado. Considering that the tour was moderately priced, it was a superb value. Although I have some knowledge of the works in the Prado’s collection, our guide was an expert. Over 1 1/2 hour, he showed us about 20 carefully-selected works, explaining why each work was important and how they fit into the history of art.
Today, the internet has made it so easy to see any image that I find I forget how powerful a work of art can be when seen in person. The paintings of El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) are a case in point. I was familiar with the name and had seen a couple of his paintings in textbooks, but it was only when I saw the paintings in person at the Prado that I understood why he is a master. The paintings are large (The Holy Trinity (1577–1579), above, is 9.8 ft (300 cm) tall and 5.87 ft (179 cm) wide) and luminous. It seems as if all the light is coming from inside the paintings. There were ten of his paintings, similar to the one above, in one room. I am now a fan of El Greco.
The next day we visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Thyssen’s collection of works from the 15th–20th century of Western painting fills in many of the gaps of the Prado’s collection. Therefore, it’s really fun to visit both museums. (You can see a full list of the collection here). Midway through the collection, we took a break for lunch at The Thyssen’s restaurant. The lunch was good but nowhere near as noteworthy as the Prado’s.
The artwork in the Thyssen was once part of the second-largest private collection in Europe (the British Royal Collection being the first). Long story short, Baron Thyssen moved his collection to Madrid after the Lugano City Council (Switzerland) in 1988 rejected his request to enlarge his museum there. The museum officially opened in 1992.
Our AirBnB was in a great location, just south of Puerta del Sol, the heart of Madrid. To the west is the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and to the east are the Prado and Thyssen, all three within easy walking distance. We spent a lot of time strolling around, enjoying the sun and warmth. And we were building our appetites for tapas!
And finally, chocolate
We’ll end with chocolate. What better way is there?
Some time ago, Rosemary developed her own recipe for drinking chocolate. Her recipe is a mélange of several recipes she found online and then tweaked to our taste. Compared to the Madrid chocolate, her version is thicker and not as sweet. It’s sinfully delicious and one serving will certainly quench your chocolate craving.
Drinking Chocolate à la Rosemary
makes approx. 4 ⅓-cup servings
- 4 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
- 4 oz. whole milk
- 4 oz. cream
- (or replace whole milk & cream with 8 oz. half-and-half)
- pinch of salt
- few drops of vanilla
- add sugar to taste
Heat milk & cream (or half-and-half) to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add chocolate. Stir constantly on low heat until chocolate is melted. Add remaining ingredients to taste, stir thoroughly and serve.
If you like your chocolate very thick, cook the cream and chocolate mixture over very low heat, stirring almost constantly, for about 10 minutes. Then add salt, vanilla, sugar, stir thoroughly and serve. Enjoy!