Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26th: Churros, The Prado and train tickets.

We slept in a bit, recovering from the terrible bed we had in Sevilla. It’s very nice to be back in this apartment, our second visit, because it’s everything a rental should be. Well appointed, bright, roomy and located in a perfect neighborhood close to Puerto del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Calle Arenal.

It didn’t take much time to get back down the street to the Chocolateria for a post breakfast refueling of churros and molten chocolate bars. I suppose one should consider the consequence of eating a liquid Lindt bar before lunch, but really, why would you? This is vacation and the rest of the year is for thinking smartly.

A short trip to the Prado was on today’s agenda, our second time here. We got there late and it turned out to be a good choice as it wasn’t very crowded outside of the usual youth tours wasting their parents money, including a big batch of really rude French second year students. Not nearly so much last time and thus easier to get a good look at the paintings I had brushed by on our last visit. I don’t really like the way the Prado is laid out, it’s confusing to follow eras and schools, unlike the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which is across the street. There, as you wander the floors you advance in time and style, so you gain some knowledge about the way painting changed over the centuries. Here, the art is loosely organized by era, but with a more detailed concentration on nationality and specific tributes to the Spanish greats – Velazquez, Goya, El Greco and the Italian, Titian who was a court painter for the Spanish king, Philip II. What you end up with is a hodgepodge that is hard to follow and you’re often left wondering how you ended up looking at the austere style of El Greco when you just left a lush gallery of Velazquez pieces. But who am I to criticize, it’s one of the four most significant museums in the world and I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

I had two major goals on this visit, a nice long look at the Velaxquez masterpiece “Las Meninas” and a closer visit with Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” The former was easy, and the latter required some elbow checking to get through another group of teenagers raptly listening to their guide while standing with their backs to the painting. But I got to see what I wanted and so I left happy. We also stumbled upon a “Mona Lisa” done by one of Leonardo’s students that we’d missed last time. The real beauty of this second visit was starting on the second floor and not being totally saturated by walking by everything on the first floor. And the fact that we had no pressure to absorb it all.

Garden of Earthly Delights

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Las Meninas

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A quick bite to eat and a walk down Paseo del Prado brought us to Puerta de Atocha station. We’d made a plan to take a return trip to Toledo tomorrow and it being a) Saturday and b) a popular day trip destination, we thought it a good idea to buy the tickets in advance. Unfortunately the ticket office was 10 people deep so I thought I’d ask the customer service guy if I could either buy them on line and print them out at the station, or buy them in a kiosk.

This is tough stuff for my rudimentary Spanish so I asked if we could talk in English. He replied in the affirmative and I presented my questions. He response was an unintelligible stream of words and phrases that came nowhere near making my choice clear. So I asked again in Spanish and he responded, “Do you want to do this in English or Spanish?” so I said, “Both.” He proceeded to tell me that I could not buy at home and print at the station (something I suspect is not true) and that the ticket office was across the atrium (which I already new.) He failed to address the kiosk question although he might have said “no.” I told him that there were too many people in the ticket office and he suggested that I try the other one, in the direction of the Metro station. We took off in that general direction, ignoring all the signs pointing to where we’d just been and just when we were about to give up, there it was. Along with a dozen kiosks. I took a number (we were 16 people down the list,) gave it to My Lovely Wife and went out to try a kiosk. It took me a while to figure out how to get the thing working but when I did, the purchase was easy. Tickets in hand, I returned to My Lovely Wife while she was still 10 people behind.

It was a long slog back to our place in Las Asturias, unlike Valencia and Sevilla, Madrid has hills and they’re tough. It was sprinkling a bit, not enough for an umbrella but plenty to make the marble sidewalks slick. What is it about every other country and marble? I almost died so many times in China that it just seems to be obvious it’s a bad choice anywhere that ever rains or snows. We finally found our way back to Plaza Mayor and stopped for a slice of “Ponche Segoviana,” that cake, pudding and marzipan wonder we fell in love with last time. Now it’s time for a rest and some laundry and a plan for the remainder of the day.

A cool garden growing on the side of a building.

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