Last night I became a member of the Wellington Society.
I know, sounds alarming, right?
Well, my Time Out guide suggested a couple of slightly offbeat tour options, and described the Wellington Society in these terms: If you miss your mad British uncle and want a surrogate who really knows his history, join the Wellington Society (joining is the only way to get a tour). Stephen Drake’Jones warns that if you don´t like wine and history, this tour is not for you.
I confirmed with him by phone, met him at Plaza del Sol at 8 PM, gave him my 50 euros, became a card-carrying member of the Wellington Society, and promptly sat down with him for a glass of white wine and the best empanada I´ve had in my life before the tour started. He quickly sussed out my personality (I was the only one on the tour, although generally there´s a minimum of two), and decided to give me the Bloody Madrid tour (perfect for the Inquisition obsessor), complete with tracing the steps of the assassin of the duke de someone, a potential threat to Philip II (or was it Charles III? the wine might have muddied my recollection a little).
Phenomenal, dramatic tour that included tucked away local tapas stops for nibbles and drinks as well as riveting history so that as I wandered Madrid today, I saw it in a slightly different light. And I´m on my way to pick up some cheese and pate from the place he insisted was the best deli in Madrid so I can have a peaceful picnic dinner on my last night in town. (This to balance out the one high-end meal I allowed myself at lunch, which was crashed by these three wealthy and banal kids travelling the world until one of them goes to Canada to heli-ski….I kid you not; his dad texted him during lunch to get it on his calendar for November. It apparently involves a helicopter and skiing, as the name suggests. Just a note: they claim that group seating at big tables is a charming European tradition….but not when you have a good book that you can´t read because your companions are busy talking about how they´re having beer for breakfast, even though it´s 2:30 in the afternoon.)
They say you can´t understand Madrid without seeing a bullfight. I´m pretty comfortable leaving Madrid having loved it but not understood it.
I still owe you a report on Goya, Guernica, and I have to add to it the Hopper painting ¨The Hotel Room¨ which I had to walk away from at the museum today lest I start openly weeping. Who´d have thought–in Madrid, moved to tears by an American original. God is good.