Velasquez in front of the Prado
TRUE TO MY WORD, I did all that I set out to do today in Madrid – the flea market and Plaza Mayor in the morning, the Botanic Garden and the Prado in the afternoon. Everything came up a bit short. As Buddhist monks say, “Expectation brings disappointment.”
The Plaza Mayor, above, is a unified 17th century square of great architectural integrity but no great beauty. I’d rate Brussels’ Grand’Place, Paris’ Place des Vosges, Rome’s Piazza Navona, and Cracow’s market square far above it. Perhaps I’ve traveled too much and am jaded. Or maybe I’m just a crotchety old lady.
El Rastro, the flea market, had the same stuff you’d see anywhere in the world – mostly scarves and bags from Nepal, far as I could tell. Nothing handcrafted, nothing old. Unless I was in the wrong place.
The Real Botanic Garden – Real as in Royal – is probably much lovelier and more colorful and fragrant in a month other than January. It was peaceful, that I will say.
And how can I admit I wasn’t thrilled by the Prado, above, for godssakes? I visited the Goyas, Velasquezes, and El Grecos, and strolled through some of the rest. Because of the breadth of the holdings, I now have a good sense of what each contributed to the history of painting, and it was a quantum leap in each case. Velasquez in the 17th century did his share of aristocratic bread-and-butter portraits, and the only crucifixion scene I’ve ever actually liked, against a surreal black background. El Greco’s acid colors and elongated forms took standard Bible scenes and made them almost psychedelic – 400 years ago.
Not being a devout Catholic, the religious works, which make up most of the Prado’s holdings, don’t move me particularly. Much of the rest is military in nature — battle scenes, group portraits of militias, historical scenes of surrender and execution – dark, gory, scary, depressing. So my visit to the Prado wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as yesterday’s sojourn at the Thyssen-Bornemisza, amongst the pretty secular art.
Irvina and I had dinner at a fun place called Los Gatos (The Cats). It hit the spot. We had a huge salad with tuna, olives, roasted peppers, and tomatoes; langoustines in the shell; and a plate of manchego cheese, washed down with a white Rueda at 3.50 euros/glass. No complaints there.
“Living wall” spotted after I took a wrong turn out of my hotel
Tomorrow, onto Seville via the high-speed AVE train that will, I expect, put the American railroad system to shame.