So much culture, so little time

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Last weekend Mrs Cameron and I took a weekend trip to the Spanish capital of Madrid.

Situated miles from the sea in the centre of the country and more than 2,000ft above sea level, visiting in August we were sure to be needing our high factor sun block.

Our challenge would be trying to do Madrid, all in a four-day break

Madrid is a proud city teeming with history and culture, so our challenge would be trying to do it all in a four-day break.

As a typical European capital there is something for everyone, and Madrid boasts museums, art galleries, architecture, great restaurants, botanical gardens, royal palaces, armouries and much more.

As a seasoned traveller, my wife has a proven theory – give your concierge a ‘healthy’ tip on arrival and this will pay dividends throughout your stay.

This proved the case with our concierge who booked our museum tickets, arranged for a hired scooter to be delivered to the hotel and made recommendations and reservations for evening restaurants.

If you like people-watching, there are open squares with outdoor dining located throughout the city and I can strongly recommend the rooftop terrace restaurant at the ME Hotel on Plaza de Santa Ana.

Our concierge also suggested we experience the oldest and most famous Flamenco dancing show in the world. El Tablao Flamenco, located in the old part of town, proudly displays photographs of famous patrons including Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich, Michael Douglas and Muhammad Ali.

Strangely they didn’t want a picture of me to add to the ‘wall of fame’. But my disappointment was short-lived once the classical guitar-playing and dancing started.

Among Madrid’s numerous museums are the Golden Triangle, comprising the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisa, Prado Museum and Reina Sofia Museum collectively displaying important works from old masters like Raphael and Caravaggio, to the modern greats of Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh and Monet.

Making optimum use of our time, each morning we rode the scooter five miles into town to get to the museums for opening time and hopefully beat the queues.

Three hours inside was enough before stepping back out into the midday sun for lunch followed by some sightseeing by scooter, meandering back for some relaxation by the pool then out for supper.

The four days wasn’t nearly enough and I hope to return again, this time perhaps in spring or autumn – and perhaps when La Liga has started so we can experience the Bernabeu stadium and watch the great Real Madrid.

Focus on...The Pink Boy

Worcester porcelain established the highest standards of hand-painting in the early 20th century.

Pieces were treated like a blank canvas and the whole object, be it a dish, vase or framed porcelain plaque, was richly gilded and painted with animal landscapes, fruit still life or portraits.

Among the most sought-after Worcester painters of this period are the Stinton family, who specialised in Highland cattle and gamebirds, and Richard Sebright, the most celebrated painter of floral and fruit still life.

This piece by William Hawkins, foreman between 1920-28, is a copy of the celebrated portrait of Jonathan Buttal, commonly known as The Pink Boy, painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1770 and now in the Rothschild collection at Waddesdon Manor.

The oval porcelain plaque attracted considerable interest from the telephone and internet bidders, who were beaten away by a collector who had travelled down from the Midlands to bid in person, securing the plaque with a winning bid of £3,400.