Tuesday, June 22

Madrid I

I have this constant battle with my blog, especially after a trip. Do I write everything I loved so I'll read and remember it later or do I abridge it for other readers? I also can't resist the urge to research the context of things I've seen. Brevity's not my strong suit here.

Ryan and I jetted off to Madrid, Spain this weekend. A friend had told us about GermanWings' super cheap blind bookings so Ryan just had to give it a try! Our return flight was delayed by an hour and a half, but other than that it was a good experience that we can heartily recommend! We weren't tempted by their in-flight food offerings, but I did get a kick out of their menu cards. Anyone for a Happy Snack?

We found plenty of better snacks that made us very happy in Madrid! Though we didn't delve into the infamous late night tapas bar crawl scene, we did happen on the Valor Chocolate cafe around the corner from our hotel!

{Image from Amazon.com}

And we returned. Each. Evening. We loved this thick, rich dark hot chocolate! The thickness like what we had in Rome, but this was so much richer, more of a smooth dark chocolate. YUM!!! We feel it's our duty to patronize host country establishments in the name of good will. Good will, yeah - that's it!

They sure had some yummy chocolate concoctions! I tried something new each time but Ryan stuck with his first love - a marcona almond chocolate cake drrrenched in a dark chocolate sauce. I wish I had a picture, but he was a machine pounding it down the nanosecond it arrived at our table. I tried mis amigos favorite combo the first night - hot chocolate with churros. For me, the churros weren't necessary. Or at least I wasn't tempted by them when my spoon served as an adequate vehicle for said chocolate. Even the whipping cream was negotiable, the chocolate stood confidently on it's own and that's sayin' somethin'!

The Segway Tour
All other "overview" options to see a city will forever be trumped! Ryan's face pretty much says it all!

Very easy to learn and our guide said his oldest customer was 85 and chased squirrels like a five year old on his segway, loving the ease of mobility! Sure makes hoofin' it old school feel very old school! But after all the good eats, we needed to go old school! More fortunate than Gilligan, our "three hour tour" landed us safe and sound back at Plaza de Espana where we'd started.

Prado Museum
Hitting the highlights, we were in and out in two hours. I circled the rooms we wanted to hit with our audioguide and we were in business. I enjoyed each of the masterpieces and if you click on the title above, you can see which 15 works they are most proud of. I love seeing the originals of artwork I studied in college!

A famous fun one by the Spanish painter Velazquez, called Las Meninas, from 1656. He painted himself on the left painting the Royal couple, King Philip IV, who you can see in the mirror over their blonde daughter's head. It's like a snapshot and has been thoroughly studied as one of the great Western masterpieces of all time. By the time he painted it, Velazquez had been with the royal household for 33 years. I like to wonder what he thought as he painted this and how he projects each person he chose to include. Cool stuff, just wish I had a wheel chair to take a load off when touring! Ah yes, and a personal servant to bring me food and water at my beckoning. So much to see and digest!

This link, summarizes the Prado's holdings by country with examples of the paintings. Some classic big names associated with big and small canvases in a nicely spaced museum.

My personal favorite was at the very end and I now don't remember the artist. It was with the Italian Painters 1300-1600 in a large, long foyer and I can't find it anywhere now especially since it's of Mary, baby Jesus, and Joseph. Using the chiaroscuro technique, it's a dark, close intimate scene with the light coming from baby Jesus. In the central upper left is Mary, with baby Jesus dead center, and center down right Joseph. You only get a profile of Joseph because it's as if you're a few feet away looking over his shoulder. He's painted from the waist up in a kneeling position up against the manger as if he's wrapped himself around the manger to keep the baby and Mary, who's across the manger from him, as close as he can. Mary's face is lit from the baby as is Joseph's profile. It was just so personal, a new family just begun. It was like you could feel the joy and awe those new parents were feeling.

Afterward, we joined the siesta atmosphere outside by finding a patch of shaded grass for a nap while someone played classical guitar. It was awesome!

The rest of the evening was taken in eating great food and more World Cup Soccer! We were tuckered out and tensed from our segway tour + museum wanderings. Learnin' stuffs is tough business!