Madrid, the morning after Cristiano Ronaldo played his first game, and scored his first goal at the Bernabeu and he's everywhere, staring down from every billboard, looking out from every magazine, his name on the back of every white Real shirt that passes. A city with baited breath, a new God.
I was immediately at home. Madrid seems modest, domestic and although it's clear that life is very good here, the human scale of everything, compared to other European capitals, made me feel like I was a welcome guest in the spare room, rather than a commercial traveller in a plush hotel. It's a city that welcomes tourists, but doesn't seem to stop much for them and it's all the better for not feeling pushed around. The real joy here is not in monuments, although the Bourbon monarchs offered an air of grandeur, but in the social places, the cafe bars, the parks and plazas.
As I only had a day I dumped my rucksack and headed straight of to the modern art museum Reina Sofia, which is free on Sundays. My main mission was to see Guernica up close, but the gallery was so full of treasures that I spent the entire afternoon wandering the rooms.
Guernica is overwhelming and impressive, even in the scrum of mobile phones and digital cameras. Up close you realise its uneven texture, hidden scratches and the rough outlines of shapes that Picasso thought about making, but didn't. The layering seems to give the painting both a skeleton and a nervous system and despite the hundreds of flash lights and posed pictures of international travellers capturing themselves for a moment in front of the canvas, it defies commodification.
Even more wonderful was a playful retrospective of Juan Munoz sculptures inhabiting every space, corner and crevice. Charm filled, I didn't quite know if the mannequins were sharing a joke with me or laughing at my expense - they're so theatrical, like characters from a Beckett play, suspended in motion, half way between the ridiculous and profound.
By evening I'd found my way across town to the Plaza Mayor, where the waiters whistled and waddled like penguins to bring in their clientele. A late night stroll through the busy bustling streets around La Latina before heading to bed. Early start tomorrow.