Monday, April 27
I woke up after a night of utter peace and quiet in Hotel Orfila. My desire to carry on viewing art was fully restored. Sleep is underrated. It’s better than gold.
Walking through the Salamanca district streets is like walking through Buckhead on Sunday morning, instead of walking though Bourbon Street on Saturday night. From now until I head to the airport Thursday, it’s not just about racing over to do a cannonball dive into the Prado, but appreciating Madrid itself.
Stopped in a little patisserie and tried to order a latte without Google Translate. Ha. I ended up with two shots of espresso in two cups, and when I asked and gestured for milk, he added hot water. I ended up drinking it like that because he agreed with whatever I said, and the line was long and getting longer. The only thing worse than a country full of Spaniards that don’t speak English are the ones who think they can. Lovely walk over to the Prado all the same. The croissant I got to go with the latte I didn’t have was luscious. As crumbs fell from my napkin I thought the sparrows here must be the happiest on earth.
Here’s my path to the Prado
I wondered if the Prado would still seem so fabulous now that I’ve put in so much time there and seen so much. Not to worry. It was maybe even better. It was completely wonderful. Like spending time with someone you absolutely adore. I spent a good chunk of time looking at Las Meninas from the farthest point across the room. I stood beside the guard’s chair and looked at values, shapes, and volumes, seeing it as a whole. I went back to the Meng portraits and just drank them in. Here’s Antonio Pascual de Borbón y Sajonia, infante de España, 1767.
I sat and drew three postcards (NOTE: I beat them all home). I took a good long look at Sorollo’s three boys on the beach. I went back to that room of 18th-century enormous narrative paintings and drew the prince’s dog. I got really wrapped up in Velasquez’s Mars, who has a sinewy body and eyes with a thousand yard stare. More like a real soldier, not just an aggressive brute in thrall to Venus. He reminds me of Robert.
I walked out a few blocks in front of the museum into the neighborhood and took a chance on a little restaurant. Pah. It was like mediocre home cooking, but at least it was cheap and the server was really nice.
Went back to the Prado (they have to stamp your ticket at the Education desk so you can reenter. It’s super easy but don’t forget.) At one point I found myself really warming up to Goya, especially his black period. The most adorable thing I saw was a group of grammar school age kids. They all wore white smocks with construction paper paint palettes glued to them, and headbands with paper candles circling their heads. The chaperones with them wore the same getup. Here’s a blurry image.
Goya famously did his paintings at night wearing a hat with candles stuck to the brim – in fact, there’s a portrait of him in that rig.So they were baby Goyas, like our kids were little pilgrims and Indians at Thanksgiving. It was unspeakably cute and totally Spanish.
I didn’t leave until nearly 7 and limped back. Got ‘dinner’ at Starbucks – don’t judge. I wanted a chai latte and there’s no having a kettle in this fancy room. Not even a microwave. I had an orange with me, and I bought a little slice of lemon cake. Voila, balanced diet.
Homesickness hit me hard for a few days, but it’s fine now. I’m so close to boarding the plane – three days – I can smell the jet fuel.