The Art of War and of Tapas

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Lynn and I walked the two blocks to the Reina Sofia museum and were inside, for free, in a few minutes. Even with a floor plan, we couldn’t find Guernica, but we saw a lot of great stuff along the way.  Basquiat, Dali, Gris, Leger, Oldenberg, Ono, Rivera, Sutherland, Twombley, and Warhol.  The collection seemed to be a basket of one or two pieces each of mostly 20th Century artists from all over the world.  There also seemed to be a heavy emphasis on war.

Here is an image of Picasso’s Guernica on the museum’s website; I’m fairly certain I don’t have the rights to cut and paste it.  It’s an enormous mural—25 by 12 feet, and there was a crowd of people standing in front of it, mostly silent.  For once, they weren’t taking selfies or holding up their iPads to video record a great work of art.  Maybe that’s because the subject matter is so grim—the bombing of the Spanish village of Guernica by the Nazis and Spanish fascists in 1937—complete with women and babies and horses being blown to bits.

Sobered by Guernica and the other war-related pieces, it was time for more wine.

I’ve written about all the research I did for the Italy and Malta legs of my trip.  I give Lynn all the credit for Spain.  She found the hotels and figured out how we would get from Madrid to Grenada to Toledo and back to Madrid.  Thank You, Lynn!  She had also scoped out a square near our hotel that was supposed to have wall-to-wall tapas bars.

In case you don’t know what tapas are, they’re basically the Spanish version of hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, entrees, whatever you want to call them.  They are typically slices of baguette topped with ham and cheese, salmon, and other tasty things.  The idea is to go from one tapas bar to another, having a couple tapas and a glass of wine in each place until it adds up to a meal.  We walked toward the area Lynn had in mind, but when we reached what we thought was the right square, almost everything was closed.

“We must be too early,” Lynn said.

“Yeah, and it’s 8:30!” I replied.  Back home, I was usually in bed by 9:00, but I had made a vow to stay up late in Spain—the alternative would to go from lunch to breakfast without eating.

We found one place that was open and ordered the tapas selection from our waiter, whose name was Duong.  I think it’s safe to say he was of Vietnamese background.  I wondered if they hyphenated mixed nationalities in Spain, like we do in the US.  When the census came around, did Duong say he was “Asian-Spanish,” or just Spanish, or what?  The important thing was that, between his limited English, my rusty Spanish, and Lynn pointing at the menu, we managed to make known what we wanted. He brought the platter, which was mostly cheese and crackers and olives, not technically tapas.  It was a ton of good food and clearly we wouldn’t need to bar hop to fill up. I was starving by now so no complaints from me.

We ordered the house white wine, which was delicious.  Why can’t we have that in the US?  I think I’ve complained before about how, at least in Minnesota, the house wine or happy hour-featured wines are always like Manischewitz.  Or, as my mother calls it, Jewish cough syrup.

We sat and talked for an hour or more.  Unlike in Minnesota, the waiter didn’t come back to the table every five minutes to ask how our food was or ask if we wanted anything more, or otherwise interrupt our conversation.  He didn’t hover nearby waiting for us to put the last bite in our mouths, then close in to whisk away our plates and hand us the bill so he could turn the table and thus make more in tips.  This is one advantage of no or very limited tipping in Europe—there’s no incentive to hurry you out the door.

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