Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday in Madrid: Picasso, Dalí, Protests, and Squid Sandwiches

Reina Sofia Museum / Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
10/09/11 - Calle Santa Isabel, 52
Last Sunday we arrived minutes too late for the Reina Sofia (closing time 2:30) and walked instead through Retiro Park.  The turtles were sunning themselves as usual, packed in a traffic jam on the little gangway by the Crystal Palace pond.  Even though chestnuts were dropping from the sky, it felt too hot for a row on the lake. 

Calder at the Reina Sofia
Today, however, was the kind of fall day I live for—brisk air, bright sun, French bulldogs, giant donuts, and a well-timed visit to one of Madrid’s most famous museums.  The Professor and progeny like to digest art in bite-sized chunks, so we zeroed in on Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica, a roomful of Dalí, and the Calder sculpture in the courtyard.  

Because the Reina Sofia is free on Sundays, happy throngs stood four-deep in front of Guernica, Picasso’s elegy for the Basque village bombed at the behest of Franco’s Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.  Picasso was working on a different mural for the 1937 Paris World’s Fair when he read an article about the aerial bombing that decimated the village, killing innocent civilians.  He stopped what he was doing and made the tragedy of war his theme.  Eleven feet tall and twenty-six feet wide, Guernica is big enough to engage us all: tourists, students, locals on a jaunt, teens quoting South Park but regarding everything from the corners of their eyes. 

The nearby room of surrealist paintings by Salvador Dalí, Magritte and other contemporaries, holds psychosexual surprises for those who pay attention.  On this day, Dalí’s composition The Great Masturbator (1929) was a popular backdrop for tourist snapshots. 

Back outside, a crowd of demonstrators against poverty was gathering steam in the square below the Reina Sofia.  Son 2 recognized one of his school-teachers among the drummers, and then a duo onstage began to sing.   

"Spanish Alliance against Poverty"
We walked north toward the Puerta del Sol, through narrow streets and small squares with outdoor cafes.  A woman on a bench—strung-out, troubled—taunted a gay couple with insults, and they moved silently away.  

I’m on a constant French bulldog watch, and soon enough I spotted one. Spanish friends told us that the breed has become popular in Madrid over the past 3 years; I see these cute dogs trotting at the ends of leashes wherever I go.  

French bulldog du jour
As we entered the Plaza de Santa Cruz, the smell of sugared almonds filled the air.  Stalls were offering foods of Spain for tasting and sale: parmesan-like cheese from Murcia, raisin bread, chocolate-frosted donuts that resembled Entenmann’s but were five times the size.  Farther along, at a corner of the bustling Plaza Mayor, we pressed into Casa Rua for glasses of cold beer and hot bocadillos.  These bocadillos are made fresh, with good bread and plenty of salt; as far as we know, the best fried squid sandwiches in town.   

Casa Rua for bocadillos de calamares


  1. Bocadillos de calamares are to Spain as what hamburgers are to the US. Classic, classic, and delicious.

  2. Sounds like a perfect Sunday!