Our train whizzed along at great speed from Valencia to Madrid: we could watch the onboard video, listen to a choice of music (headphones provided by Renfe), or - as I did - gaze out of the window at the passing sierras, noting the wind farms en route: we saw them everywhere on our journey through Europe, but none more than in Spain - a sign of hope.
Madrid was one of two pivots for our trip: Thomas's move to Lisbon was the other. Majestic Wine came up with an amazing offer in August: buy a case of Marqués de la Concordia wine through them and you could stay for two nights free in the Marqués de la Concordia private Wine Club in the Barrio de Salamanca, the so-called Mayfair of Madrid. As Caroline and I had always wanted to visit the Prado, it was a no brainer. The bad news was that Caroline missed seeing anything of the Prado, either its permanent collection or the great Rembrandt exhibition, because of an enforced day in bed. The good news was that there was no more comfortable bed in which to spend a day during our entire trip. The Quinta turned out to be more luxy than any hotel we could have afforded.
Happily, we had persuaded our good friends Colin and Jessica to buy a case of Marqués de la Concordia too, so it was all four of us who had travelled together from Paris to end up here in Madrid. And we did all four together manage to visit and enjoy the two other big Madrid galleries, the elegant Thyssen and the excellent Reina Sofia: Guernica hangs there, a worthy setting.
After my day at the Prado in the presence of masterpieces by Velazquez and Rembrandt, I felt more comfortable with Velazquez, especially after seeing Las Menenias. Picasso's series based on that great work (dating from 1957: we had seen it in the Barcelona Picasso Museum) seems trivial beside the real thing.
Just being in Madrid is inspiring, even when you don't do any conventional sightseeing.