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Madrid III

June 13, 2014

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Al Lavanderia

Friday, June 6, 2014

One of the delights of travel is (are?) the many curious things and customs one may encounter in a foreign land. The whole point of travel, after all. Why shell out many hundreds, nay, thousands of dollars to see the world if all you really want is a Safeway down the block that sells Laughing Cow cheese? Fair enough. But why is it so difficult to find, in a town that embraces tourism, a laundromat?

Yes, our hotel offers a laundry service. I guess the real problem is that, at €4 per piece, we’re cheap. Can’t help it, even though our wealth is of course somewhere in the untold billions. Born that way. So, on Wednesday, after scouting down the two recommendations in Rick Steves’ book, and finding that one was kaput, we were overjoyed to see that the other was still alive. Even though we did not share a common language, through a curious combination of drawings and sign language, we promised the owner to show up on Friday morning with our little bundle of dirty clothes.

Well, you know, all day in Barcelona, sleep in a little, so it wasn’t exactly morning, and maybe the bundle had grown a bit. The proprietress, to our dismay, was not exactly happy to see us. And we couldn’t leave it to be done
tomorrow. “Manana? No, no! Hoy, hoy!” We were just happy that she didn’t throw us out. We washed and dried everything ourselves.

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While the clothes were washing, coffee and pastries down the street.

So anyhow, clean socks restored, we napped. Our friends Susan and Rich had recommended a visit to the Sorolla museum, about a mile north of our hotel. Joaquin Sorolla, a contemporary of Sargent, should be better known to the general art audience. Like Sargent, he owes much to Velazquez, especially in his portraits, but he has no equal in his depiction of sunlight on people and boats at the beach.

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The museum itself, on Calle del Martinez Campos, is located in Sorolla’s former residence, which gives it an authentic intimacy that can’t be duplicated in an academic setting. The visitor is greeted with a small but perfect garden and pool.

The collection is limited to what might normally be present in the house at any given time. Much of Sorolla’s output is now in other museums, but a few of the larger canvases are here, and many smaller ones, as well as a number of preparatory oil sketches, chamber music to the orchestral versions which might come later. The €3 entrance fee is correspondingly small, and encourages repeat visits.

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The play of light on people at the oceanside.

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Sorolla decorated one of the rooms with a frieze featuring family members entwined with garlands of flowers and fruit.

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A display of the artist’s tools delights the amateur painter.

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La Bata Rosa, The Red Dressing Gown.

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El Bano del Caballo. The Horse’s Bath.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

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Well, sure. Just keep your hands off my IRA.

Today we made our first sortie at the Prado, the museum that was the chief motivation for our trip to Spain. The Prado is the finest, if not the biggest, art museum in Europe, and perhaps in the world, if you keep your timeline between 1300 and 1910. The collection is spread out between two floors of a large, long building. A lengthy renovation, ended in 2007, added an extension which provided the customary cafe and bookstores, as well as space for special exhibitions.

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Photography of the collection is strictly prohibited. Amazingly, I saw only a couple of attempts, both admonished by attendants. I did make a few shots well awaY from the paintings, and no one seemed to mind. Above, a staircase, the plaza facing the new extension, and the cafe.

On this, our first day, we managed to walk through almost the entire top floor, finally succumbing to art fatigue, but not before viewing Velazquez’ Las Meninas, considered by many to be the finest painting ever.

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As we leave, a look back at the so-called Goya Entrance, on the north side.

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It looks like the monarchy is here to stay, for the meantime, at least, but anti-royalist sentiment remains a constant throughout Madrid, and presumably the rest of Spain as well.

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Dinner at VIPS, a popular restaurant chain offering a satisfying, if not particularly indigenous, menu.

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The Metropolis at night.

Sunday, May 8, 2014

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Preparations for a morning parade on the Paseo del Prado. I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence in Madrid, or a show of force designed to keep order in the controversy caused by Juan Carlos’ abdication. At any rate, police have been quite visible throughout the city since Monday’s announcement.

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Today we visited the Reina Sofia museum, Madrid’s museum of modern art. (The really contemporary stuff is at the Guggenheim Bilbao.)

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A couple of views from one of the glass-enclosed elevators on the north side of the building.

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The waiting room at the Hospital Gregorio Maranon. Before we left our hotel this morning, Peggy had complained of a small ache on the left side of her stomach, something that felt like a muscle pull. At any rate, she felt well enough to walk to the museum, and walk through several rooms on the 2nd (our 3rd) floor, including Picasso’s Guernica, the star of the collection (No Photography). By this time, though, Peggy’s discomfort had become so intense that we asked to see the resident nurse, who examined Peggy and strongly suggested we go to a hospital for more thorough attention. Peggy was put in a wheelchair, and we went via taxi to the hospital. After a blood test and an X-ray, we were told that there was nothing seriously wrong, and that the pain was probably the result of all the walking we had done during the past month. We were sent home with a prescription for painkillers and rest, and a verbal reminder that we weren’t as young as we used to be. Like we didn’t know.

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