Always look both ways before crossing the street. That’s basic advice that I learned at an early age. You can take away many things from me but as long as I have the memory of Spain in the springtime I will be happy. This week a big volcano in Iceland is spewing ash into the sky and has stopped all the air travel in Central Europe. It’s a good thing we went the week before and enjoyed clear blue skies while we were there.
Our trips are always too short and it seems that we never get to do and see all that we want to. The guidebooks are full of recommendations and ratings about where to go and what to see. Even though we had planned to go to Spain for the last year or so, we didn’t do a whole lot of research for this trip. We just went and looked around. That’s probably not the best way to maximize your time but thanks to my day job I am completely fed up with efficiency ratings and performance metrics. I just wanted to go and live for a week like a real human being again so I strolled around Madrid taking lots of bad and blurry photos under harsh light and pretended to be a carefree kid. I also got some photographs that I like a lot.
The week before we left I had the flu and the aftermath still lingered. I decided to put up with the discomfort and get on with life even though I didn’t have much of an appetite when we left. Just getting to Spain takes a day (and night) and coming home Debbie found out it could take several days when we ended up on separate flights out of Madrid. That was not so much fun and we didn’t get a chance to talk about all the things we had done and seen until she got home a couple of days later.
Madrid is a very clean city with an army of public workers going around picking up trash and cleaning the streets. I heard that there is very high unemployment in Madrid but there also seemed to be a lot of construction and public works projects going on in the part of the city where we spent much of our time. One day we went to the Palace and toured the opulent rooms inside. No one lives there now, it’s just for ceremonies and special events. No photographs are allowed inside the palace and the stern looking guards are quick to pounce on anyone who looks as though they might even be thinking about taking a snapshot of the throne room. You would need a tripod to do it justice anyway because the lighting stinks. We also went to the art museum to see the paintings by Goya and other artists. The museum is full of dark, depressing images of a crucified Jesus, looking as if he had just been to an all night fraternity party. I guess those paintings where more in demand than uplifting resurrection paintings or the second coming compositions. It’s funny to me that the holy family always takes on the features of the artist’s patrons but I guess that’s to be expected. The holy family looks Spanish in Spain and Italian in Italy. An American painter would probably have Jesus wearing a John Wayne cowboy hat and toting a Winchester rifle.
It’s people in the flesh that I have come to see and I was not disappointed. If only I had know how to say, “Stand still!” in Spanish. Everyone seems to move with purpose in the city. Only the retired men walk slowly with hands clasped behind their backs.