22.11.2012 - 23.11.2012 17 °C
We flew from Rome to Madrid. Our ryanair flight has been booked for months. Five euro to take a direct bus from Rome Termini to Campiano pronounced champano, from MAD we took a bus and two subways to our hotel. We pass churches that look like wedding cakes, they are iced with elaborate detail, lots of spires, Rome was more into domes.
We feel we are in the lap of luxury, nice hotel, less than a block from the metro station, TRYP Washington, 52 Canadian a night on Expedia, Since I have been up since five all I want to do is rest today. It is November 22, gorgeous sunny day, but I am worn out from all the walking in Rome for the past four days, plus my right shoulder and right knee are bothering me, taking some kind of pill from Turkey for it but not as good as ibuprofin. So for the first time in two months I have a hot bath. Luxury.
There is a bakery right next door so Jeff brings us coffee and cheese croissants, and we watch the news on BBC. I have a little nap and then we go out for a tapas supper. To a neighbourhood Tapas bar. I have a wineglass of beer and wish I had ordered a bigger one. The owner cuts us off a slice of ham from a big hanging ham, looks like a side of pork, it is good. The whole thing, plate of olives, some meatballs, bread, backbacon, salami type sandwiches was twelve euros. On budget. We stop at the bakery and eat our dessert in the hotel. Our room is large and quiet, does not face the busy street, there are lots of towels in the bathroom, the linen is nice and the bed feels softer than the board I was sleeping on in Cristina's Residence, that bed was so hard.
We are going on the free three and a half hour walking tour at 11 am and tonight, when the galleries are free we will go to see Goya, Valesquez, Titian, el Greco and Picasso. The Prado is a world class museum and I am getting wiser and have our route all planned out. Las Meninas, Death of a Virgin and The Garden of Earthly Delights are on my must-see list, then on to the Reina Sofia to see Picasso and Dali. Guernica and Woman in Blue are my must sees there.
Alfred Adler said, 'The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.'. Quitting my job, moving to Victoria and going on this trip may be a new leaf for me. Throw caution to the wind, life is short, reality will set in come January. 'Freedom's just another word for...nothing left to lose' ..... rock on Janis Joplin, your song is stuck in my head.
Well she didn't write the words, but her version is great.
TRYP Washington Hotel does not include breakfast but has a good coffee machine and is walking distance to Mayor Square. Right next door is a nice deli restaurant/bar with good and cheap food and we are eating a lot of tapas, appetizer type food so are on budget.
Yesterday on the plane from Rome I set my watch ahead an hour. So today we were an hour early for the free walking tour because the time did not change. We started out in Mayor Square which is all set up as a Christmas market. During the Spanish Inquisition they used to kill people right under Mayor Square. The Spanish Inquisition gets a bad rap though, as in 350 years they killed, at most, 3000 people. Various methods were used, one was the garotte, a wire placed around the neck, tighter, tighter.
The last time Spain used this less than humane method was, can you believe this: 1974.
1492 was a banner year in Spain, they got rid of the Moors (muslims from northern Africa), Columbus rediscovered America and the Spanish Inquisition started. One reason Spain has such good pork and ham is a result of this. To prove they had converted to Christianity the moors and Jews remaining in Spain would hang up legs of pork. Now there are numerous delis and tapas bars with hams hanging in rows.
The austrian empire ruled Spain for centuries and the Hapsbergs were the royal family. To keep the bloodline royal they would marry their cousins. Finally they produced a king and heir who had numerous health problems, and besides being mentally retarded was also impotent so then the Bourbans took over.
We saw the oldest restaurant where Hemingway and Goya hung out. We did not dine there, but we did have paella for lunch. Very good.
The weather is good, lots of buskers, street entertainment, etc. How do they do this:
Tonight, 23 November, we spent three hours looking at art. At the Prado, saw all the works I listed and also Raphael's The Cardinal.
The Reina Sofia took the longest as it doesn't have as good of a map and list of favourites like the Prado. Besides The Woman in Blue and the Spanish Civil War Guernica masterpiece we saw Dali's Woman at the Window and several other works including Picasso's Woman with a Handkerchief Crying and Table With Musical Instruments. I think we have now seen enough art to hold us for awhile. What is so amazing about these galleries is how close you can get to the paintings. You are close enough to touch them. And both are free in the evenings. Amazing. We just saw the highlights, it would take a whole day to see everything.
My favourite for some reason was The Cardinal. It was small and very vivid. Of course, Rome was loaded with Raphael but for some reason this painting was so personal, probably because you could get right up to it, so close.
The weather has been wonderful. People are still sitting on patios and outdoor cafes. They do provide a kind of fake fur blanket at some. Pansies are blooming. A lot of deciduous trees still have green leaves but the maples have turned to gold and lots of leaves on the street. The subway system in Madrid is great. Second only to Stockholm on this trip. People speak with a lisp. Grathiouth.
The streets are alive at night. Old, young, all walking around, eating in tapas bars, going out, kids on skateboards doing ollies off ancient steps, two words that are important here, siesta and manana.
The siesta gives them the energy to eat late and stay up to enjoy a visit. Supper starts at nine pm, friends meet up at 11 pm, the clubs are open all night, hot chocolate and churros in the early morning, energy to get back home.
Starting tomorrow we will be teaching English as volunteers. We have been accepted by Vaughantown to participate in their program. In return we will receive free upscale lodgings and meals for five days at the ElRancho resort near Segovia. This works for us because our trip is lengthy and Spain was on our itinerary. 17 Anglos and 15 Spanish will spend time together speaking English. English must be your first language to qualify as a volunteer. We learned about this on the internet completely by accident and decided to register.
24 Nov - We do not have to check out of TRYP Washington (near Spanya station in Madrid) til noon, so we sleep in. This is Saturday. We move hotels today and since we missed the hotel's laundry service yesterday we must do laundry. We are going to be with the same thirty odd people for six days so we need to start out clean. At noon we trundle off on the subway with our packs and get off at Via and by 130 we have located the laundromat. It was not that far from the station, just hard to find. We asked for directions a few times and did a bit of sightseeing along the way.
Almudena Cathedral is a newer church, started in 1882 and completed in 1993 it gives a whole new meaning to manana. In front of the Cathedral you can see the old city wall from the ninth century.
When we finally arrived at the laundromat we threw our jackets in with everything else, they have not been washed since we left home.
We drink take-out coffee and eat pastries while we wait. A lady from Boston, of Japanese decent, strikes up a conversation so the time passes quickly. She is in Madrid to take flamenco lessons. She tells us the highest quality flemenco shows are in Madrid. The shows in Saville are very geared to tourists. Who knew? She gave us some good suggestions of where the best flamenco dancers could be viewed, quite close to this laundromat actually. I will try to book tickets for next Friday. Flamenco is really popular in Japan.
At three our laundry is all packed up, two trains to Eurohotel in the embassy district, by now it is four and the tapas reception is at 5. This is the most expensive place we have stayed in, 77 Canadian. It is a suite. Huge. Living room, dining area, six closets, mirrors everywhere, cute little kitchen. Bigger than my last apartment, on the thirteenth floor, great view. Now I dye my hair. I am not about to meet 30 strangers with an inch of grey roots. The fact that I traipsed across a continent this way didn't bother me.