Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Prado

Sunday, 5/23.

We got up early in Barcelona, to get through morning traffic to the train station. So early, the hotel gave us a cold breakfast in a sack, and no coffee. Big point loss for that hotel.

But the train--we rode the high speed bullet train to Madrid. Fred R. kept watching the digital velocity display--and we did finally top 300 km/hour. Smooth, fast, efficient--so pleasant. Hard to believe we won't do this in the U.S. One woman in our group wondered--"they have so many good ideas here--why don't we?" Huh.

Later, we loaded up and bussed over to the Prado. We focused on Spanish artists in our very brief visit, though the collection there is extensive. Lee, one of our art pros, will have lots more to say here. Me, I enjoyed the "black paintings" from Goya's kitchen wall, especially the witches, and the iconic image of Saturn devouring his children. I also liked the painting of the dog's head, sticking up just behind a sand dune, barking at empty space.

Later, we zipped past a collection of Velazquez's jesters--the dwarf, the "simpleton" shown with the gourd, others. I rather liked the one we didn't stop for, the Bacchus, crowned and shirtless, at the center of a peasant crowd. And we spent quite a while with the intriguing Los Ninos--the artist himself looking out at us, his subjects mirrored in the background. And then a quick room of El Greco's religious paintings, the unreal images, flames dancing from the heads of apostles--the "tongues of fire--, strong colors, El Greco himself painted in as a disciple in one place.

But no stop is complete without our human drama. This time, Kelly left behind. Liz stayed to find her, and met us not too much later. We drove past Madrid's center--a huge medieval plaza. There was a protest going on. I could read the in-English sign, "Stop All Animal Abuse," but don't know more about its focus. We also cruised past the church where Simon Bolivar married his Spanish bride, and past the Museo de Jamon, which is not a museum at all, but a trendy restaurant. Our local guide said the Japanese tourists often stop by and try to pay an entrance fee. Ah, cultures.

We had stopped at the Royal Palace for a photo op (and to give them time to catch up). A huge palace, no longer an actual residence. The curious thing, we got out, and the nation's military band, gathered at the main entrance, at that noon moment began to play the score from Phantom of the Opera. Shelley and Fred were delighted--they have seen productions of this several times. Shelley said this made the whole trip for her. But then, she will be saying this several times more.

On to Toledo.

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