Marching In Madrid

Friday, March 29, 2013

A cold, dreary and wet Madrid greeted us on Tuesday as we emerged from the Puerta de Atocha after a 90-minute ride on the AVE from Valencia.  Traffic to Madrid was extremely light and we were surprised that we were two of the five people in our train car.  We were in town to see the highly acclaimed Spanish version of The Lion King and to take in some magic.  We had hoped to catch up with a number of our friends who live in Madrid, but when I made our plans and reservations little did I realize that it was Holy Week.  As a result most of our friends are spending this week somewhere other than Madrid.

At lunchtime we made our way to Casa Paco.  We have made it a point to eat there every time we are in Madrid.  That is a tradition that has endured for some thirty-five years.  The menu has expanded in recent years and it now includes coffee.  I mention that because in the past when you asked for a coffee to finish your meal that invited you to go elsewhere.  We ordered what we always order – a tomato salad topped with tuna, a hearty serving of steak and a plate of French fires.  We ordered a half-bottle of Protos to go along with the steak and it was the perfect addition.  After lunch we returned to our home away from home and rested up for the 8:30 curtain of El Rey León.

We are staying at a new place for us.  It is called Apartamentos Ramón de la Cruz 41, which also happens to be its street address.  Brian and Ofelia have stayed here on several occasions and recommended it to us.  We are in a one-bedroom apartment that includes a small kitchen; a bedroom, a bathroom and a sitting area that has a small dining table close by the triple bay window.  The kitchen has every appliance imaginable including a dishwasher and a washing machine. Breakfast is included and every morning they deliver a basket of fresh pastry.  There is a Nespresso coffee maker in the kitchen and there is a goodly supply of fruit, yoghurt and cereal in the cabinets.  It is steps away from Príncipe de Vergara, a main thoroughfare and it is a short walk to La Calle de Goya.  Given its location and its accommodations it is worth the price they charge.

We arrived at the theater a little after 8:00 and that gave us enough time to have a quick drink at the theater’s bar.  We took our seats in the seventh row and the curtain rose at exactly 8:30.  It was almost 11:30 when the show ended.  It is truly a spectacle and we enjoyed it thoroughly.  The voices were strong, the dancers very limber and the music appropriate, if not memorable.  The costumes are what impress most and Julie Taymor’s concept for the show was and still is revolutionary.  The show has a top ticket price of 129 Euros for VIP seats that include a tour backstage and seats in the first four rows.  Our tickets cost 89 Euros and the cheapest seat was 49 Euros.  The theater was packed.

Wednesday we caught up with Rafael Benatar for lunch.  We went to a restaurant called Public that is located off the Gran Vía.  We had eaten there before with Ramón and Juan Diego and were very impressed by the price/quality ratio.  The service is on the impersonal side and part of that is due to the large number of diners and I am sure part of the restaurant’s philosophy to make do with the number of servers they have by having them take your order and deliver your food. Rafa and I started with a potaje de garbanzos that were both hearty and tasty.  Susan had a crema de puerros as a starter.  Rafa and I chose albóndigas as our main course and Susan opted for merluza.  We all had dessert and coffee and our bill came to 32 Euros.  Over dinner we discovered that Rafa is preparing for his performance at a festival in Toronto called “Luminato”.  He will be doing magic and playing the lute and in a performance that will integrate both of his talents.

After lunch Susan and I walked to the Thyssen Museum to see an exhibition of Hyper-Realism that was a treat to behold.  We are great fans of Richard Estes and it was nice to see two of his works as part of the exhibition.  We took a cab back to our hotel and rested up for the evening’s magic experience – close-up magic with Dani DaOrtiz and Lennart Green.

We arrived at the Circo Price at 8:30 and that was a good thing because there was already a significant line of people waiting to get in.  There were no reserved seats, but we were fortunate enough to get seats in the third row with a perfect view of both the table and the large screen TV.  We were in one of the smaller spaces in the complex that has an enormous theater, also.  It is reminiscent of the Mark Taper in Los Angeles, but with many more seats.  Dani started the show and was kind enough to remark that I was in the audience.  He did about thirty minutes worth of card miracles before introducing Lennart who did another thirty minutes and then Dani performed several other effects.  It was a very satisfying evening of magic.  Afterwards Susan and I had dinner at a nearby pizza joint with Dani, Lennart, Jorge Blass, Woody Aragón, Luis Piedrahita and Joaquín Kotkin.  We were in very good company.

Yesterday the sun finally showed its face in Madrid.  Susan and I took a nice long walk that had us ending up at a restaurant recently mentioned in a NY Times article, Arzábal.  Here is a link to that article http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/travel/where-madrid-chefs-go-for-real-spanish-food.html?pagewanted=all We passed by at 1:30 and made a reservation for 3:00.  We walked around what is essentially an empty city this Holy Week.  When we returned we waited a few minutes for our table to be ready and we were seated in the dining area adjacent to the bar area.  We chose four half plates of the dishes suggested in the article.  We thoroughly enjoyed the anchovies, the croquettes, the meatballs and the potatoes.  For dessert we had the torrija and the helado de queso.  They had no half bottles of wine in their very extensive wine offerings, however they have a policy where they open a bottle of wine for you and charge you for how much of the bottle you consume.  We finished a delightful meal with coffee and a chupito.

Then it was back to the hotel, but not for long.  At 6:30 we were in front of the Teatro Compac waiting to take our seats for Jorge Blass’ one man show El Arte de la Magia.  The theater was filled to capacity and for the next 90 minutes we enjoyed one of the best magic shows that we have seen in recent memory.  Jorge is very personable, identifies quickly with his audience thanks to his frequent appearances on TV and, if that were not enough, his magic is indeed magical.  After the show we headed to the Cerveceria Cervantes where we had a nibble and a drink.  It was a little before 11:00 when we got back to the hotel.

Today we plan to rest up a bit before heading out to another magic show at 9:00 at the Teatro Encantado.  It is a gray and rainy day and we will find a place to have lunch and then we will probably do some packing because we head back home to Valencia tomorrow.

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