Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

I only had time for one museum and Prado’s website was annoying while Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza’s quickly promised some Edward Hopper works. Easy choice and a very enjoyable afternoon followed as I wended my way anti-clockwise around the old and new wings of the museum, housing the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collections, respectively.

Here’s what stood out for me, whoever they belong to:

Jan Lievens
Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c. 1635

Claude Joseph Vernet
Night: a Mediterranean Coast Scene with Fishermen and Boats, 1753

Francesco Guardi
View of Canal Grande with Santa Lucia and Santa Maria di Nazareth, c. 1780

Henri-Edmond Cross
Beach. Evening Effect, 1902

Lyonel Feininger
Lady in Mauve, 1922

Georgia O’Keefe
New York with Moon, 1925

Edward Hopper
Hotel Room, 1931

René Magritte
La clef des champs, 1936

A Night in Madrid

Yes, just one night. Sadly – it turns out – for just one night.

Hotel Regina is well located and surprisingly spacious. Following a late arrival it remains, at 11pm, hotter than any Irish summer day. Madrid is very pretty and still busy. Café-goers spill onto the streets, a trio – Spaniard, American and metal suitcase – spout politics of indeterminate leaning at Placa de la Puerta del Sol and the grand squares provide a fine setting for a fast-yet-colourful sunset.

Somewhere amid all this, it strikes me that it’s not the weather itself that’s important; it’s what enables. It’s everything Dublin could be if only we could actually go outside once in a while.

Museo del Jamon

One of the joys of travelling is accidentally uncovering some wonderful oddity, quintessentially local and, preferably, not listed in the guide books. If you’re really lucky, it’ll be something you never even considered before. Arthur C. Clarke once rebuked accusatory questions of why man should venture into space as being as pointless as having had asked fish, billions of years ago, why they should migrate to dry land; would you have expected them to magically suggest something as wonderfully unexpected as “fire”?

Tonight, as I stumbled upon a take-away ham shop, “Museo del Jamon”, I understood Mr. Clarke and remembered the joys of travel:

€4.50 for a glass of wine, some fried serrano on bread and a big – seemingly gratis – bowl of mixed chorizo. Liking Madrid already.

A Very Complicated Holiday

Too much? Probably…but it’ll be quite a journey. In my innocence, I thought that – with one month’s notice – I could book some flights at some sort of reasonable price. Not too far off the mark but, in the end, the only reasonable pairing of flights this seasoned traveller could find comes with the added complication of finding a route from Madrid right up to Brussels:


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Aer Lingus – back when “fly for 1 cent!” advertisements were still legal – offered flights for €12; Ryanair even had free flights on some dates. This does make me wonder what’s wrong with Brussels…no matter, however: the bulk of this trip will be spent in Barcelona and onboard some interesting trains enroute to my not-really-that-close-at-all ultimate destination:

  • Madrid – Barcelona on the AVE
    Spain is where the action is for trains right now: I blogged about their hugely ambitious plans to connect up to 90% of their population with high-speed lines by 2020 earlier this year and the very latest installment connects Madrid with Barcelona in under three hours (more than halving the previous rail journey time).
  • Barcelona – Paris on the Elipsos
    A twelve hour overnight journey on the Elipsos Train Hotel, which seems more train than hotel. A special offer from SNCF gets me a shared room (with just one other person), lets me sleep off most of the journey time to Paris and reduces the hotel bill by one night.
  • Paris – Brussels on the TGV
    “Just” a TGV journey to catch the flight home.

The AVE is undoubtedly the highlight: one of the newest and fastest lines in the world, leading to a city I’ve wanted to explore for quite some time. Quite an extravagance, too: it turns out a “3 days in 10” Spanish rail pass can be had for less than the price of this ticket. The Elipsos should be fun – Monocle reported on Germany’s rejuvenated overnight train services last year – and I can’t wait to wake up early in the morning to find myself in Paris.

Then, at the end, I’ll get to see what’s so bad about Brussels. Pictures, etc., to follow.