Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Madrid: art and ice cream
Our first Renfe of the trip took us from Málaga to Madrid on Tuesday morning. We only had one day, so I'd requested an early departure. Any regret I felt at our self-imposed 5:30 a.m. lobby call was tempered by arriving in Madrid by 9:00 a.m., with a full day ahead to see the sights.
Of course, one whole day! in Madrid could barely scratch the surface. That was the story of our trip, in some ways. Not being able to do everything, however, didn't mean we couldn't dive in and accomplish as much as we could. That was also the story of our trip. (The trip, it has many stories. You'll see.)
Our hotel was a short walk from the Sol metro, very close to Plaza Mayor. Paul pointed out the celebrated pastelería La Mallorquina as we passed, and it shortly became our first stop of the day. Ah, a light tartaleta de manzana and chocolate for breakfast.
Next, a walk to the art museums. I was forewarned of the art fatigue that can easily set in when faced with such a wealth of material. Nevertheless, I forged ahead and purchased a pass for the big three art museums of Madrid: the Prado, the Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. We visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza first. It was as impressive as Paul had claimed, and I'll take his word for the fact that it's more manageable than the others. True, it was the only museum we actually set out to see in its entirety. I'm sure we couldn't have done that in one day with the others, not if we wanted to do anything else. But the Thyssen-Bornemisza still holds a whole lot of art. I enjoyed it very much, but occasionally found myself entering rooms that I swear had just materialized out of thin air seconds before. It didn't help that I was feeling the lack of sleep and a bit of delayed jet lag. Uh-oh.
No time to take a break, however. On to the Prado! Once inside, we spent about ten minutes figuring out where we were on the museum map. Then we set off to see some masterpieces. (Helpfully denoted in our pamphlets and guidebook.) In the Prado, frankly, you really don't need to be looking for them. They find you. Walking into one room, bam, there was Las Meninas. I didn't even know Las Meninas was in the Prado! (I'm not sure how I didn't, since it's probably the museum's most famous piece.) We wove our way in and out of rooms of El Grecos and Raphaels; Goyas, Titians and Botticellis. And students. Wow. Kids from all over Europe must come to the Prado on field trips. We wound up our tour at The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch, and returned to the brilliant sunlight outside. It was, by then, late afternoon. Aaand I decided I didn't really need to see Guernica. Paul was triumphant with the accuracy of his art fatigue predictions, but I'd had my fill of masterpieces for one day. The pass to the Reina Sofía is good through the end of 2010, so hey.
Instead we stopped for tapas and then walked through Parque del Retiros - the remaining "to do" item on my somewhat random list. We visited el Palacio de Cristal, featuring a giant rat and a panda dangling from the ceiling. (I could probably look up why, but it's more fun not knowing.) We saw the the boating lake and another palace (under renovation.) We walked through a sea of crazy sculptures. Then we walked out of the park, to the nearest metro stop (about four from where we began), and back to the hotel with a couple of hours to spare before a brief jaunt to Plaza Mayor and then the night's concert at 9:00.
Wilco concert #2 was at Teatro Hāagen-Dazs Calderón, through sheer dumb luck only about two blocks from our hotel. Amazingly, the venue featured a full array of Hāagen-Dazs cups, cones, and beverages in the lobby. I chose Banoffee Pie ice cream over Akron/Family that night. Sorry, Akron/Family.
Through an earlier email exchange with the promoter (a crash refresher in Spanish on my end), I'd learned the location of our seats. At least, I was pretty sure I had. They were in a box near the stage, which in venue photos seemed to contain a suspicious view-blocking wall. As it turned out, though, the view - though marred slightly by a giant cable - was good. The wall did block my view of keyboard Pat entirely, but what can you do? The location made it easy to stand and dance without blocking anyone, and I took advantage. Once warmed up, the crowd was great. Maybe the best I saw in Spain. Olé was chanted. There was rhythmic clapping. In contrast to the somber show in Málaga after the shocking and sad news of Jay Bennett's passing, the band seemed more upbeat. Glenn held a baby doll aloft before I'm the Man Who Loves You. We saw the debut of You Never Know, bringing me one step closer to confirming a mysterious lyric. Magazine Called Sunset was dusted off, thanks to a request by drum tech Nate.
By the end of the show I wasn't tired anymore. Bad timing, since it was past midnight. Train to Granada in the morning.