If you've only a single day in Madrid and want it to be truly special, start the morning with breakfast at the Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes. It's found within the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, central to Spain's cultural life since time immemorial. The Academy was once headed by Goya, whose work is on display there along with a remarkable collection of Italian, Flemish and other Spanish art spanning five centuries. Among the Goyas on view is Casa de Locos, one of his masterly depictions of the insane. Notable former students here included Picasso and Dalí, but their work is not exhibited; Picasso left of his own accord and Dalí was repeatedly expelled. The café was immortalized by Almodóvar in Kika (1993). In that film, Victoria Abril and Peter Coyote meet here, Abril as Andrea Scarface, a huntress of dark sensations decked out in Gaultier, the star of a TV show called Today's Worst. As Nicholas Pierce, an American writer, Coyote - the camera slowly panning along the big windows of the café - explains, deadpan, his latest antihero's attitude toward murder: "A killing is like cutting your toenails. At first, thinking about it makes you lazy. When you cut them, you discover it's quicker than you imagine. You think long time will pass before doing it again. But when you least expect it, they've grown." The café has an entry fee, one euro, and that small expense will take you beyond time and space as soon as you cross the threshold. Everything is a bit timeworn but pleasantly so, from the painted ceiling to the rather strange Constructivist chairs, the sculpture of a nude model, and the overwhelming view of Calle Alcalá beyond the big windows. At noon on a Sunday - which in Spain is something like early morning, since Spaniards tend to eat supper only after ten in the evening and sip a cocktail at midnight; things get going only in the wee hours - a picturesque gentleman sips a Bloody Mary as customers gather for lunch in a flurry that reminds one of extras on a movie set.
Posted 05/2010Share it:
Keywords: cafe, Madrid