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El Culturo (Popular)

Ah, the culture of Madrid — today was a day filled with sights and sounds that only Madrid can offer. We began the day with a brief bus tour of the city, including a quick stop at the Plaza de Toros — Spain's premiere bullfighting arena.

Think and say what you will about the bullfight, it is a spectacle deep in the marrow of Spain's culture and rich with religious symbolism. Our local guide described it as akin to opera — love it, hate it, tolerate it — it is what it is. No matter your opinion, it is difficult to not admire the beauty of the area that seats over 25,000. Some of us even purchased posters that feature the famous (infamous?) matador, Jose Tomas. He is considered the best there is, the best there was and perhaps the best there ever will be at the sport. 

Our next major stop was the Prado, which means "meadow," since the museum was originally built on the meadows of Madrid and was meant to be a museum of natural sciences. Our favorite works were some masterpieces like "Las Meninas" by Velasquez — a study in perspective and the life of an artist of the royal court — "El Tres de Mayo" by Goya, his famous (infamous?) work of protest, and several works from her dark period. Several gentlemen in our group especially enjoyed Goya'a "Maja Vestida" and "Maja Desnuda."

In addition to being charmed by the Prado's master works, we were especially delighted by the sight of several tour groups of local elementary schoolers touring the museum on a school trip. Note: The hand-holding ("buddy") system is alive and well in Spanish elementary schools. 

Another afternoon to explore saw many of us enjoying more churros y chocolate and sidra, a fermented cider popular to the region. Why not take a visit to Casa Mingo — a Madrid landmark since 1888 that is famous (infamous?) for its sidra and roasted chicken? How about another stop to the Puerta del Sol for some photos with the street performers or costumed mascots — didn't you always want to meet a ramshackle Simpson, Disney character or Hello Kitty in a Spanish plaza? (The Smurfs are especially frightening.) One almost expects a doña to pass by, calling out "Flores pars las muertos" in homage to Blanche and the streetcar named Desire... Make sure to stop in the Puerto for a photo with the statue of the bear climbing the strawberry bush — the symbol of Madrid. 

The evening took us to a classic dinner show of Spain's most popular cultural dance — the flamenco. We were awed by the passionate singing and fancy footwork. One can only imagine that flamenco allows several businesses to remain afloat in Spain — the makers of ruffled skirts, tight pants and fringed shawls / podiatrists / makers of anti-perspirant / hairspray and gel factories... (No one's hair moved. Ever. How is that possible?) Truly, what a wonderful show we observed from our front-row seats!

A bullring. The Prado. Flamenco. A day full of the best that the culture of Madrid can offer. Ole! Ole! Ole!