“I have had the best time in Madrid – going to another country and exploring their galleries and art instead of going to a London gallery has been really interesting and such a great experience.” (A Lower Sixth former)

An early start to our first day – we had to be at Gatwick by 5.30am – enabled us to be in Madrid and viewing Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ before tea time! While we felt a little weary, the sight of this

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extraordinary mural sized painting, and associated drawings, revived our spirits. In addition the Reina Sofia’s delicate and detailed Salvador Dalis and substantial collection of modern and contemporary art helped us get in tune with the art we would see over the next few days. Madrid’s other two major galleries, The Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo del Prado were a short walk from our well-placed hotel and were on the next day’s itinerary. Perhaps we were ambitious to visit these within such a short time but the extraordinary visual feast that they provided left us wanting more. The Thyssen – substantially the collection of one couple – contains wonderful art from early renaissance altarpieces to twentieth century masters from America and Europe. The Prado contains Spanish painting at its finest from Velasquez, Goya, Zurbaran and El Greco as well as European work that entered the Spanish royal collections at the height of Spain’s power.

The evening was spent visiting the recently re-opened Faro de Moncloa Tower whose observation deck gave us a panoramic view of Madrid and the hills beyond just as

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the sun set. Buffet supper in a pleasant restaurant near Puerta del Sol gave us a taste of street life in Madrid on a Friday evening. The whole city seemed to be awake and shopping!

On Saturday we travelled by efficient modern rail to Toledo, where we visited the El Greco Museum set in a restored C16th house, before wandering through this attractive hill-top town. We returned for an evening in central Madrid, where some serious shopping was done by some; we walked together in the evening light to view the vastness of the Palacio Real and Cathedral de Almudena.

Sunday was supposed to be a more relaxed day as we took in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando followed by a drawing walk in the Parque de Retiro.

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The surreal image of a herd of sheep being driven through central Madrid while we viewed majestic Goya’s was strange enough. However, a stolen iPhone, and the subsequent visit to the central police station, did change the group’s mood. A misplaced passport half an hour before leaving for the airport and the subsequent run through Madrid’s streets to retrieve it from the café where it had been left, will remain in my memory for some time!

The tour was busy and tiring but we experienced some fantastic artwork and something of the energy of Spain’s capital. The 17 Cranleighians who came were immaculately behaved and super travelling companions – despite the odd groan about long walks! Thanks are due to Mrs Baumann for her calm help and especially to Mr Lewthwaite whose research, language skills and previous knowledge of the city made sure we made the most of our time.

(More photos)

James Nairne
Director of Art