Apparently I like to make plans so I can change them. In a contrarian move, the rowdy people of Madrid all went to bed early on Saturday night. It was positively calm by 11.
I, on the other hand, didn’t get to sleep until 1am. Let’s blame that on jet lag. Woke up at 7am when the raucous folks who went to early mass strolled home talking and laughing.
Went back to sleep because I could. Up by 9, had a cup of tea and reviewed the original plan – to go to the big ass flea market with the hoards and look at tat. It was the last thing I wanted to do, so I decided to wing it. I’d walk over to the Bon Bon for café con leche and a pastry, then amble over to the Prado even though my policy is to stay far away from the big museums on the weekend when the crowds come. I can be a contrarian myself.
I was armed with a short list of words in Spanish. I am tired of fumbling with the phone app and have zero memory of any words I repeated on Duolingo.
I strode confidently out the door, secure that I knew the way. I paused at one intersection but told myself not to be a wussy. Didn’t realize I was going the wrong way until I saw the roof of the palace – which is the exact opposite direction. I turned around and a few streets later realized I was passing by the Dominical Basilica Pontificia de S. Miguel.
My plan changed again.
I slipped inside to say a prayer and maybe light a candle or two. Discovered Mass was underway, so I lingered in the back. I found I knew where they were in the mass by the rhythm of call and response, standing and kneeling, even though it was in Spanish.
Just as the Priest raised the wafer to consecrate the host… BOOM! Boom, Boom. Booomm. Rattatat. BOOOMMM. Forget fireworks – It sounded liked the detonation of artillery, so loud the priest’s amplified voice was drowned out. He sighed and rolled his eyes – or maybe looked to heaven for help. It didn’t stop the drummers in the street outside the church.
A convoy of white-caped celebrants with massive bicep strength gathered a crowd and banging away with all their might led the way to a packed out Plaza Mayor for the ceremonial drumming in of Easter. Yeah, when I think of death and resurrection rites I imagine a mood of solemnity and sorrow, but that’s not how they roll in tourist central Madrid.
I peeled away from the growing crowd, having heard enough drumming in the last four days to last me a decade. Back on my mission to get coffee from le Bon Bon when I looked in a doorway and saw a brightly lit bakery with an espresso machine and my feet walked me in.
I mastered my first Spanish phrase ‘para e avar?’ (can I get this to go?) ‘Si’ the clerk said. Success! Two shots of espresso with hot milk later my lips were numb and my brain lit up like a pinball machine What do they put in the stuff? It’s dangerously effective. I also got a pastry I’d seen in all the bakeries and dismissed until I read it was specific to Easter. It looks like cold French toast, but turned out to be much more custardy on the inside with a crusty sweet cinnamon glaze outside. Delicious.
Along the way, I spotted a yarn store and an art supply store – another benefit to getting lost. – and noted down the location for another day.
I ate my pastry sitting on a bench on that street I love, the one with the poetry. Which, by the way, Google maps fails to ‘see’ as a walking route to the Prado. Maybe that’s why there are so few people on it.
I walked to the back of the Prado to the ticket line for those with passes. I was the only person. The other line was out the door and wound around the side and along the long block in front of the museum. The line I am not in winds around the front of the building.
With this second visit, plus the Cerralbo and the Archeological museum visit I’m already ahead on the purchase price of the pass. I admit to a feeling of smugness.
I ask a passing tourist to take a photo of me hanging out with Goya and La Maja Desnuda.
Once inside, I decided to continue my Louvre Strategy; start on the top floor, at the back, and work my way forward. As I go along, I mark the rooms with colored marked on the floor plan they hand out, so I know where I’ve been. I add notes on paintings I want to revisit. Their ‘no photo’ policy makes that essential.
Honesty compels me to admit I forgot that rule twice and was busted both times.
I drew a postcard and sketched a sleeping woman and her dog.
My vision is tricky under the low light in some of the rooms. That’s frustrating. Mostly it was grand, taking my time, listening to the audio guide, which is quite informative.
I made it through rooms 14-39 – not quite half of the second floor. Spent quality time with Goya, Rubens, Murillo, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Tiepolo, and Titian, to name a few. A standout were royal portraits by Meng, who is entirely new to me. The way he made the gems glitter and the flesh soft and dewy. The faces of this upper class rogues gallery had expressions of cheerfully complacent superiority and they are dressed to shock and awe. Goya’s titled people are so different – much more ambivalent.
Left the museum at 5:30 pm pretty whipped, but not as tired as I have been. Walked to Corte Ingles and armed with my Spanish word list was more successful. I left with fresh cherries and pears, Prince of Wales tea, sea salt, a baguette, and butter – dinner!
Walking by a doorway I looked and half a dozen bulls looked back. Realized it must be one of the famous Madrid Bull Bars. I was fascinated. Tables of men inside made it feel like a boys club. I sidled in, and took a couple of photos as discretely as I dared. Ole!
Began to catch up on the blog while I ate my customary dinner of Brie, bread, jambon and fruit. Tomorrow it’s back to the Prado since nothing else is open on Mondays, and whatever other adventures befall me along the way.