Beaches and Burgers

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

The Sorolla museum was set in the family home of this artist Lynn and I had never heard of.  The house was surrounded by tranquil gardens with fountains.  A few yards inside, and the traffic noise faded away.  The family’s furniture and family pictures and daily objects like pencil holders and water pitchers were still in place, so you could really imagine it as it was in the 1920s.  Madrid was probably quieter in the 20s, but this house would still have been an oasis.

Many of Sorolla’s paintings were sentimental, featuring small children on beaches.  All that was missing was a kitten.


Some of my best memories involve being at the lake with my siblings or friends, so I found the paintings sweet.

It’s unusual to see a portrait of a woman covering her face, as in the painting below. Usually a woman’s face and body are the gratuitous subjects of art.  But here you can almost feel the wind that is causing her skirt to billow, and the strong sun that is forcing her to raise her arm to see.  I’m not an art critic, but the composition, the colors and depiction of light and movement all feel satisfying to me in this piece.


I especially liked this one, maybe because it was so simple.


Several of the rooms were roped off, with my old friend the “Closed for Renovation” sign barring the way.  Again, this is one of the downsides of traveling during the low season.

The museum and gift shop were small, so soon we were done and ready for a very late lunch.  We spied a restaurant across the street called New York Burger.

“That sounds good!” I said, “We’ll know what we’re getting.”

“Right,” Lynn replied skeptically, and we scurried across, dodging speeding cars and buses.

In typical New York/Spanish style, this was a creative concept restaurant with endless menu options.  Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of menus with charts that lead you through a decision-making algorithm?  Here, Step One was, “Choose your Burger.”  But what were the choices?  Unclear.  Move on to Step Two, “Weight.”  How many grams of beef did I want?

“How much is a gram?” I asked Lynn. “I haven’t bought anything by the gram since I bought hash in high school.”

“I … I think there are 1,000 grams in a kilo ….” Lynn replied.

“But how big is a kilo?” I laughed.  “I’ll just order the second largest one.  I’m hungry.”

“So am I,” and Lynn.  “Oh, we’re not done yet.  Step Three is ‘How would you like your meat?”

And so on.  We finally managed to order.  Lynn got the special—a prawn burger, and I got as close to a plain old hamburger as I could.  I was exhausted from all the choices and not in the mood for blueberries, a fried egg, or caramelized pineapple. We snickered over some of the translations on the menu:

The meat of our burgers comes from top quality cattle’s of beef.

Well thank goodness!

Our burgers arrived.  Mine was the size of my head, and raw.  I wolfed it down.  The fries were okay; they came in one of those artsy cones that disguise the fact of how few you’re getting.  There was ketchup in one of those tiny paper cups; I asked the server to bring me five more.

“How’s your prawn burger?” I asked Lynn between mouthfuls.

“Good,” she replied, as hunks of it fell away, “except it won’t hold together.”  This seems to be the bane of the non-burger burger.

New York Burger had décor by Ikea, something I had seen in restaurants and shops in Italy and which we would see again in Spain.  There must not be enough real estate space for an Ikea on Malta.

We decided to walk back, stopping for a leisurely coffee in a sunny pavilion.  Our plan was to take in the botanical gardens on the way.  I managed to go in the Out gate, and was firmly informed that the gardens had just closed for the day.

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