15 May 2010 – Madrid and farewell to the tour

[Click on a picture to enlarge it.]

This was the best bathroom so far.  The shower was great and the mirror was heated to prevent fogging.  This morning we had breakfast with Nelson and Christine.

We walked to the Prado and had Berta as our guide, who was really good.  She knew her stuff and was enthusiastic about it.  The old part of the museum was designed by the architect Villanueva.  The major Spanish painters are El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, and Picasso.  The Prado does not have any Picassos, because his works are in the Musee Riena Sophia museum.  We spent a great deal of time  learning some wonderful stuff about “Las Menina” by Goya which included the Infant Maria, the painter himself, and reflections of the King and Queen, whom Goya portrayed himself as painting.

We saw one painting by John Sargent which was here on loan for a few months.

We entered a room of paintings by El Greco, which was just amazing.  They were dramatic, bright, and strong, with his characteristic elongated figures.  Goya was born in Crete, studied in Italy, and settled in Spain. Several paintings dramatized heaven and earth at the top and bottom of the composition.

We then visited a long aisle of painting by Velazquez.  When cleaning the paintings, they found many changes that Velasquez had made.  He did not do preliminary sketches, and we can see what adjustments he made to clothing, leg positions, horse head positions, and so forth.

He painted Philip IV many times, but the face was exactly the same in many of them, because the King would not take that much time to sit for his portrait.  He had 42 children and was a busy person.

Velazquez had a studio, and he concentrated on hands and clothes,, and left other parts, including faces!, to his students.  He painted a fat girl, Eugenia in clothes, and nude as Bacchus.  In those days, the only nudes were of mythological characters, and Velazquez painted the first nude of a real person, Las Majas, the reclining nude.

Goya had frescoes at his home, which were peeled from the wall and transferred onto canvas and displayed here.

There was a war with France around 1808 and Goya was a journalist of that war though paintings, and Picasso loved him for it.  In Goya’s paintings we see the turbaned Mamelukes who were mercenaries fighting for the French.

By the way, Museum means House of Muses.  I never knew that.  We had a snack with Bob and Becky at the museum Café.  In the brochure I noticed a tiny picture of a painting by Murillo, called “The Immaculate Conception”, and this woman had the most “innocent” expression on her face.  I had to check out the original, and with her eyes rolled to the sky, was the perfect picture of a certain kind of innocence.

Gran Via's 100th birthday

We then boarded the bus for a short city tour which included a ride by the Parque de Retiro, or retired persons.  It’s the only park in the world with a monument to the Devil.  Another fact: The Barrio de Salamanca was the first to have toilets. To  Patricia’s surprise, the Gran Via was carpeted in blue, because they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the street. We weren’t sure why a street should have a 100th birthday, but there it was, and we couldn’t travel the the usual route, so Pat and the driver had to improvise.  The Golden Mile, with its expensive shops, was closed to traffic for the Festival.  Today was also a free day for museums, and not only that, they will reopen at 8:30 and stay open until 1:00 AM.

Our main goal is to get to the Riena Sophia museum, which has the works of Dali,  Miro, and Picasso.  I just learned that it is closed today, but will be open tomorrow until 2 PM.  The Monet traveling exhibit is open today until 1 AM, which is not typical.

Madrid has a population of 3 million people, greater Madrid, 6 million, and Spain 44 million people.

In 1561, the capital of Spain was moved to Madrid by Philip II apparently so it could be near his residence, and also to reinforce the separation of Church and State power.

We went through Plaza Espana, with a monument to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.  Don Quixote is said to be the first modern novel and only the Bible has been translated into more languages, except that Harry Potter might now be #2.

We passed by a 4th century Egyptian temple which was moved from Egypt in in 1968

A gift from Egypt for Aswan Dam support

in appreciation of Spain’s financial support for the construction of the Aswan Dam.  It was moved stone by numbered stone to this location.  [For a variety of reasons, mostly ecological, the dam was very unpopular in the U.S.]

Traditional Chulapas clothing

We parked in an underground garage and came up in a large plaza, where, among other sights, we saw children dressed in a traditional Madrid costume called Chulapas, which included a colorful dress and white head scarf for the girls and caps for the boys.

We saw a palace built in 1834 in which royalty lived for 200 years.  It has 1800 rooms.  Madrid didn’t have a cathedral until 1994, because the one in Toledo was the one provided for them.

We came to a special chocolate and churros place on Calle Coloreros, called San Ginas,  which is supposed to be the best there is.

We then came to Plaza Major, the main place for various events.  Today for the celebration, there Cocido Madrillo, a special stew, being served for free.  The plaza originally had two free standing towers which were now filled in with apartments, with two towers on the other side as well.

We came to another square with a small monument to Velazquez, which was there because there had been a church with the body of Velazquez, but when the church was torn down, his remains were lost, a tragedy to the Madridillenas.

We got back to the bus and made it home with surprisingly little delay, considering the fiesta traffic potential.

Time for a nap.

We had plans to go to the garden, and a museum, but it worked out that we rested until dinner.  We had a very nice farewell dinner, at a table with Jay and Joyce, Bill and Karen, and Barry and Kathleen.

The Group

We received our group picture from Patricia, and the email list, and final instructions.  We were entertained by four past college students, who were quite good, and on request, sang “Spanish Eyes” for Teresa and me.

It seemed like most of our group had taken Tauck tours before, and were very happy with the program.  It was our first Tauck tour and now we understand why they have so many satisfied repeat customers.   Thank you, Patricia!  You were great!

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