By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Mar 07, 2008 at 10:43 AM

MADRID -- When I left off yesterday, we were just waking up from a nap, getting ready for an early evening visit to the Reina Sofia Museum. It felt a little weird to be heading to a museum at 5:30 p.m., but it turned out not to be a big deal.

Like the guidebooks suggest, Madrid doesn't get going until late. And it keeps going, on weekdays, too, well after most Americans would be fast asleep.

The Reina Sofia Museum, like Paris' Orsay, is dedicated to more contemporary works, the highlights for me being tons of Picassos and Dalis. There are literally hundreds of paintings and sculptures by Picasso on display, and they span his entire long career. I didn't know, until I saw it in person, how incredibly diverse his art is, from early portraits to the influential cubist "Guernica" to his later paintings.

Dali's body of work at the museum was just slightly less diverse, but both were extremely impressive. I feel like I've now seen most of the world's finest artists in the last week. Maybe it makes up for, in a small way, a few years of indifference at some traveling exhibits I meant to see at the Milwaukee Art Museum -- and managed to miss.

After the museum, we took the metro to the Puerta del Sol, literally the geographic center of all of Spain. The area was bustling with people heading to the dozens of tapas bars radiating out from the square. We picked one that looked lively but not jam-packed and enjoyed this classic Spanish experience of nibbling on small plates while chatting and people-watching.

Sure, I've had tapas in Milwaukee, but this was a bit different. The restaurant, like a lot of Madrid so far, was largely devoid of tourists. I enjoyed these few hours as much as anything on our entire trip, and I felt very satisfied (and full) when we eventually headed back to the hotel.

This morning, we took Rick Steves' Madrid walk, from the Puerta del Sol to the Plaza Mayor to the Royal Palace. Again, this city feels so very different from Paris. While France is beautiful, Madrid seems so much more vibrant and alive. We spent several hours just strolling the streets, walking off the tiny churros and chocolate breakfast we enjoyed.

I truly wish I had more energy, but since we've been traveling since last Wednesday and walking up to 10 miles each day, we needed to take Madrid up on its tradition of the siesta again. We just finished an hour-long nap. After I post this, we'll head back into Puerta del Sol, this time to the "mesones," a series of cave-like bars where we'll have a drink and venture off to hopefully see some flamenco. Then Saturday is our final day here before flying back to Milwaukee.

A few quick and random observations:

Last night, we watched a bit of TV and saw some European basketball between Madrid and Greece (I think). The announcer said that one of the players was formerly with the Bucks. My knowledge of NBA basketball is about 1 percent that of the NFL and MLB, but I think they might have been referring to Joe Smith. Please correct me if I'm wrong. (Lynn Greer plays for Olympiakos (Greece) in the Euroleague, he played for the Bucks in 2006-07 -ed).

People eat lunch and dinner here really late, but they also work later schedules. For example, it's now 5 p.m., and the housekeepers haven't gotten to our room yet.

The Ham Museum I referred to yesterday is really a chain of ham stores. Velia, the "when in Rome" traveler, had a ham sandwich last night, which she said was really good. It's weird to see all these pig legs, feet attached, hanging from every restaurant ceiling. Like I said, these people adore ham and cured meats of all kinds.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.