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Madrid and the Golden Ham
updated: Nov 14, 2009, 7:00 AM
By John McCafferty
It took a lot of hiking up and down Madrid's almost majestic Gran Via -- Madrid's Main Street, but I finally found the object of my quest; a sandwich/ham market named Museo del Jamon. This ham "museum" had got my attention years ago when Ron Rose and I were hoofin' around Madrid, and I loved the look and aroma of the hams all over the walls, and the taste of their offerings, pricey though they were. I had bought some slices of Jamon de Oro, as we called it because of the price.
As on the previous trip, I thought the portions were a little skimpy, but we bought a sandwich and enjoyed it. It became a part of a picnic at one of the ubiquitous McDonald's outlets, which here, as at home, generally have decent "Americano" coffee and clean restrooms. (The Americano term seems to be widespread, meaning espresso watered down a little, and served in a larger cup.)
El Museo, one of a dozen or so stores in the chain, has survived the threat of another pork palace, just up the street, Don Jamon. Safe to say that these folks love ham (and all kinds of sausages).
The second most interesting item on the Madrid agenda is of course, another museum, the world-class Museo del Prado (Museum of the Meadow). But to harp on one of my favorite themes, there's been a major change in the scenery of Europe in the last 20 years, and of course it has to do with the enormous growth of the world's population -- annoyingly evident from spring to fall. Just entering El Prado requires some map study and a lot of patience. Bored, uniformed officials at one of several Big Doors yawn in your face and point right or left, where you go to get ignored by yet more officials.
In about 1988 (I know, back when I was young, blah blah . . . but still . . .), Ron and I wandered in amidst only a few other tourists (true, this was in winter), enjoyed the wonderful collection, and wandered out. I still retain the eerie image of Edvard Munch's painting, "The Scream", down yonder at the end of a big room. This year we seemed to have trouble finding Munch's floor, hall, and era it belongs to, for openers.
But yes, it's an outstanding museum, overall.
The third most interesting thing about MOD-ree, as locals call it, was pick pocketing. We later heard that it is rampant, and had two close calls:
On a crowded metro (a favorite venue for these swine), we were hanging by straps when I heard Sharon shout, "THEY'RE TRYING TO PICKPOCKET ME!" She was only a couple of bodies away, but in the instant she said that and I turned, two small Asian women (she described later) had disappeared into the milling throng (I always liked that description -- saw lots of throngs all over Europe).
It was my turn as we worked our way into a crowded McDonald's. I was standing behind some folks who had jammed the doorway, and as I reached up to scratch my head, I felt another scratching -- at my back, about on the belt line. I whirled mas rapido around and whacked a small woman rather hard on the head with my elbow. She yelled something like, "HEY WATCHIT!" but was gone by the time I had fully turned around. I jumped out to the sidewalk and looked for her, curious, but she had vanished. They're FAST, these little so-and-so's.
NEXT: Fast-forwarding through Segovia, Toledo, maybe Granada . . .
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