Iberian Adventure – Page 05

Madrid and the Prado

This is now Day 2 of  our “Spain and Portugal in Depth” tour. (The previous 5 days were our pre-trip days.) The remaining days are the scheduled 15 days with all 42 of our fellow travelers.

 Our home for the next 3 nights was the Hotel Princesa. Another nice 4 star hotel in the center of Madrid.

We first met our Main Trip  leader and the remainder of our group for the next 14 days: Juanjo Perez when we arrived at the hotel after our 2 hour flight on Iberia Air to Madrid.

Juanjo  (pronouced Wan-HO) is a native Spaniard from Malaga in southern Spain. He was extremely knowledgable about Spanish history, geography, and Spanish political and current affairs.  He had done this trip with GCT and other tour companies many times and he knew every place and everyone. He was always well prepared and led us through many “unpublished discoveries”.)

We now had a quite diversified group: 4 Korean/American couples; 4 Men and women companion couples Many single sex female couples traveling together. And a few singles traveling alone (think “The Three Amigos). Somehow that adds up to 42?

After a quick orientation walk around the town center and the Plaza de Espana. we disbanded so our new arrivals could get some rest and get over a bit of jet lag.

In the early evening we walked to the Plaza de Espana. In the center of the plaza is a monument to the Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes.

The tower portion of the monument includes a stone sculpture of Cervantes overlooking bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Next to the tower, there are two stone representations of Don Quixote’s “true love”. One as the simple peasant woman Aldonza and one as the beautiful, imaginary Dulcenea.

After the orientation walk, the three amigos grabbed something at the food stalls in the Cortes de Ingles department store and called it quits for the day.

That evening I discovered that my old Canon camera “shit the bed”. So I walked over to the Cortes de Ingles and bought a cheapie Nikon to use for the rest of the trip.  It was an OK camera, but the instructions were all in Spanish so I’m not sure I was using it correctly.

The next day ( Day 3) in the morning we had a bus tour of Madrid.

The first stop was at the National Palace.of Madrid. The 18th century construction was inspired by Versailles.  It is the official residence of the Royal Family, but it is only used for state ceromonies.  King Felipe (no relation) and his family reside in a more modest “Palace of Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.

This is the Sabatini Gardens near the Royal Palace. You can see some of the statues in this fuzzy (new camera) picture. I really wanted a good shot of the guy on the chair. His head was transparent – just eyeglasses and a hat.

This is me striking a pose in front of the palace.  We had just passed the garden filled with statues of old Spanish Nobility over the centuries.  They were all royally posed, so I thought I’d do it too.

Our next stop was at the Debod Temple. It is an ancient Egyptian temple which was rebuilt in Madrid. It is an authentic Egyptian temple originally built in the 2nd century BC, at the village of Devod in Egypt.

In 1960, due to the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

From the Temple park we could see the fuzzy Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral (Santa María la Real de La Almudena). It is  is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid.  The cathedral was not completed until 1993, when it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. On May 22, 2004, the marriage of King Felipe VI, then crown prince, to Letzia Ortiz Rosasolano took place at the cathedral.

Our city bus tour ended at the Prado Museum.

That’s Sandra and Bob on the right. They are my two amigos.  We toured the Prado together. This entrance is fairly new.

This is the older entrance. It’s much more impressive.

The Prado collection currently comprises around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints, and 1,000 sculptures, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents. As of 2012, the museum displayed about 1,300 works in the main buildings, while around 3,100 works were on temporary loan to various museums and official institutions. The remainder were in storage. The museum received 2.8 million visitors in 2012.

El Prado is one of the most visited sites in the world, and it is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world. The numerous works by  Francisco Goya, the single most extensively represented artist, as well as by Hieronyus Bosch, El Greco, Rubens,Titian, and Velazquez, are some of the highlights of the collection.

The best-known work on display at the museum is “Las Meninas” by Velázquez. Velázquez and his keen eye and sensibility were also responsible for bringing much of the museum’s fine collection of Italian masters to Spain, now the largest outside Italy.

The painting shows a large room in the Royal Alkazar (Palace) of Madrid during the reign of King Philip IV, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot.[   Some look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others interact among themselves.

The young Infanta Margaret Theresa is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honor, chaperones, a bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas. Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand.

In the background there is a mirror that reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. They appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on.

It is one of few masterpieces paintings where a ceiling is shown.

This is but one of the many masterpieces in the Prado.  Each one would have its own meaning and description  Obviously there is not enough space for more pictures here and I think you’d be asleep after many more. So we’ll move on…

Well, maybe one more: “The Third of May 1808” is a painting completed in 1814 by the Spanish painter Goya,  In this work, Goya sought to commemorate Spanish defeat of  Napoleon’s armies during the occupation of 1808 in the Peninsular War.

The Third of May 1808 is set in the early hours of the morning following the uprising and centers on two masses of men: one a rigidly poised Spanish firing squad  the other a disorganized group of French captives held at gun point. Executioners and victims face each other abruptly across a narrow space; according to Kenneth Clark, “by a stroke of genius [Goya] has contrasted the fierce repetition of the soldiers’ attitudes and the steely line of their rifles, with the crumbling irregularity of their target.

In Madrid on a wall in the Puerta del Sol Plaza there is a plaque commemorating the battle between the Spanish forces and Napoleon’s forces.  This was the battle that Napoleon lost and had many of his troops killed by a Spanish firing squad as shown in the Goya painting above.

Had enough of this stuff?

Our entire group took the bus back to a local downtown restaurant for dinner.  Since Spaniards eat a very late dinner, we could have the whole place to ourselves.  Juanjo knew the proprietors and had a special meals prepared for us: Beef or Chicken.  I had the beef. It was delicious.

BTW  Galopin translates to Ragamuffin.  I bet you didn’t know that.

So ended Day 3 of our “Spain and Portugal” tour

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