“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
John Howard Payne
US actor & dramatist (1791 – 1852)
There is hardly anything a princess likes better than a royal palace. Perhaps the royal jewels inside the crown, but really, not much. But before I get to the subject of the Spanish Royal Palace, I am pleased to announce that the pace of disintegration at my own palace is abating. For a moment there I thought I might have to move again, doomed to repeat history. Miguel, el electricista, and I are on a first name basis; he’s plugged right into my speed dial. Which was handy the other day when flames were coming out of the adapter for my hair dryer. Muy mal. Fortunately, my hair did not catch fire and the appliance itself was salvaged. Miguel changed the plug for free, he likes me that much. He is rather like a fuzzy teddy bear. Plus, he is nice.
Moving on to more elaborate accomodations …. For Thing 1’s sixteenth birthday her BFF from third grade flew in from Norway, arriving with a stomache bug of the pernicious, debilitating sort. So Thing 1 stayed home to nurse the BFF and study for finals instead of going on a tour of the Royal Palace with the uber-fancy schmancy tour guide Cristina. I had booked Cristina for Leezer and Mood Ring Momma’s visit but had had to cancel when Mood Ring blew her back out last November. Cancelling a second time would be poor form so just me, Mr. Understanding and Thing 3 were the beneficiaries of the tour.
I am not going to tell you about the palace, the differences between the Philips (chin vs. nose v. handsome), Juana La Loca, and the mosaic table that took 32 years to make (a gift from the Vatican). You will have to see for yourself. The chandeliers in the throne room are my favorite but there are many to choose from – take your pick from! Unlike Versailles, everything in there is original. Original! The French, led by Napoleon, sacked their own palace and destroyed much of it. Not so the Spanish who did not touch it even during their civil war. Versailles has its gardens and a coolio chapel but the Spanish Royal Palace has everything else. The palace in Madrid is one of five royal residences and, sister, I intend to see them all as they are within driving distance. Que bueno, no?
One of the benefits of the two hour and a half history lesson with Cristina? You get to go in a side door and skip the long freakin’ line in front. Skipping the front of the line legally!!! Who would have thought??? Totally worth the price of the tour and admission. Book Cristina here: firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll take you anywhere in Madrid and keep your Philips straight too. (BTW, did you know The Philippines was* named after one of the many Spanish Phils?). Thing 3 was just relieved to find out, after the tour, that she did not have to marry her cousin at age 13 (a la Joanna the Mad). Maybe all that in-breeding is the cause of national surliness?
The media attention span for Haiti was about two weeks. While it is more or less out of the limelight, the hideous, agonizing work continues. The good news is that plans are being formulated and more food is being distributed. I asked La Lopez, my UN insider, how nation-building was going. Here’s her reply:
“As far as nation-building, we’re not quite there yet. The humanitarian part is just now hitting a [it’s] stride. The basic infrastructure is still lacking, and many people are dying from infections from their wounds. Some very initial estimates say that about 75% of the capital has to be rebuilt.
The government is still overwhelmed, and international pressure is not helping them to focus. Countries, donors, neighbors, NGOs, the UN and many, many others, are pressing ahead, asking the Haitian government (GOH) to participate at the highest level on every issue. They are trying, as best they can. The Montreal donors conference last Monday was the first pledge of aid; the second is in March, and a global conference for the reconstruction of Haiti will be held in the Dominican Republic on April 18. The money is there. They’ve just got to agree on the best plan for putting it to work to build a better country than what was there before.”
Somehow, I think the Royal Palace in P-A-P is going to be scrapped. What will be put up in it’s place? And, who pays for it?
Getting back to those resolutions …. here is my January wrap-up.
1) I have not needlepointed a stitch in 3 weeks. This does not bode well.
2) I am taking a writing course, which, in theory, will help me send off something/anything to a publisher before the end of 2010. Can tick that box for now.
3) expense tracking is going very well. I have not had to ask permission from anyone to buy something so that means – gasp! – I haven’t bought anything besides gas, groceries, or Girl Scout cookies (thanks to Mrs. Nato!). Tag-a-longs just don’t count.
And, not to tell tales out of school, one reader who pledged a healthier lifestyle in 2010 lost 16 pounds in January alone. Should that person care to inspire others, well, just write on in, ya big loser.
Currently, I am also distracted by having to take my driver’s test later this month, the acquisition of which should really count as a resolution even though I am being forced to do it. Sort of like housekeeping. I don’t want to, but I have to …. should count for something, right? My prize: not being hauled off to jail should I commit a traffic infraction. Daily, I spend 1 – 1.5 hours taking practice tests in mind-bending Spanglish.
Here is a sample question:
Q: “For a proper use of the seat belt” …
A: A: You must not place anything on the seat in order to avoid the submarine effect.
B: If necessary, you can place a cushion on the seat in order to reach the proper hight [sic].
C: you must disconnect the airbag because the seat belt will not work properly when the vehicle has an airbag.
Submarine effect? Explained later as …
Q: The submarine effect is produced ….
A: A: when the seat belt is very tight on the body.
B: when the head rest is not well adjusted
C: when the boby [sic] slips under the abdominal band because the seat belt does does [sic] not hold it properly.
I am trying not to whine seeing how foreign residents, even illegal ones, have to take the driver’s test when moving to our fair 50 states but this is much harder. The difference between braking systems, motorcyle permits, and who has the right of way at a cattle crossing are concepts I just don’t care that much about.
That’s it for this week. Miguel needs to cut off the electricity …. he’s here again to fix my crumbing castle. Be it ever so humble.
*were? You tell me.