Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Note to self: check days that it’s open. Hmmm – why was there no queue? Because it’s closed on Tuesdays!

Resort to back up plan: Museo Naval. Let’s take the short cut through the Real Jardin Botanico. Fantastic! Only one entry – at the other end of the gardens – which is a good kilometre away. Who didn’t read the map?

Museo Naval – which is supposed to be free to holders of the Tarjeta Annual de Museos (year long entry to a whole number of museos, priority entry – just love queue jumping with a quiet smug smile), is not free today because there’s a special exhibition commemorating 500 years in the Pacifico. Bale, 3 euros is affordable. The museum was a fascinating place – loads of model ships (my dad could have spent days in this place) –¬†which were constructed to inform the design and construction of the real thing. A considerable collection of weaponry as well – nasty stuff designed to cause maximum damage to the poor bastard on the receiving end of the pointy part.

Back to the apartamento: a two-element cooktop requires a creative response with chicken, potato, onion, fungi and cayenne pepper seeds (the only condiment in the apartamento other than sal). Several glasses of Rioja make everything taste just marvellous. Note to interested drinkers of red wine in Espana: a bottle of very drinkable Rioja costs about the same as a glass of paint- stripper house red at the local bar.

Substantial lunch and bottle of Rioja later, a visit to the Museo del Romantico is required (still making up for the Reina Sofia being closed). This time fast entry with Museo card and smug smile works. Bored museo employees make sure one stays on the grey carpet (protecting original rugs). It was a delightful journey through the home of a very well-to-do family in Madrid in the 19th Century. Gorgeous doll houses with miniature furniture and tiny chess sets carved out of ivory give one a sense of the wealth of the well-heeled. As to the life of those who kept the household functioning – the ‘downstairs employees’- one can only guess. And that’s the thing that is essentially missing from all of the art: the life of the common people. It is inferred rather than made visible. The lives of the wealthy are clearly recorded in their commissioned portraits (skilful artists captured arrogance or disaffection with life in their subjects through tiny details in the eyes or curl of the mouth).