November 2019
  • Day6

    Last day in Madrid

    November 15, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    After a late coffee, we followed a new set of twisty streets in Old Madrid to get to the Thyssen. This museum has at least one painting by every well-known Western artist (EXCEPT Velázquez, surprisingly), but to my way of thinking there are only a couple of really swoon-inducing paintings. But we found a way to spend several hours there, and enjoyed it all very much.

    My favorite was the medieval “pilgrims mass” painting, which showed a pilgrim on the camino begging in church, or at least with his hand outstretched.

    After a good lunch in old Madrid, we took a cab (our very first, we’ve walked everywhere else) to the Debod Temple. When Egypt built the Aswan Dam and flooded parts of the Nile, many temples were in the way. One is now in the Met in NYC, and one is now in Madrid. Since Joe is hopefully going to take a Nile Cruise with a childhood friend this summer while I’m walking in Spain, I thought this was a good introduction!

    Walking home, I realized we were about 6 blocks from my 1970 apartment in Madrid, so I left Joe on a bench and took a quick detour. Galileo 82, 2C — the building is still standing, and looks pretty much the same. Couldn’t resist asking a guy passing by to take my picture, but I realize that a picture of me in a doorway is kind of lame. Hard to believe I lived there almost 50 years ago. Yikes.

    Tomorrow we head to Soto del Real, where our closest Spanish friends live. Weekend in the country!
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    Lee Tolman

    Lame or not this is pretty amazing! 50 years ago and you still remember the address!

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  • Day5

    In the old neighborhood

    November 14, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    First thing today — off to the Sorolla museum. Spain’s most celebrated impressionist, the museum is inside the house where he lived. It may not be a must-see for most Madrid visitors, but it is for us. Even though two of my favorites were off being exhibited in Dublin, I enjoyed the rest.

    From there, a walk to our old neighborhood. Our corner bar had been sold to a young couple, who had totally redone the inside and changed the name and the menu. And here we were hoping to get some of Madrid’s best patatas bravas. Walking down our street, only a few places looked familiar (after all it’s been 25 years!), but our fish store and the little food shop were still both going strong.

    Next stop, Plaza Santa Ana, where David and Shannon got engaged, and from there on to lunch in a Venezuelan restaurant near the Plaza de Oriente. Though we didn’t visit the Royal Palace, the gardens outside were nice for a rest before the walk home through old Madrid. My phone says we’ve walked 9.2 miles, so maybe we’ll hit 10 by the time we’re back from dinner!
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  • Day4


    November 13, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Museum for the day — Reina Sofía, where Picasso’s Güernica is hanging (it was in NY for many years till Franco’s dictatorship ended). Since no photos are allowed, I’m pasting in the outdoor mural of the painting in the town of Güernica close to their peacetime museum and where the actul bombing took place. No matter how you see it, it packs a real punch.

    We also went into the huge, newly cleaned Cibeles Palace. It used to be the central post office, though it boggles to mind to think a city would build a post office like that. About a decade ago, town hall was moved to this building, so it now has all city offices and city council chambers. But the public is allowed entry, and you can go up to a terrace high above the plaza for some absolutely terrific views.

    Walking home we once again wove through the Retiro, stopping near the lake to listen to the violinist playing sad autumnal songs. Such a beautiful park.
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  • Day3


    November 12, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    We are falling into a routine of museum in the morning, and then walking for a few hours after lunch. Today we started at the National Archaeological Museum, because Joe wanted to see the Dama de Elche again (an Iberian funerary urn from the 4th Century BC). I went with some apprehension because I remembered this museum as a musty old dark place. Well, turns out there has been a total renovation and it is now one of the most airy and well-laid out museums I have ever been to. Goes from Prehistory, through Iberian, Roman, Visigothic, medieval. Displays are not crowded, with just enough info in both Spanish and English. Just gorgeous.

    After a light lunch, we spent the next several hours in the Retiro, one of the most beautiful urban parks anywhere. Lots of memories of Sunday mornings there with the kiddos. Today we hit 8 miles, so Joe decided not to call it a rest today — he is officially taking a nap.

    We have had two great dinners and are hoping the hotel receptionist is on a roll!
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  • Day2

    Prado Day

    November 11, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    You can’t go to Madrid without a visit to the Prado. Believe it or not, the floor plan is still firmly Implanted in my brain. I spent one morning a week there for my History of Spanish Art class in 1970. It’s where I began to love Romanesque, and those Soria frescoes were my first stop today. I think they may have moved Goya’s tapestry cartoons up a floor but aside from that, everything was where I remembered. The rooms of Goya and Velazquez are unbelievable.

    On our way to Sol, I saw a sign that looked familiar—“vegetariano.” Down a little street and Eureka! The Restaurante Artemisa, still as good as it was in the 90s when we lived here. Any restaurant with a line at 3:45 pm has to be good!

    After lunch we just wandered through the center— Puerta Del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Gran Via. I promised Joe we’d be back at the hotel for a rest by 6 pm, which he needed after a total of 7 miles. And by 6:10 I was on the elliptical listening to TV political commentary about the election results. A mess of enormous proportions.
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  • Day1

    Travel day

    November 10, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Since we are in the carpe diem mode of travel this fall, we have added one more trip. Joe really wanted to go back to Madrid, where we lived with the kids for an academic year in 1994-95. He has been back a time or two, but not as much as I have, so it seemed reasonable. Somehow our itinerary goes from Champaign to Dallas to Madrid. I didn’t pay much attention when I was booking the tickets, but now that I have looked at a map, I can say that every one of the 813 miles between Champaign and Dallas is going away from Madrid. That means we have a VERY long flight ahead of us. No upgrade, no great seat, we will be pretty done in when we get there tomorrow.

    Of our three fall trips, this will be the easiest and most relaxed. No moving around, except that we may take a day trip to Toledo or Segovia. We will also spend next weekend out in Soto del Real, where our dearest Spanish friends live. So this should be a fun trip.

    Update — we are here! Easy taxi ride into the center. As usual, we got quite the political lesson from the taxi driver. The polls are open, for the fourth national election in four years. Things are very complicated and messy, but the consensus is that the only party that stands to gain from calling new elections is Vox, the extreme right.

    Our hotel is very nice, has a little fitness center, and Joe is going to nap while I go try out the elliptical.
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    Lee Tolman

    My, my, you are non-stop travellers! Carpe diem indeed!