Our last day of sight seeing before the boys went to ‘camp’ was spent looking at the Templo Debod, an Egyptian temple that was going to be inundated by the waters of Lake Nassar at Abu Simbel. It was taken apart stone by stone and reassembled in Madrid. How lucky for us! This triggered talk about when the boys could go to Egypt!
Then we had a very thorough (maybe more than we wanted to know?) tour of the Monasterio de las Decalzas Reales. This was a convent started in 1559 by Juana of Austria, who invited her royal and noble young women friends to join this convent and bring along their treasures of art. This they did. There were paintings, chapels, frescos galore. There was one Peter Paul Rubens painting that we especially liked but unfortunately no pictures were permitted.
In 1960 they decided to open the convent up to the public for limited hours each week—I suspect they had fallen on hard times and needed the money. It was interesting, though, to see and think about how these women lived. Royal women, for the most part, only had two choices: to be married off to some man they didn’t know in a foreign country or to go into a convent. I suppose their father made that decision, too.
As we were walking through a park on our way back, we came across a nice statue of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, a favorite person of mine, who lived in Mexico in the 1600s. She was renowned for her intellect and did a lot to encourage women’s rights, especially with the church fathers who tried to put her down as they felt that her intellectual pursuits were not appropriate. How nice to see her statue and how appropriate to run into her statue just as we were visiting a famous convent here!
On Thursday the three of us found our way by metro and bus to the Osuna Hotel, near the airport. There the group of teens was assembling for the week of ‘language camp.’ The boys stayed overnight in this hotel, had a picnic lunch, had a tour of Madrid, and dinner with orientation, and the next morning would be leaving at 5:45 AM to go to the camp near Salamanca. I’ll be eager to get their report on their experiences next Friday when they return to Madrid. I made my way back to the Prado and took some time to peruse that again. It was kind of confusing, though, I found.
On Friday I took the metro and then a train to Guadalajara, where my friends, Roberta and Judy, picked me up, and took me to the tiny village of Metarrubia, the natal place of Roberta’s Spanish husband, Jaime. We had wonderful paella in their backyard and a great visit, along with a tour of the village. This serves as their weekend retreat away from their city apartment in Madrid, where they live. Later their two children (20-somethings) joined us. It was also fun for me to see Jim (Roberta’s brother) and Judy Rice from Minneapolis. This area is very much the breadbasket of Spain, and the landscape was beautiful.
The next day I spent in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. They really have a lovely collection of 19th and 20th century art, which makes a nice balance to the Prado, which has more of the older art. A Chagall and a Picasso caught my eye. On the way back to the hostel, I stopped in a likely looking restaurant and had a really good linner of salmon mousse and lamb chops. A copa of Sangria went well, too, as I was really thirsty.
The following day I tried to visit the Archeological Museum, but found it locked for renovation. I decided to move on to the Museo Reina Sophia, their third in the trio of world class art museums here, but I got very lost looking for it. I did cross the Retiro Park, which was pleasant. By the time I found it, I was pretty tired from the long walk and decided to take the metro back to the hostel. We started off as usual, but imagine my surprise when the stations began being reversed in order and we ended up where we started! I got out and talked to a helper, who said that today I couldn’t get to my stop the regular way, but would have to transfer twice to get there, which I did.
Monday, I again attempted the Museo Reina Sophia and enjoyed it very much, especially since over-65-ers get free admission. That’s not the first time that has happened lately in Italy and Spain. I question whether that’s sensible for them, since we haven’t paid taxes into these funds, and surely we could afford a half-price admission as clearly there are high maintenance costs for these institutions. Still, a nice gift! There is an adjacent building that has recently been added, along with huge glass elevators overlooking the plaza.
The centerpiece of the museum is Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica,’ his rendering of the destruction of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Revolution. There were also a lot of Miro’s paintings, which I enjoyed. And then there was an installation of Richard Sera’s art pieces, which I first encountered in the new Guggenheim in Bilbao in the Basque country some years ago. Later in the Toronto Airport, a piece looked familiar, and sure enough, it was Richard Sera. And here he is again!
I’m flying to Santiago de Compostela tonight—–stay tuned!