Saturday, February 11, 2017

From the Prado to the Royal Palace

Our last days in Spain were a series of bus and train rides, excursions to the towns of Toledo and Segovia, and wandering through the streets of Madrid.

 La Cathédrale Santa María La Real de La Almudena  

We visited the Prado Museum, got there around ten o’clock in the morning and the line to enter was halfway around the building, so we left, took a bus ride through the modern part of Madrid and was terribly disappointed because it was not nearly as enchanted as the old part. We arrived back at the Prado two hours later and walked right in. For the next three and half hours M died and went to heaven. She was among the old masters of European painters and totally in her own universe. I was in total agony. The 4 hours standing of the previous evening watching the Semana Santa in Plaza Mayor rekindled an old hip injury and the slow walking and more standing in the museum took its toll on my hip. All I wanted to do was to sit somewhere comfortable to diminish the pain. And sat I did from time to time and just let M meander through the marbled-floor halls and appreciate the works of  her perennial favorites,  Rembrandt, Petrus Paulus Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, but we both got to know and like the works of  Goya too. At 5:30 pm I eventually dragged her out of there, she reluctantly agreed, and we paid a quick visit to the San Jerónimo el Real Church across the street from the Prado.        

 Puerta del Sol, Madrid's Time Square

We crossed the busy Paseo del Prado street, allowed ourselves to be swept away by the crowd of pedestrians towards Gran Via and down a quiet side street we found a quaint square and the restaurant La Plateria, named after the square. For the next two or three hours we sat al fresco under the heated umbrellas of the restaurant watching the comings and goings of people either heading home or on their way to the Friday night Holy Week procession through the neighborhood of Huertas just a block or two away from the square. We reflected on the day’s activities and savored Rioja wine and local Madrilène cuisine. The food was generous, the house wine above average, the service swift and the chairs comfortable to allow our tired feet a rest. 

The Royal Palace
On the Monday, our last day, we visited the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace, and the Cathedral Santa María La Real de La Almudena next door to the palace. In the Palace, just like in the Prado, I was sternly told that photography was not allowed. Spoilsports! Of course, I still snapped the secret photo here or there. See the selection of chandeliers in the video below. Afterwards he had a late lunch near the Opera House before we returned to our apartment for some rest and packing for the next morning’s departure to Munich, Chicago and then Lexington.   


Street scenes from Madrid and inside the Royal Palace

Early evening after the sun has set behind the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains and a hazy darkness has settled upon Madrid, I walked out on the apartment’s balcony for a cigarette before we went out for our last dinner at an Italian trattoria around the corner from our apartment. On the balcony next door a dog sniffled once or twice before an unseen male voice silenced it from behind the wall that divided the balconies. A star flooded sky could faintly be seen in the halo of the city’s lights. In the distance a communications tower’s red light flickered insistently. Somewhere a church bell rang and from the Rondo de Atocha, the main street that leads to Madrid’s major railway station, the high pitch of a motorbike going much faster than the speed limit pierce the tranquil twilight hour.           

 Entrance to Plaza Mayor

Personally I preferred Barcelona to Madrid. I don’t have any specific reason. Maybe it’s Barcelona’s location by the sea or its ancient origins from Roman times. Or maybe it was because our apartment was located where I felt more inclusive of the community with a small tienda de productos frescos, a fruit and vegetable shop, across the street and a community grocer, a butcher, a fishmonger and a panaderia, a bakery, just around the corner, which I paid a visit to every morning for croissants. Maybe it was because I found the Barcelonians friendlier than the Madrilenians and the food and service exceedingly better. But I have to admit Madrid is a very elegant city with beautiful architecture, wide boulevards and a regal attitude which rivals that of Paris, Rome and London. Well, maybe not Paris.

 The Ministry of Justice

Maybe it was because the day we spent in Barcelona’s Barri Gotic neighborhood was one of the best travel days I have ever experienced. I have walked the streets of many medieval cities or towns: Kyoto, Venice, Avignon, Gordes, and Les Baux-de-Provence to name a few, and among the ruins of several Roman settlements in Rome and Pompeii, but I never felt history as vibrant and alive as that day we spent in the Barri Gotic. I know the Barri Gotic was totally revamped and modernized during the early 20th century, but they kept the old world atmosphere and charm in the narrow streets and hidden squares and the buildings’ brownish patinas reflected the Middle Ages and allowed me to be transported back in time. No other travel day, except maybe that late afternoon we meandered through the streets of the Haute Ville of Vaison-la-Romaine in France with its extremely steep narrow passages, tiny squares, ancient fountains and ruined castle of the Counts of Toulouse, did I experience history so real that it left you melancholy with the thought of having to return to reality.

 The Church of San Manuel and San Benito 

I have no doubt that one day I will return to Spain. I just don’t know when. I have no interest in seeing the Costa del Sol or the islands of Majorca or Ibiza, but Seville, Córdoba, Granada will always beckon and the white hilltop towns of Andalusia in the south and the medieval villages in the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia in northern Spain must be as beautiful as the French villages of Provence, the Dordogne and northwestern Midi-Pyrénées between Limoges in the north and Cahors in the south.

As the old saying goes, dreams are ten a penny. Because I have so many and due to inflation travel dreams have become more expensive, so I will have to save more dollars to make those dreams come true.

The magnificent doors of the Cathedral Santa María La Real de La Almudena  

Adiós Espana o hasta pronto!

Spain in Summary


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally awesome! Would go back anytime!