Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 08/04/10
IBERIA2001 #44 Madrid Center of España
We finally left Valencia at 4:40 PM and easily got onto the Valencia-Madrid freeway.
For some reason the weather started to change after 50 miles or so. It became rather cold with overcast skies. I said to Marcia, wouldn't it be funny if it started to rain while we have no window in the right passenger side. She told me to shut up. Ten minutes later it got even colder and began to rain, then downpour. We had the heater up to max and it was still chilly. With all the windows closed, the broken window caused a vibratory noise in the car that was enough to drive us crazy, so we would crack one of the windows a bit to get it to stop. Then it would get too cold so we would have to close it again. Dimitrii called on route and I told him what was going on and he recommended that we tape plastic over the window. We stopped at a gas station and spent 15 minutes with plastic and strong scotch tape getting it covered with a waterproof seal. Got back on the road and the racket the plastic made was cause for earplugs. Finally, as you might predict (and almost gratefully), it completely tore off and blew away. Marcia drove the entire 234 miles west to Madrid and as we got to the city, it warmed a little and stopped raining. We arrived at the Tryp Ambassador Hotel at 8:00, checked in and got settled in a wonderful top floor room which was very large.
Because of the window, we unloaded everything from the car and had it laid out all over the room - Marcia wanted to reorganize things for the trip home. I noticed that the hotel had internet access down in the lobby so I went to do email. I discovered that even though they had USB ports on the deal, I was not allowed to hookup or send anything out, so that was a waste of $6. So I decided to go to Rush Limbaugh's website just to see his take on all the events of late (usually listen everyday and not been able to for months). To my great surprise and sadness he had posted a piece about what has been happening to him over the last two months - in June he began to lose hearing in one ear which gradually went completely deaf and this month the same has occurred in the other ear. Effectively in a 3 months period he has lost all of his hearing (the same happened to the famous Spanish painter Goya). Having listened to Rush for almost 10 years, I feel I know him and a great sadness overcame me, probably added to by Sept 11th. I went up to the room to get Marcia and we walked to Tres Encinas which the desk recommended because they were still seating at 11 PM where very few were (so much for late dining in Madrid, Jairo).
We walked up to Plaza Santo Domingo and then up one street to the restaurant which was a pretty fancy place. There weren't a lot of people still eating and they acted like we were going to be the last (we were). They proudly show off their Iberian ham ready for slicing (photo) as does every eating establishment in Spain. Marcia had crab soup, beef brochettes with bacon and fries and flan for dessert while I had spaghetti bolognese, veal Milanese and arroz con leche (rice pudding) ending with an espresso. It was good but nothing spectacular. We walked back in the becoming chilly air and got to bed at 2 AM.
I woke at 9:30 and after Marcia came back from breakfast we had to work on getting the car fixed. Boy was this a chore. First, no BMW dealer spoke one word of English, so we had to contact BMW road service in Germany. They told us first to contact the German insurance company to get an OK to fix it. This required calls and faxing car info, police reports and waiting to be called back by Frau Lang, so that almost the entire 1st day in Madrid was gone on this stuff. I gave up and went for my run at 4 PM and ran down Santo Domingo to Plaza Isabel II, around the Teatro de la Opera (Madrid's beautiful Opera House built in 1850 by Isabel II) and into Plaza Oriente which is in front of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). I thought this was the Plaza Mayor and ran around the perimeter past the palace gates and the main Catedral (Nuestra Senora de la Almudena) and all the way to Plaza San Francisco. Here is the church of San Francisco which was the main church of Madrid until the Catedral was finally finished (begun in 1879) and dedicated by John Paul II in 1993.
I went back to the hotel, changed and got Marcia who told me we have to drive the BMW to a dealership and have an appointment to bring it in at 8:30 AM tomorrow. We left the hotel and crossed the street to look for the real Internet cafe a half block away. They had advertised a special of 10 hours for 1750 pesetas and I figured even if I only used half of it, it would be cheaper than their regular rate. The man showed me the sign on the wall "10 hrs for 2000 pst" but I showed him their circular from the hotel which said 1750. He gave me preset 10 hours for 1750 and the place was perfect except for the fact that each computer did not have an A drive. Instead, I had to give him my disk and he would copy it to his main computer and than he could transfer the files to the computer I was using. This later caused me to have a lot of interaction with the guys at the front desk. On top of that only computer #29 had MS Word on it. I did no email then because we wanted to go and find the real Plaza Mayor of Madrid and after a few minutes walking around we finally found it. The plaza I had run in was Plaza Oriente, a large stirrup shaped area leveled into a park by Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother) when he was King of Spain. In the center is the statue of King Felipe II surrounded on the perimeter by large stone statues of all the ruling monarchs. They were supposed to be on the roofline of the palace but Isabel II had a dream that they would fall on her. As we went around the Plaza Mayor (built in the 17th Century), I was looking for the place owned by the brother of a LACMA doctor (Francisco Durazo, MD) who told me to call on his brother when I was in Madrid. This conversation arose from a blind campaign call during the LACMA elections. I never found the place (called El Cuchi), so we were dying to finally have Spanish churros and chocolate and right in front of us was a place with a sign for it called Bar Soporto.
The chocolate is hot and so thick it should be called pudding. You dip the churro in it before you eat it. Not bad, but quite sweet. We then walked Calle (cah-yeh) Mayor to get to the grand Puerto del Sol (the other great meeting place in Madrid). It is huge and very nice with a large statute of the ugly Carlos III on his horse and behind him a large bronze statue of a bear eating from a strawberry tree (madrono) which is the symbol of the city of Madrid. Nearby is one of the largest of the El Corte Ingles department stores and we ducked in from the cool air to buy me a warmer jacket and Marcia a pair of shoes.
After wandering all over the place we finally found what we needed and then had to wait in line for the tax-free papers. After we left at 8:30, we walked back toward the hotel but stopped at an inviting place called the Beer Station just up from the Tryp. I had a Guinness and Marcia a cava and then I went down to the Internet place to send off an email and resend some photo zip files. It closes at 10 so I only had an hour. When I got back to the hotel, I met Marcia and Irene in the bar. Marcia told me that when she stayed to order another glass of wine at the Beer Station, the bottle broke while the bartender was opening it and he gashed his hand so bad it was bleeding like a stuck hog and he had to be taken to the hospital. The evils of drinking. It was good to see Irene in her home town even though she is now moving to Barcelona where CIBA Vision headquarters are. She took us in her red Ford Mustang (which she is very proud of) to a wonderful place called Las Porches where we had wonderful Madrileño food where I had roast suckling pig for the first time (it was great). Afterwards she drove us on a night tour of Madrid and we got to bed at 3 AM.
Instead of sleeping late on my 58th birthday, we had to get up at 8:15 thinking it would take us 15 minutes to drive the 5 miles to the Inauto BMW dealer.
We got the car out of the extremely cramped garage and on the road at 8:20 but immediately hit Madrid morning traffic - it was impossible to move. By 9:30 we were somewhere near the place but completely lost because the GPS system showed the dealership in another place on the map. Thanks to calls to Irene to call the dealer, they sent Fernando out to find us and bring us in. Arriving 1:15 minutes late they still took us in. The problem is that this is Wed and Fri is Oct 12, Columbus Day (or Discovery of America Day) a huge 3 day weekend holiday in Spain and nothing can be done during that time (and we leave on Sun). After long distance calls to Frau Lang talking to the dealer guy we were finally able to get a coffee and be driven back to the hotel by Fernando, a very nice gentleman. It is now 11:00 and I go to Internet place to do email for 1:30 and send Chapter 39. At 12:30 we caught a cab to the famous Prado Museum (one of the grandest in the world).
It is located in Bourbon Madrid on a large avenue called Paseo de Prado. We spent 4 hrs looking at some of the greatest works of art in history by such artists as Rubens (3 Graces - photo), Fra Angelico, Hieronymus Bosch, Van Dyke, Dürer, Rembrandt, Boticelli, Raphael, Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, Mengs and Spain's Ribera, Velázquez (his painting Las Meninas is probably the most famous of all art in the 17th Century (photo)), El Greco, Goya, Morales, Zubaran, Because Spain dominated the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of Italy for centuries the crown had access to much of this art. It was really quite spectacular and tiring to see it all - which we did in only 4 hours. While I was in there I got a call from Cynthia Kendall wanting to license the Hoffer formula for the new A-scan shes coming out with. Not the most ideal place to carry on that kind of a conversation but we completed it. When we left we noted the famous Ritz hotel next door which was built by Alfonso XIII (remember Sevilla - I guess he did 2). I called Fernando's relatives and talked to the daughter, Murcia and left a message at Dr. Dominguez's office. Took a cab to the hotel and got a call from Jinjer and Darc Keller from LACMA. It was good to talk to them after so many months away. Since it was my birthday, I took a siesta and what a siesta it was. At 9:30 we met Irene and she drove us to my birthday dinner at a beautiful place called El Molino de Los Pochals. After cava, cervecia, and tapas, Marcia and Irene had a surprise for me - Dimitrii walks in after flying here from Milano.
It was a wonderful evening and a great way to celebrate my birthday except I missed being with my children and grandchild. By the way, all the day I kept getting phone calls from people all over Spain wishing me Happy Birthday (I think Irene was up to something). Dimitrii and Irene had to fly the next morning to put a PRL course on in Palma de Mallorca on Friday with Dr. Luis Salva and 19 other eye surgeons. She drove us back to the hotel and we got to bed at 3 AM.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #45
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
PHOTOS: 44MadridA 44MadridB
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