My Spain adventure began with a delightfully delicious send off brunch with my dad and the Burnetts in DC. I flew first to Copenhagen airport, which technically flew past my destination, but was in my opinion well worth it. If you ever need to fly through Europe with a connection, go through this airport! I stepped out onto beautifully wooden parquet floors, leading to stone grey tiles. The vaulted ceilings made me feel grand as I glided through to my gate.
My heart beat slightly faster when our plane landed at Barajas airport. I had to find the terminal and correo (post office) where everyone was meeting. After about 15 minutes, a few moving walkways, and a one person elevator later, I found my group five minutes before they left for the bus. Whew! Made a friend on the way to the hotel.
The square where our hotel is located is in the heart of Madrid. It sits in the middle of a plaza with restaurants, shops, fountains, and stone walkways. And you are not bothered by cars hardly at all; walking is the way of life here. Unlike American cities, cars are pleased to wait for pedestrians. They don't have a choice, really, because foot traffic trumps (and tramples) car traffic.
A few girls and I decided to stretch our legs after the long night of flying. I shared a dish called arroz a la cubana, which consisted of rice, a campbell-soup-like tomato sauce, and eggs. Through out the rest of the day, I met my roommate, more people in my group, had an orientation meeting, and API treated us to dinner. And boy did they treat us well! We were served dinner tapas style, which are little plates of raciónes, like an appetizer, that you share with everyone at your table. And we probably had about eight different tapas! Some of my favorites were papas bravas - fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce, and natillos limón - lemon custard.
After dinner some friends and I decided to check out the night scene. We settled on a wooden-paneled Irish pub with an atmosphere that encouraged conversation. And of course what else would I order for my first drink in Spain other than sangria! But to be honest, I couldn't even finish it because I was so full from dinner.
The next morning began with a planned tour of Museo del Prado, perhaps the most famous museum in all of Madrid and Spain for that matter. It houses three famous artists, Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya. If I were to choose a favorite of the three, it would be Goya. He is known as a revolutionary artist for his outlandish and taboo styles of his time. He is one of the first artists to paint royalty in the complete nude, not even with delicately placed cloths or intentional body positioning. He also has such a range in his portfolio. The paintings range from happy country picnic and wedding scenes to nightmarish horror scenes of men eating children.
I also have to give Velázquez some credit for his intricate and purposeful style. Pull up the painting of Las Meninas. There is great depth to this painting. In the foreground you have the dog, behind them the princess and her meninas (maids), another layer behind them is the painter (perhaps Velázquez himself) and some chaperones, then way in the back there is another man taking a quick look at the scene as he is going up the stairs. But what is that man looking at? Our guide proposed he is looking at us, the viewer. But if you look carefully at the back of the room, there seems to be another painting on the wall. Is this a painting though? Our guide suggested it is not a painting at all, but rather a mirror. And what else do you see in the mirror? There is a hint of a red curtain, suggesting we are standing in a doorway. We are the king and queen and the man has stopped to wait for us to pass through the room where our daughter is having her portrait made. Our guide also pointed out the lighting. Where is the light coming from? One obvious location is the front window on the right, but if you observe carefully there are many windows. After the first one, two more are closed, then a fourth is open in the back. I was so grateful to have the guide describe all these intricacies to us. Que bueno!
I ate a relaxing lunch after with some friends, queso manchego, and then lounged in the room briefly before going to Palacio Real de Madrid. This grand royal palace was built in the neoclassical style for Bourbon King Phillip V and is erected on the highest point of Madrid, which meant a fantastic view of the city. Though, to be honest, the glorious inside far surpassed the view outside. I only saw about 20 rooms of the 2,000 contained in this palace, but was absolutely blown away by the gold adornments, crystal chandeliers, frescoes, and antiques that overpowered every room. No one lives there today, but some of the rooms are still used. For example, in 1991 a Muslim peace treaty was held in one of the living rooms. One of the most grand rooms contained a dinner table that sat 140 people -- and yes, all at one table. The palace also housed one of the oldest pieces of art still around today- the bust of emperor Augustus's grandson. The amount of money and time that went into this lavish architecture was astounding.
Shout outs of today's blog go to:
Michael: wine #1 - 2009 Villa Anitan, verdejo, vino de españa.
Sarit: at Copenhagen, I sat on these futuristic, yet retro-like chairs colored orange and maroon! I thought of you.
Savta: Our purse is a success! I've been using it all day and it is so functional.
Ciao mis amigos!
Hasta la proxima,