Under the last Spanish October skies of 2022, I and three of my students went to Madrid. Our goal was to spend Halloween in the national capital and explore all the works of Francisco Goya, who had been the topic of the month in my class. The legendary Prado Museum has the largest collection of Goya's works and I wanted my students to discover them all. But we had many other exciting experiences ahead of us!

I picked up my last student in Ondara, and we hit the motorway. Four and a half hours later, including a coffee break, we were at our hotel. We went to our rooms and put away our equipment. We refreshed ourselves with a snack in our rooms. One student had brought a kettle, so she could drink tea, which she did 

We went down to the lobby and reception called our taxi. By 3.30pm we were at the Prado. I had the most delicious coffee in the museum cafeteria, and we went in search of Goya.

We did find him waiting for us at the ticket office.

* Report by Karla Ingleton Darocas. Hons. B. A.  (

We had to walk past the salons dedicated to Joaquin Sorolla, so we just had to enjoy those works. Furthermore, we also saw works from the Neoclassical era and the Romantic period. Finally, we arrived at Goya's historic epic works, the 3rd and 4th of May.

Then we came to the room with his Black Paintings. On the next floor were his works from the time when he was the King's painter. The top floor was filled with his earliest works, which he created for the royal tapestry factory.

I was pleased to see that this floor also had a special exhibition of works by the late Baroque/Rococo painter Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-1799). His works are rare, and his background story is fascinating. I had read a lot about him because I was interested in his works, so I was delighted to find this exhibition. 

Knowing that the museum would be closing at 7:00pm we made our way to the Murillo exit and down the street to the Mexican restaurant before heading back to the hotel in a taxi.


The next morning we were up early. We did not want to miss our next adventure, because it was a very special one.

We had the taxi drop us off at the Casa de Mexico. Not only that, but we were greeted by a huge skeleton, three or four metres high, hanging from the building. Around the building were posters for the special exhibition showing the early work of Frida Kahlo, Mexico's most famous symbolist painter.

The Casa de Mexico is an early 20th-century mansion in Madrid's Chamberí district. It was inaugurated in 2018 as a place of cultural exchange and knowledge between Mexico and Spain. It is part of the Embassy of Mexico.

In addition to the Frida Kahlo exhibition, there was also a bookshop and a permanent collection of Mexican art. On the ground floor was the Mexican restaurant Punta Arena, which we will visit on our next visit.

Frida made from sugar candy

clay skeletons

clay traditional costume women

Paper-mache figures

Hand-painted bull with wings

As we left the Casa de Mexico, a queue of people stretched around the building to the back. No matter, we were the first in and the first out, and now it was time for a coffee and a snack.

Our next idea was to go to the Royal Palace, but when we got there the queue to get in was terrible, so we decided to walk up the Calla Major. 

Royal Palace

On the old main street, we discovered the Gothic part of the city and a unique building. This house-palace belonged in 1537 to Don Benito Jiménez de Cisneros, nephew of Cardinal Cisneros, and is one of the few 16th centuries Renaissance palaces preserved in Madrid. It is part of the Plaza de la Villa complex, acquired by the City Council in 1909 from the heirs of the Countess of Oñate, and is connected to the Casa de la Villa building by a passageway.

As we reached the upper end of the main road, it began to drizzle a little. We took refuge under a canopy to have a coffee/tea, and right in front of us was a large Egypt exhibition!

Completely by chance, we visited the first exhibition organised in Spain on the role of women in ancient Egypt and the largest, with more than 300 pieces from 12 countries and 27 national and international museums, collectors and institutions. The exhibition covered all areas of the female world, from daily life and the role of women in the family and society in general (Women in Ancient Egypt), their influence as deities and priestesses (Goddesses and Temples), as rulers and members of the royal family (Royal Women) and their importance in funerary rituals (From Death to Eternity). All the interesting things I wanted to photograph, especially the ceramic figures, were forbidden.

After we left the exhibition, the weather was getting worse and, as it was a Monday afternoon on Halloween, many museums and palaces were closed or about to close. We decided to go back to the Prado 

This time we looked at the many paintings from the different types of Romanticism, from historical to exotic to landscapes. Then we went on to the Great Hall with the magnificent paintings by Diego Velásquez, including his epic Las Meninas.

We visited all the other Baroque artists, Spanish and Italian, then all the Renaissance artists. After three hours we ran out of time because the museum was going to close. So we had to save the Gothic works and the Dutch masters for another time 

We left the museum again through the Murillo door and dashed across the street to the first restaurant we found. We shared a nice bottle of Rioja Crianza wine and talked about what we had seen.


Once again we were up early and ready to rock!

We said goodbye to our hotel and headed out of town on the highway. We passed on a coffee, so we could take a break after about 90 minutes of driving. We left the highway at Cuenca and drove inland across a huge reservoir. I wish we had stopped to take a photo, because it was really spectacular. It was the Alarcón Dam and Reservoir if you wish to look it up on the internet.

After a few kilometres we reached our destination, the castle of Alarcón. It is part of the fortifications built around the town of Alarcón in Cuenca. The fortress consists of a walled area, where the heart of the population and the actual castle are located, and five separate, strategically placed outer towers.

This authentic mediaeval fortress, whose foundation is attributed to King Alfonso VIII in the 12th century, was built according to the chronicle of the wise king. Later, during the Renaissance, it was reformed by the politician and writer Infante don Juan Manuel and then reformed again by the Marquis of Villena, a hereditary title in the Spanish nobility granted in 1445 by the Catalan King Juan II to Juan Pacheco, Grand Master of the Order of Santiago.

The castle had been converted into a beautiful parador hotel, but the restaurant was not yet open. We decided to take a walk around the small historic town and were surprised to find four churches of incredible Gothic/Romanesque and Renaissance design and a hermitage. We found a small café and enjoyed our breakfast before heading home.

I will leave you with this story... 

The legend of the castle of Alarcón tells how the stone blocks of the enclosing wall were stained with blood, which is represented today by strange black and reddish stains on the mortar.

Long ago, the ruler of the whole region lived in the castle. He had a very beautiful sister of marriageable age who was desired by many suitors. Among them was the son of a prince from the neighbouring lands. This young man was notorious for his bad manners, and when he asked for the girl's hand in marriage, he was immediately thrown out.

Some time later, the lord of the castle learned that the rejected suitor, out of deep resentment, had made plans to murder him and kidnap his sister. When a stranger came one day to meet the lord of the castle in private, the lord suspected that the man had been sent as an assassin and prepared the meeting with great care.

In the end, his suspicions were confirmed, and at the moment when the stranger was about to pounce on him, his servants restrained the murderer and killed him. Then they mixed the corpse with the mortar that had been prepared for the building work while construction was going on in the castle.