royal madrid

Bernabeu

On our first full day in Madrid, the first thing we did was go to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid. On my previous trip to Spain I went to the Camp Nou in Barcelona, and did the tour of the stadium, with their impressive trophy room. I really wanted to see the trophies of Real Madrid, who have won the European Cup / Champions League an unbelievable 13 times, and so that’s where we went. My son is a huge football nut as well and actually has a Real Madrid shirt – we’re not Real fans, he got it because he likes Modric and Bale, and in Spain I prefer Barcelona historically (though I don’t really care, my only beloved club is Tottenham), but it was something special to see this amazing place. Cristiano Ronaldo had just left the week before for Juventus, so his #7 spot in the dressing room was empty. We saw the baths, where Ronaldo used to bathe. We saw the toilets, where Ronaldo used to pee. We saw the mirrors, where undoubtedly Ronaldo also spent a lot of time. We got to walk out on to the pitch, and pretend we were shooting on goal (my pretend free kicks always went in the top corner; much like my real ones). It was a very fun way to spend the morning for our soccer-obsessed family.

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Palacio Real, Madrid

This is the Palacio Real, home of Royal Madrid. Haha. Hah. This is the royal palace (yes I know you figured out what Palacio Real means in Spanish), as viewed from the lovely Jardines de Sabatini. This is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, but it’s really only used for state functions. The current king of Spain, for those of you who are not aware, is King Felipe VI. I obviously haven’t been listening because I still thought it was King Juan Carlos I, who was on all the peseta coins when I visited Spain as a kid. The palace is on the site of a ninth century Moorish Alcazar, but the present palace dates from the mid-1700s. We didn’t go inside; I’m sure the royal trophy room is a delight but does not have as many European Cups as Real Madrid. We were out and about walking, and we strolled over to this part of town to look through the gardens, there is a small labyrinth and several nice ponds, and then I came across a group of urban sketchers dotted around drawing this building. We hadn’t had dinner yet so I asked my wife if I could just quickly do a 20 minute sketch. I was suddenly inspired by all the sketchers, the biggest group I had seen out in a while (this was pre-symposium), and I just wanted to join in. So, good time for a rest (actually my son decided to run laps), and I stood and drew. I didn’t really interact with any of the other sketchers but I peered over their shoulders, some very nice work that made me just want to draw stuff. If I had time I would have liked to have sketched the cathedral adjacent to the royal palace.

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natas, churros, super bock and francesinha

Spain and Portugal Sketchbook front page sm

For the Spain and Portugal part of my trip I started a new sketchbook, one of the hardback landscape Stillman and Birn Alpha books I like so much. I did the England sketches at the end of the previous sketchbook, so it was a good place to start a new book. As with my Italy trip last year I decided to decorate the front page with a title like this and draw in some of the things I would eat or drink on the trip. So, a few words then I guess on some of the culinary items on this page. First of all the stuffed olives. These were from the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, a wonderful place less like a market and more like a self-contained food hall, with lots of really tasty tapas and snacks on sale. I can’t resist a stuffed olive, and these ones were stuffed with peppers and fish and even mussels. Underneath it is a bocadilla – like a little piece of hard toast, I suppose – with sliced and spiced octopus on it. That was nice. I’m definitely one for seafood and like a bit of the tentacled variety. Below that, the little purple drink is a Ginjinha, from Lisbon – more on that later (I drew the Ginjinha shop), but that was a delicious appetizer of a drink, a kind of sweet cherry liqueur, a local specialty. Speaking of Portuguese specialties, next to that is the Nata. The pastéis de nata, a small pastry filled with custard and occasionally other things, costing about a euro a piece, was pretty much my main food in Porto. I could not get enough of them. I just really like custard and pastry. It’s a good job those hills are so steep in Porto, to help me work them off. Speaking of Porto, the orange-coloured item just above the ‘T’ is a vastly not-to-scale version of something called a ‘Francesinha’. Ok, I will come back to the Francesinha. Next to that, a dry Madeira wine that I tried in Lisbon at the Cafe ‘A Brasileira’, that was nice, a dessert wine. Above that to the left, a ‘Tawny’ Port wine, typical of Porto, this one was from the Sandeman winery and sampled during a nice lunch. Next to that, the typical Portuguese beer, Super Bock. Along with Sagres, this is what you will see everywhere, especially littering the sidewalks of Rua da Bica after a heavy Friday night. Just right of the Spain title, the red drink is Sangria, the very tasty Spanish drink made from wine and fruit. I had this at the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid while sketching. And finally, the churros dipped in hot chocolate, this was from the Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid, the famous chocolate cafe located right across from our apartment. Extremely tasty, and the chocolate is rich (you can drink it, but you’ll spend the rest of the day knowing about it).

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And so, the Francesinha, above. It means “Little French Girl” according to my Portuguese friends. I didn’t know what it was, other than you can get them everywhere in Porto. I went into one cafe on the Alfandega to order one for a mid-afternoon snack, but this was no mere snack. Now typically they come with meats like pork and steak, but I don’t eat those so I had to find one with chicken. A Francesinha works like this – two huge slabs of bread, filled with cheese, sausage, meat such as steak, maybe another meat, fried egg, then more thick cheese on top, finally covered in a thick tomato sauce in a bowl. This meal is DENSE. It’s also served with fries, to dip into the melted cheese. I could not finish my chicken one. And I don’t think I met another visiting sketcher who had one they could finish. People of Porto, I salute you for your fortitude. But there’s more. Another restaurant I went into had an ‘XXL Francesinha’, a huge one costing 35 Euros, that was only for one person, no sharing. The deal is, if you finish it all you get a prize. Now I was talking to a waitress in another restaurant who said that she had actually taken on this challenge and won, and her prize was…she didn’t have to pay. I hope she at least got a certificate or something. If I’d eaten an XXL Francesinha, I’d need a doctor’s note…