November 11, 2010
This is my last full day in Spain. Ashley is staying two more days to present her speech at the conference she is attending. We decide to go back into Madrid to do a little more sightseeing.
Our first stop is the Prado Museum, one of the largest museums in the world. It is a short walk from the train station and we get there about mid-morning. The museum is stunning, but we do a Rick Steves "get all the basics in two hours" tour. Ashley reads about the paintings as we sprint from room to room. Afterwards, we are hungry and head down to the Museum cafeteria, recommended by Rick Steves. There are lots of selections, but I immediately spot what I have been wanting for the whole trip-a Spanish Tortilla. I get that with a small salad and cup of espresso. The Tortilla is delicious, as good as those Elena taught me to make. The espresso is self service out of a commercial Nespresso machine and is as good as any I have had in Spain. I had looked at the machines the day before in a Nespresso boutique. Now I plan to go back to see if they are avaliable in the US.
After lunch we head toward our other objective, the Royal Palace. This is also the second or third largest palace in Europe and is well worth the hike across Madrid. This takes up the balance of the afternoon with me reading the guided tour this time to Ashley. Coming out of the palace we head toward the center of Madrid for more shopping and eating. We come to a large famous square, the Plaza Mayor. Even though it is brisk out, there are tables in the square so we stop for a bite. I order a beer and Ashley orders some hummus. The hummus is excellent. Of course we have lots of hummus here in Kansas City. There is a local guy who makes hummus that comes in a small container for about $5.00 that has too much olive oil. Or you can buy about twice that much at Costco for about the same price and it has no flavor. The hummus there was perfect with just the right blend of lemon, tahini, garlic, olive oil and garbanzos. This was a perfect tapas.
Next we decide to look for a restaurant recommended by Ashley in her Lonely Planet application on her cell phone. On our way we look down an alley and spot a chocolateria that she had been to before and had fond memories of. By now it is dark, but we head down the alley and park on a table under a heater and order hot chocolate and churros. This is also delicious with the churros fresh from the fryer and the chocolate hot, rich, not too sweet and thick. This is another excellent tapas.
We move on, still in search of the restaurant. Not finding what we want exactly we head back toward the center of Madrid. I spot what I think is a gourmet marketplace called Mercado de San Miguel that I think may have some gift items I still need to buy. We go in and find ourselves in the middle of a tapas food court with dozens of individual vendors each selling something different. This is a modern open aired indoor marketplace with high ceilings and lots of glass. We stop at the olive booth first and get a selection of different stuffed olives with either Calamari, cheese or clams. We move over to the sherry bar next to the booth and order two sherries to go with the olives. The bartender is friendly and can speak a little English. She puts out another small dish filled with olives for us to snack on with the sherry. I take a short walk through the market looking for the next dish and settle on the cheese booth. I am about to pick out several when the shopkeeper asks what I like in cheeses and guides me to try several that I might not have picked. His selections are all delicious. I get back to the bar and order another sherry and she puts out another dish of olives. I love these olives! Next Ashley jumps up and heads to get something else. She comes back with
ceviche and another fish tapas. The ceviche is fantastic.
All of a sudden I realize that I have found the perfect tapas!! It isn't so much how the dish is presented, it isn't exactly how the dish tastes, it isn't what bar you are eating them at, it isn't how the bartender or waiter treats you, but a combination of all of those factors. I looked around to see hundreds of happy people eating, drinking, talking and sharing their tapas. Hours had gone by in an instant. Now I can leave Spain happy and satisfied!