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Posts tagged ‘Madrid’

2015: My year in photos (Part 2 – Beyond Paradise)

Living in Mallorca, there can be no doubt that we are utterly spoilt, for all around us, from the city of Palma to the beaches and mountains beyond, we cannot help but discover unhampered beauty wherever we go. And yet while we could quite easily have indulged ourselves for a year’s worth of admiration of the island, the travel obligations of work, a long planned weekend to Paris, and the most life changing of events – our wedding – took us further afield, to enjoy the incredible beauty of the world beyond Mallorca.

And so, in this second of my two photographic reviews back over the year of 2015, I feature just a few of my favourite shots of the incredible surroundings beyond the Balearics. For 2015 was significant not just for its being our first year in Mallorca, but also for the opportunity it gave us to finally tie the knot after almost 6 years of engagement. The honeymoon which followed made for the most unique of holidays, with a stay in the famous Riviera paradise of La Colombe d’Or in St-Paul de Vence rivalled only by a short but sweet spell in bustling Barcelona, and an acquaintance with the chic seaside spots of Cannes and Antibes.

The ultimate Paris shot

The best day of my life

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Leger mural at La Colombe d'Or

Big Wheel, Paris

Calder ripples

Summer sunset, Provence

But it did not end there, for months before our wedding, a trip to the world’s primary city of love enabled us a further reconnaissance with our most adored Paris, while post-marriage and still revealing in the new blushes of marital bliss, we were able to rest on the beaches of Marbella, indulge in the new cultural hotspot of Malaga, and drop into Madrid, onto Ibiza and back home again for the most magical of Mallorcan Christmases.

It’s been a magical year. Thank goodness I can relive it all in photos. Until the next… Happy New Year!!!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.    

Winter in Madrid

For somewhere as relatively far south by Europe standards as Madrid, it’s a city which gets incredibly cold in the winter. And I mean incredibly cold. True, I have become acclimatised to the balmier climes of the island of Mallorca, where in a mere 3 months of being here, I have begun to believe that there is no such thing as a minus temperature. But how wrong I was on that front. For when the need arose for me to jet off to Madrid last week for work, I experienced temperatures that made me feel as though I was facing an attack of daggers from all sides.

It was my first trip to Madrid for several years, and I was therefore keen to spend the little free time I had exploring the city streets and remembering past memories of walking around the Prado, the Retiro, through the Puerta del Sol and along the Gran Via. But no sooner had I stepped out of my hotel I realised that a few blocks of walking was all I was going to manage before I had to duck inside a warm tapas bar for shelter.

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Ice cold streets, a bitter wind, and temperatures which made my gloved hands feel not just cold but broken… these were the sensations I suffered in this short dip into winter in Madrid. Yet just as clear skies bring a fierce winter by night, in the day, those cold temperatures are tempered ever so slightly by the presence of sunshine, and the photographs you see on this post were taken on a brisk morning stroll as I headed from my hotel to my place of work near the beautiful neoclassical monument, the Puerta de Alcalá. 

Those photos are very evidently characterised by the grandeur of the city – the beautiful roof tops of the Gran Via in the distance, the architectural details of the Puerta de Alcalá and the Plaza de Independencia, and the large palatial buildings and parks which fill the area. Everything is brightened by a pale winter sun and clear blue skies, but as you (hopefully) enjoy these photos, please remember the pain which I had to suffer to take them – they involved taking off my gloves, a sensation which brought to my hands a thousand daggers of pain. Oh what I suffer for The Daily Norm…

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Madrid – Restaurant focus: Va de Baco and Ølsen

As far as gastronomic finesse goes, Madrid is not as renowned as some of its neighbouring Spanish cities. However the buzz word around Madrid is inevitably tapas, and an innovative approach to tapas is what Madrid does best. Upon arriving in Madrid, late on a Friday night, we knew that many of the most popular tapas bars would already be heaving with the hip young Madrillanean crowd.

Aperitif, croquetas and ensaladilla rusa

One of my favourite tapas bars is Lateral in the Plaza de Santa Ana, a trendy restaurant which offers a fresh and unpretentious approach to tapas classics and innovations alike. The problem is, its prices are so reasonable, and its flavourful offerings so delicious that the place is always packed. And cashing in on their popularity, the restaurant does pack you in into ridiculously tight spaces – generally four people will be crammed in around a corner table the size of a large computer monitor… there is barely room for your knees to squeeze under, let alone for the various tapas dishes to sit upon the table in unison. They also tend to rush you through the meal so that they can more swiftly eat into the lengthening queue which forms outside the restaurant each evening.

Spider crab and albondigas

Finding Lateral to be, predictably, pack out with queues stretching well into the buzzing Plaza de Santa Ana, we headed a few blocks down the road along the Calle del Prado, where we stumbled upon Va de Baco at 4 Calle del Prado 28013. The restaurant is seemingly quite new, decked out with chic lighting and cabinets brimming full of wine.  But the real star was the food. To start we were given a free aperitif which comprised a consommé style soup in which well-seasoned chickpeas bobbed gracefully, while on the side a super-creamy jamon croquette added some texture to the dish. Moving on to the tapas we ordered: simple, traditional favourites such as Ensaladilla Rusa (a mayonnaise-based potato salad with tuna a crunchy vegetables) and albondigas (meatballs) were served with contemporary twists such as the creamy curry sauce of the albondigas. More adventurous was a tapas of spider crab, delicately served with a potent wasabi mayonnaise, while the real star of the night was a ginger cream dessert with slices of mandarin and a passionfruit sorbet accompanying – exquisite. And best of all, the final bill, including a large carafe of Rioja plus two glasses extra at the end of the meal, was a mere €45 for the two of us.

Ginger cream

Bread stick...

On our second night in Madrid, we ditched the tapas trail for a hispanic-scandinavian fusion in the form of trendy new restaurant, Ølsen (15, Calle del Prado). The recently opened restaurant is already a firm favourite of the Madrid cool-crowd, with minimalist woods, low lighting and a chilled lounge soundtrack (I distinctly recognised Hotel Costes Volume 15 while we were dining) creating a very atmospheric dining ambience. As for the food, which for the most part pulls on Scandinavian influences, we were constantly thrilled by attention to detail and imaginative flavour fusions.

Sweet corn cakes with various fishy treats

To start we shared a fish sharing platter comprising sweet corn cakes and a selection of smoked salmon, smoked trout, caviar and a delicious taramasalata-styled smoked fish roe accompaniment. The combination of sweet, soft cakes and smokey fish was divine. On the side, bread was served in the form of various bagel-shaped creations, ranging from a sweeter glazed brioche to flat seeded cracker. For mains, we both chose a smoked lean brazed pork, with a red fruit and beer sauce and horseradish mashed potatoes. The meat was so tender and caramelised that along with the acidity of the red fruits and creaminess of the mashed potatoes, this dish took comfort to another level. A comfort which was then cranked up to a level of ridiculous self-indulgence when I had my dessert – a giant, soft and unctuous Oreo cookie with red fruits icecream. Oh god, I would return to Madrid just to have another one of those. Warmly recommended, if not stipulated as a necessary experience of the good life.

Giant Oreo!

But all this was just the start. Salamanca’s gastronomic offerings proved to be an altogether new level of culinary brilliance. Check out The Daily Norm tomorrow when I will try to put those incredible flavours into words!

Madrid – My photographs

In a welcome intermission from the account of my epic travels from Madrid to Salamanca, I am taking the opportunity to share with all the readers of The Daily Norm a first raft of photographs from the trip, starting with Madrid. From the grandeur of the Gran Via and the Plaza Mayor, to the quotidian offerings of the bustling Mercado San Miguel, Madrid has so much offer both the visitor and the budding photographer. Stunning architectural details and daily city life combine to inspire me with my camera, and despite a short stay in the city, I’ve collected a good few pictures to show you. Enjoy!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork in any form, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Madrid-Salamanca Part I: Silk-scarf Chagall’s and perfect palmeras – Thyssen, Prado and a well-needed Retiro

I have got the travel bug again, a bug which generally manifests itself in an urgent need to revisit the country of my parallel existence, Spain. There are a great deal of cities which I have left as yet unexplored on the Iberian Peninsula, but following the recent recommendation of a good friend, whose excellent taste for all things art historical is like the unwavering role of Vogue as a navigator through the undulations of fashion, I settled my sights on a city renowned for its university, its unrivalled and elaborate baroque architecture, and an all-over golden glow emanating from its consistent use of the local “Villamayor” sun-dappled sandstone: the City of Salamanca.

The golden hues of Salamanca's sandstone cathedral

Salamanca, named European Capital of Culture in 2002 and a UNESCO world-heritage site in 1988, is an amber-coloured gem set deep within the rocky central plains of the Castilla y Leon region of Spain. Despite its renown, the city has no airport, and consequently a visit to Madrid was first deemed necessary (you can also fly to nearby Valladolid and take a train to Salamanca from there). We decided to take advantage of Madrid as a channel to Castilla, staying two nights in the Vincci Soho hotel on the Calle Prado within easy reach of the Madrid artistic tripartite: the Thyssen-Bornemisza; the Prado and the Reina Sofia. It’s my fifth time in Madrid, but who can turn down the opportunity to drop in on some of the greatest masterpieces in all the world?

Foyer of the Madrid Vincci Soho

Upon waking in our spacious room complete with two balconies, one looking down to the Thyssen and the other angled towards the lively Plaza Santa Ana (we arrived late the previous night after a delayed flight and an even longer wait for luggage at Madrid airport) we headed enthusiastically into gallery land, stopping only for a sinful coffee at Starbucks (I know, and this coming from me, opponent of cafe chains – but you try getting a humble coffee in a zone of parks, monuments and gallery cafes).

Marc Chagall, Golgotha (1912)

First stop was the Thyssen-Bornemisza, a vast gallery which houses the collections of two respective generations of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, the largest of which was acquired by the Spanish state in 1993. A temporary show offered a retrospective look at the career of Marc Chagall. I was pleased about this, having only previously seen odd pieces by the Russian artist, and having gazed unknowingly at one of his designs throughout my youth when I admired the bloody red window which brightens up one facade of Chichester Cathedral in my home county of West Sussex.

View from the window in Zaolchie near Vitebsk, Marc Chagall (1915)

The show started fairly well. Chagall experimented with the cubist genre before moving into a more uniquely multi-coloured abstractive approach, all the while retaining figures who are often suspended randomly upon a two-dimensional backcloth. I liked some of his early works. His painting of a crucifixion (“Golgotha”) upon a background of tumultuous green showed originality and a powerful sense of drama (despite being Jewish, Chagall made recurrent references to the crucifixion in his work which he saw as a symbol of persecution of the Jews). I was also attracted by his works illustrating his home town of Vitebsk, with their subdued colour palette. Thereafter I wasn’t so impressed. His works became fairly repetitive and quite cartoony. His paintings featured the same symbols obsessively: badly painted livestock and horses playing the fiddle, embracing couples, and haphazardly executed flowers, all set against a vivid blue or red background. For me, his works resemble the kind of tacky silk scarves you find in arts and craft fairs. Try as I might, I really struggled to connect with his works. This connection was also made slightly harder by virtue of Thyssen’s bizarre decision to split the exhibition between two sites, so that for the second half we had to traipse halfway across central Madrid to the Caja Fundacion.

Marc Chagall, The Blue House (1920)

Having done the Chagall, and the rest of Thyssen’s collection, we emerged into a sunny Madrid and feeling full of the joys of Spring, headed to the Retiro park for lunch. Our admiration of these beautifully laid out public gardens including a massive pleasure lake framed by the arms of a vast colonnaded palace was however rudely interrupted by the passing of a rainstorm and accompanying Icelandic winds which swiftly turned Spring into mid-Winter in a heartbeat. Our shelter under a big pine tree proved rather fruitless, to which our damp visage later played testament, but luckily it really was a passing shower. With the sun out again, we and a number of other tourists emerged from our hiding places in the greenery like fairies called to the command of Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and we headed for the Prado.

The Buen Retiro Park

The Prado is a must for any art lover. The collection is so vast and the highlights so important and and wide-reaching that it frankly tramples the Louvre’s Mona Lisa-centred collection and blows the UK out of the water. Here you find Velazquez’s Las Meninas as well as a huge number of important highlights from his oeuvre: his royal portraits, “buffoons”, crucifixion and so on. Just a few galleries away are some stunning works by my favourite of the old masters: El Greco, a man whose works were so startlingly modern for his day that they wouldn’t look out of place down the road in the Reina Sofia with the Picasso’s. Then there are Goya’s chilling black paintings, and his 2nd and 3rd of May 1808 masterpieces, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and vast canvases by Rubens and Van Dyke. But asides from the priceless masterpieces, there are also wonderful examples of 19th century art by lesser known artists, and huge historical masterpieces such as this one, The Execution of Torrijos and His Companions on the Beach at Malaga by Antonio Gisbert, a painting which is so big that it could easily eclipse the average family home.

Antonio Gisbert, The Execution of Torrijos and His Companions on the Beach at Malaga (1887-88) (390cm x 600cm) Prado Gallery, Madrid

Understandably exhausted by the breadth of works on show, we retreated to our hotel for a well-earned rest before heading out, into the evening sun, to explore the livelier side of Madrid. We particularly enjoyed a visit to the bustling Mercado San Miguel, where locals and tourists alike gather to sample seafood delicacies, wines, tapas and pastries. Being as ever the purveyors of all things sweet, we settled for a creamy coffee and two freshly baked palmeras (otherwise known as palmiers or “elephant ears”). Now that is what I call a rounded day of cultural appreciation.

Creamy coffees at the Mercado San MIguel (palmeras had been scoffed by this point)

¡Hasta mañana!

2011: My year in photos

It’s the last day of 2011, and for my second review of the year that’s almost behind us, I’ve looked back on all the photos I’ve taken this year and selected a few of my favourites. In this way, I can share with you my year. It’s been a pretty good year for me in some ways – trips to Paris, Mallorca, Madrid and Marbella as well as Liverpool and Cornwall in England. All made for some inspirational scenes which begged to be captured on my camera. But so to does home continue to inspire, the autumnal glow of nearby Clapham Common and Richmond Park offering stimulating riches with which the lens so easily engages. So please enjoy the photos I have set out and in the meantime I trust that all the readers of The Daily Norm will enjoy a superb New Year’s Eve and have a very prosperous 2012. My little online paper has only been running a short while, but I am truly appreciative of all the support garnered so far. Please continue to drop in on my Norm-world in 2012 and help to spread all things artistic, aesthetic and beautiful around the globe. Happy New Year!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.