Monday, April 6
My first day in Madrid that isn’t a national holiday. Up at 7am for the first time, and hoping to get back on a schedule that includes sleeping 8 hours a night. Showered and prepped my backpack for the day; a small half bottle of water, a sketch book and old cassette tape box of pencils and erasers, mini IPad, (the Prado has WiFi), postcards to draw on, a much folded and ceased map with routes marked in highlighter, lip balm, and a compact nylon shopping bag. My iPhone slips in my right pocket, tin with cash, ID & credit card in my left pocket, with the keys to the apartment. I’m good to go.
I ignored my pride and followed my iPhone’s Google maps to the poetry street, Calle de las Huertas . So easy and straightforward. I blush to confess I won’t be leaving the apartment door without running that map app. I have whatever the opposite of a sense of direction is. A sense of dislocation? It’s like the magnet for true north in my head spins randomly. It’s a roulette wheel, not a compass.
I was at the Prado close to 10:30. Took a stealthy photo of the police. No one misbehaves in these ticket lines.
Zipped through security with my museum pass and raced up the stairs to start where I left off yesterday. In the grand hallway, my eye was caught by a dog in one of Tintoretto’s grand paintings. A lovingly rendered hound, something like an English setter. I notice that the same dog is in a nearby painting by the same artist– same markings exactly. I’d bet cash money it’s the painter’s dog. I got out my pencil and a postcard and personal bliss commenced.
Two experiences I didn’t predict. First, the wonderful pleasure of discovering magnificent painters I have never seen or heard of. Second, the twinge of embarrassment when an acknowledged master painter leaves me cold. I’m talking about you, El Greco. I won’t lie. Same goes, Picasso. Though I won’t be admitting it out loud in Spain. It would be like dissing Real Madrid. Probably a deportation offense.
Left at 1:30 to stroll around the park and visit St. Georges Church. Tried a place friends had recommended for lunch, Fonty http://fontymadrid.com/home. As a former wordsmith, the name amused me. The asparagus soup was intensely green and asparagussy. It tasted like spring. The steak on a bed of arugula had a decent flavor but was too tough and labor-intensive to chew. It was more like gnawing.
Luckily, the over-all experience was redeemed by the desert, a luscious, fresh raspberry pannacotta.
I’d been unsuccessfully seeking postcard stamps at Tabacs, the only shops permitted to sell them. For a city with smokers on every street corner, tobacconists are few and far between. A nice woman directed me to the Palace Cibeles for stamps. Double score! It was on my list to see, and is a post office. Guards at the first entrance I approached turned me away when I asked in my feeble Spanglish where I could buy stamps. On impulse, I turned back and I showed them the Google translation on my phone ‘do you know where I can find a post office?’ and apparently the penny dropped. Oh, they told me, that’s around the corner and up the stairs. That makes four times so far the Google translate app has changed a no to yes for me. I’m no shill, it’s just the fact.White marble for miles and beautiful ornate brass mail slots. Went in and was promptly scolded, shooed away from the counter and instructed to take a ticket. I took the ticket, they immediately called my number, and impatiently waved me back over. Ah, the international brotherhood of bureaucracy. I used the Google voice translate feature again, and it worked fine for I would like to buy ten postcard stamps, please.
Thought of doing some light shopping, but I was tired and had walked10 miles on concrete and marble, it’s uphill all the way back to the apartment, plus there was a Madrid taxis right outside the PO. I jumped in the cab. and ten minutes and 6 Euros later popped out at my apartment door. Made my standard dinner – fruit, cheese, ham, and bread.
Hope I sleep through the night.