Kris'  London Online Journal

Third Week of April (Apr 18th - 24th) 2011

Friday, April 22nd

This afternoon we flew to Madrid to kick off a 10-day trip in Spain. While going through security at the airport, we ran into some friends we knew from our Napa days and had a chance to visit with them before our flight departed. What a small world!

The flight to Madrid was only about 2.5 hours, so we were there in plenty of time for an afternoon siesta before dinner. Speaking of dinner, we ate at a traditional Spanish restaurant called Botin (, which is the oldest restaurant in the world, having opened in 1725. The picture on the right is of the dining room we sat in, located in the cellar of the restaurant. It was a very charming and authentic experience.

After dinner, we took a nice leisurely stroll back to our hotel, the Westin Palace ( We’ve been to Madrid once before, but it was a long time ago. Fortunately, we remembered enough of the city to easily find our way around. We’re hoping the weather improves tomorrow. If you can believe it, the weather was better in London than it is in Madrid. That doesn’t happen very often.



Saturday, April 23rd

Today’s theme was art, as we visited three art museums. Our first stop was Madrid’s most well-known museum, the Prado (  The highlights here included several pieces by some of Spain’s most well-known painters, including Francisco Goya.

Following the Prado, we visited the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia ( Unfortunately, the painting we really wanted to see there, Woman in Blue by Picasso, was on loan to another museum. Fortunately, the other piece we wanted to see, Guernica, also by Picasso, was there.

The third museum we visited was the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (, which has many pieces by non-Spanish Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, including Monet, Van Gogh, and Cezanne. My favorite painting here was Swaying Dancer by Degas.

We ended the day with a stop at the Royal Palace (, a behemoth of a building with 2,800 rooms. My favorite room (we didn’t see them all!) was one of the smallest, the Music Room. In it were five Stradivarius instruments, making it the largest such collection in the world.

It was dark out by the time we headed back to the hotel and we snapped some photos of Madrid’s landmarks all lit up. The photo on the right is of the main post office (aka Palacio de las Comunicaciones).



Sunday, April 24th

Today was Easter Sunday and we spent the day in Toledo, one of Spain’s most historic towns, located about 45 miles southwest of Madrid. As you can see from the photo, the city’s medieval architecture is breathtakingly beautiful. Most of the buildings were constructed before the 16th century, when Toledo was Spain’s capital.

One of the things Toledo is most well known for is a former resident, the artist El Greco.  His real name is Domenikos Theotokópoulos and, although he was born in Greece, he spent most of his life in Toledo (from 1572 to 1614). We had hoped to visit the Casa y Museo del Greco (, but it was closed for renovations. Instead, we visited the Santo Tomé, a chapel that was built to house El Greco’s most famous painting, The Burial of Count Orgaz.

We spent the remainder of the day just wandering through the maze of narrow, and steep cobblestone streets of Toledo. We made brief stops at the city’s other major sites, including the Alcázar (in English: castle), the cathedral and the Mezquita (in English: mosque). Because in its early days, Toledo’s was a place of unusual religious tolerance, there are houses of worship for a number of different religions


Fourth Week of April