Gate at entrance to Royal Palace grounds

We also learnt that:

Madrid is a city where you don't need to go in a gallery to experience amazing works of art and it is easy to explore on foot.

Here are a just a few examples below 

Madrid is great city for learning about Art!

Our tour guide booked our online tickets for three amazing art galleries: The Reina Sofia, the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Our hotel , 'Hotel Paseo del Arte' was situated in the heart of the art district and within walking of the galleries and the sights of central Madrid. 
The Reina Sofia Gallery is an impressive gallery of modern art from the 20th and  21st centuries with over 21,000 artworks in its collection. It is possible to get art fatigue so we found it easier to concentrate on a few notable works. There were many paintings by  Picasso and notably  his  Guernica mural (1937) that depicts the suffering of people, animals and buildings caused by the chaos of war. It is thought to have been in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain during The Spanish Civil War. 

Wandering around the exhibition we discussed cubism and the influences of Picasso and then the world of  Surrealism encouraged by Dali's 'The Great Masturbator' (1929). 

Our long suffering but knowledgeable tour guide

Our special friendship has spanned  30 years. It grew from our initial meeting in halls and then was cemented during our time as flatmates. It is great that we all still meet annually for our Pig Weekend and our families have grown-up together.

We haven't decided where the 'girls' are heading to next year for our city break but I have no doubt we will learn something new, chat, eat and definitely laugh a lot.

The Palacio de Crista 1887 built to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines. The architect was Ricardo Velázquez Bosco.

The Museo Nacional del Prado is a unique collection of artworks that largely highlights the collecting tastes of Spain’s 16th- and 17th-century monarchs. It has one of the largest numbers of works by  Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez and Goya and therefore we spent sometime exploring some of the more famous examples and had a discussion about Rubenesque 'plump ladies'.

​What the flatmates discovered in Madrid!

Week 24

Friday 18/03/2016

Spanish Food is brilliant for sharing and for special diets:

The hotel continent breakfast was a great start to the day with an array of bread, hams, fruit, cereals, pastries and a host of cooked delights.

How the girls became  flatmates

When I first left home, I found life in London as a medical student quite a challenge. I came from a biggish family, with three brothers and our house was a bit of a hub for friends as it was close to the school.  I moved into a hall of residence at the end of The King’s Road in Chelsea. It was a great location but  inhabited mainly by third year students who wanted to knuckle down and work hard for their final year. It was therefore very quiet and a massive contrast to my home life. I expect many folk would think being in Central London, surrounded by an abundance of other students, just a short walk away from Sloane Square would be the high life however surrounded by people I was actually very lonely. I moved halls after Christmas to one off High Street Kensington. I had to share a room for the first time in my life but was very grateful for the company. Luckily, my new hall had lots of sociable first years and a great Wednesday night disco. I had made friends with one of the medical students at the halls and she introduced me to her friendship group within the halls, including one who later became my husband.

My second year was again plagued by loneliness (long story) because I ended with one
flatmate  who was often out and about. Our landlady would not let us have people to stay over and would bolt the door at midnight- not great for one's social life!

In the third year, I was really happy when I was asked to share with my medical student friend from the first year halls.  She was in a shared house of five flatmates, three girls and two guys. One of the girls (who has become our girl's weekend tour guide) was going to move back into halls for her final year. I was often to be found sleeping on the couch in their kitchen anyway to avoid going back to my flat, so was the most obvious replacement. I spent the next three years as their contented flatmate, feeling part of a happy family type environment. We called ourselves 'The Pig's'. I think it was because we lived in a typical student pig-style state. Although, it  wasn't the worst student house I ever seen as 'Big Pig', the mature student we lived made us very comprehensive cleaning rotas which some of us stuck to more than others.

The five of us were initaly part of couples which then morphed into five family groups. Since leaving Uni we have met up for a 'Pig Weekend' most years and our number has grown from 10 adults to 10 adults and 14 children.

At one of the Pig weekend's several years ago four of us girls (who were all in the same halls in the first year) decided it would be great to have our own girl's weekend. We had our first trip to Prague in 2014, followed by Amsterdam in 2015 and have just returned from our Madrid trip last weekend.

We make a democratic decision on a city we would like to explore then I book the flights and hotel rooms. We have an enthusiastic member who sorts out the itinerary and becomes our tour guide for the weekend.

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza was my personal favourite gallery. It covers from 13th century to the late 20th century with nearly 1,000 pieces. It enabled us to have a whistle stop tour of the major periods such as the Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, Rococo, Romanticism and the art of the 19th and 20th centuries up to Pop Art. I particularly loved the rooms of Impressionist paintings.    

Girl's weekend to Madrid

One of the sculptures that caught my eye was 'Indestructible Object'  by Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky, 1890-1976). It is a large metronome of over 5 foot with a large 'all-seeing' eye. I found the combination of music, the science of time and the feeling of someone watching or observing incorporated into the piece very thought-provoking.

Statue of Bear and Strawbery tree by Antonio Navarro Santafé (1906-1983),

 inaugurated in 1967, representing  the coat of arms of Madrid

In the evenings there were a variety of tapas, salads and paellas that catered for  all tastes and many suitable dishes for my milk, fish and egg intolerances. We were all happy and very full at the end of each meal.

Velázquez Palace 1881-3