Am experiencing a serious bout of visitor letdown. If you have ever lactated, you will know what I mean regarding a precipitous bodily drop in hormones. In this case, however, there was no relief, just a mean Sunday funk. When an out-of-town guest graces one’s home, one is obliged to drop most of one’s onerous tasks and get out there and ENJOY. Which is just what Baltimore Sue and I did.
I have written before about how Baltimore Sue (a.k.a. Sue B) took me under her wing twenty years ago, chaperoning me around the Beltway, making sure I did not get shot during scene investigations in skanky neighborhoods. In later years, she opened her home to our family during our annual medical forays at Johns Hopkins. So, it was a real honor to have her – FINALLY- in my own (?) home. Ever the gracious guest, she said she would go along with whatever I wanted to see. Herewith, an itinerary and rundown of all the sites we saw:
MONDAY morning: Royal Tapestry Factory (Real Fabrica de Tapices). Rated #62 on Trip Advisor. From Atocha train station, I followed my previously printed Google Map to the museum. Due to the nonsensical sidewalk configuration, we had to do a little backtracking. Those in the know had told me this was a hidden jewel. We waited only 10 minutes for a tour in English.
Now, honestly, you might think to yourself, tapestries are not my thing. Rug making/weaving on a large scale does not interest me. You would be wrong. For 12,000 – 15,000 Euros a square meter (ballpark figure), you can have your very own. These are still made by hand and kudos to the Spanish government for not letting this art lapse in these times of great crisis. Evidently, there are plenty of people with scroll to spare for their own rug and I say Good On Them! If only I could have taken photos!!!! Just the row of colored silk spindles hanging off a hook was enough eye candy for me. But where were the postcards of said spindles! The Spaniards still need to learn a thing or two from the French and the Yanks about merchandising …
My favorite piece: a rug called “Discipline and Lent” by a Spanish artist (don’t know who) which featured every Judeo-Christian religious symbol I knew existed and one I did not. Have you ever seen a winged phallus sporting a ring of bells? I had not and am still unclear as to its meaning (apparently GrecoRoman origins). Believe me, once you see one, you see them everywhere: graffiti, clouds, oil slicks on streets. Maybe even in the cream cheese on your toast. Would love for someone to enlighten me!!!! Please!!!!
Hours open: M-F, 9:30 – 2:00 but check here for time of last guided tour (they are all guided, FYI).
MONDAY afternoon: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Admitting I have not been here yet is rather like admitting I had not ever been to a flamenco show. Long overdue and, although I am not much of a modern art fan, there was lots to see. I even liked a few of the Picassos. One painting looked like a variation on my one (and only) Ambien dream. Scary, disturbing, and not to be repeated. In any event, I would go back again if ever a guest insisted.
TUESDAY: slept in. One can only push a guest so far. Then, as I am an Amigo del Prado , we used my free passes to attend “El Hermitage en El Prado” show. I had forgotten to look at the date but, lucky for us, it was opening day. Lesson learned: do not go on opening day. Having said that it was SO WORTH IT. Ever heard of the Scythians? Me neither. But they had a whole lot gorgeous gold belt buckles, forged in Siberia (?) on display. Whatever your beef with the Romanovs, they sure hoarded a lot of awesome artwork. The only disappointment: no Faberge egg. I bought the catalog and will return to see this great exhibit again. Once is simply not enough.
WEDNESDAY: up early to go to Toledo by train. Again. At my insistence. There is always someplace new to explore. This time it was the Convent of Santa Cruz, a mini Prado of a former convent/hospital with a few El Grecos, Beruete’s, and other Spanish artists (no Picasso here). The Carranza Collection of Spanish ceramics was amazing. Best part: the museum was FREE. Segundo desayuno at El Trebol (#5 Trip Advisor, right around the corner) – 5 euros/two people/two beers with the best EVER pan tostado con tumaca y jamon. A trip on the Zocotren, which has updated it’s route and material. Then on to the Cathedral. The transept still glorifies. For the first time ever for me, the Chapel of Saint Blaise was open. Besides the marble tomb that looks like its been cracked open one time too many, the recently restored frescoes on the ceiling were outstanding, as were the frescoes leading from the church to the chapel. I was nearly jumping up and down with joy. Lunch at Meson de la Orza (yum, thanks Sue). Convento de San Juan de los Reyes. Then back to the train and home to a meal prepared by Thing 3, on holiday from school. Another travel triumph!
THURSDAY: Carrehell and chillaxing at home. Must gear up for next/last day.
FRIDAY: Bull Fighting Museum, 10 – 2, at the Plaza Monumental de Toros de las Ventas. We took the Metro downtown, led by Thing 2, and were told that the museum was closed due to an “evento”. This is the kind of info it is handy to post on a website, but oh, well. We could do a tour of the ring itself (7 euros adult/5 children). Having spent all the time and energy getting downtown, how could we say no? The last time I was in the ring was with Bea Long, front row seats in section (tendido) 8, a ginormous bull bleeding out in front of us as the smoke from Cuban cigars burned our eyes. The tour guide was a walking tauromaquia encyclopedia, first speaking in Spanish, then English. Did you know that the pink cape, used to get the bull’s attention, is made of silk and lead? It feels something like one of those lead aprons you put on before an xray. It can stand up all by itself! Bulls are color blind so when you say, “I saw red”, it refers not to them, maybe only communists. I am not going to address the various merits and demerits of bullfighting but it was a fascinating tour and speaks to the heart of Spanish culture. I can’t wait to go back to the museum and would do this tour again – there is so much info it is hard to process. One mystery solved: the reason for the matador’s hot pink socks? Tradition. Nada mas.
Then a little trip to the Gran Via for a snack and an unanticipated gander at the Spanish hospitality industry (hookers, spotted by Things) en plein aire.
Is there more? Wait for it ….
Dinner at Botin and flamenco at Corral de la Moreria. This flamenco show is, I am told, the most touristy (and most pricey) but the dancers did deliver, Mr. Jones. Give me some of that Spanish dancing! Holy Smokes! The male dancer looked vaguely Israeli (as opposed to gitano) but he was the best I have seen, bar none. The ladies rocked the house as well. We ended up with excellent seats but my prior warning applies: stay away from the sweat flinging zone.
We then ran for the train and …. made it! Baltimore Sue was, everywhere we went, the lucky charm. Parking spaces opened, trains came in a minute, and tarried when necessary. She was the perfect guest.
Now can you see why I’m a little glum? There is just housework to look forward to this week. Oh, wait, I am going to Salamanca to see the Duchess of Alba’s palace on Thursday …. maybe I’ll perk up by then and leave the dishes in the sink.
P.S. Howard Schultz: all of your Starbucks in Madrid are out of the souvenir mugs. This is unacceptable.