I thought we had left surrealism behind when we departed Catalunya. Goodbye Dali! After dropping off the car we walked across the street to the Sants station and took the high speed AVE train to Madrid. Loved the rail experience, the train was clean, comfortable, on time, the scenery amazing and we made it to Madrid in under three hours.
Madrid was a bit of an adjustment after having spent a week along the coast and in the bucolic interior of Catalunya. The action is frenetic! We arrived in the early evening and after checking in to our hotel we went for a walk, and it seemed like the entire city had decided to do the same. The streets were filled with people, locals and tourists alike. We headed to the Mercado de San Miguel, where we joined the throngs queuing for delicious tapas, wine, beer and sweets.
The next morning we headed for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum for their featured exhibit “Surrealism and the Dream”. Hello Dali! But seriously, the exhibit was a wonderful look at the way the surrealists celebrated the dream and the collision of dream imagery and everyday life. After the exhibit we viewed the regular collection, which starts on the top floor with the old masters and continues through to the present day in the basement. I was particularly taken with František Kupka, a Czech painter previously unknown to me. As we exited through the gift shop I was reminded again of why we used to refer to Dali as “Salvador Dollar”.
Hungry from all the art viewing, we wandered off the main drag of the Paseo del Prado and ended up at the Plaza Jesús, where we had a welcoming reception and delicious lunch at the busy Taberna de la Daniela. Refreshed and invigorated, we headed towards our next stop, CaixaForum, when I noticed the reflections in the windows of Agusty Yebra, a theatrical scenery and costume shop.
Still enchanted by reflections, I loved the look of the building. The former power station now has a living wall and an abstract interior with a cavern like entrance leading to a light filled stairway and spacious galleries.
In a continuance of the surrealist theme, one of the exhibits was a retrospective of the work of Georges Méliès. His pioneering film work all but forgotten, Méliès was working in obscurity as a toy salesman when the surrealists rediscovered his work and brought him new acclaim, late in his life.
So on my first day in Madrid, all of my previous preconceptions – nationalist, conservative, formal – were shattered. Yes, Madrid is certainly full of old masters and tradition, but it also has a vibrant heart and a fresh perspective – you just have to open your eyes. Or, as Andre Breton said: “What attracts me in such a manner of seeing is that, as far as the eye can see, it recreates desire . . .”