Our day began with a leisurely (i.e. two hour) breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The slow pace and overpriced breakfast were both endured in honor of the strong wifi signal, through which we caught up on the photo uploads and blogging from yesterday. Eventually satiated both narratively and nourishtively, we headed up the street to the Prado, passing the Spanish Department of Agriculture, which certainly puts the USDA to shame:
Giant winged horses guard the country's agricultural governance, larger-than-life statues of Spanish artists guard the country's painings.
As you'll see below, I took (or maybe snuck - we weren't sure whether photos were allowed) photos of the collection of statues of the Greek muses. I teach about the Muses in Humanities, and I always recall this semi-circle of ladies against the red walls of the Prado when I talk about the group.
I also snuck a photo of Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" to answer the perpetual Humanities question, "How big is it?" Of course, I spent a delightful few minutes studying this grand-daddy of "I Spy" paintings. I hadn't noticed before how well he painted the light pouring from the doorways over the human figures in the upper part of hell. I love revisiting favorite paintings and discovering new reasons to admire them.
Near the Bosch I also spent some time studying the horrifying Bruegel painting "The Triumph of Death". I'll have to add it to the Humanities curriculum. I know several students who will love it.
We were dragging by 3:00 and opted to grab a bite to eat at the cafe before figuring out what to do next. The food was overpriced, as you would expect at a museum, but not too bad.
By the time we raised our levels of blood sugar and hydration we felt good enough to dive back in and see the pieces we had missed. I'm glad we did because in hunting down Fra Angelico's "Annunciation" we discovered a series of Botticelli paintings depicting the myth of Nastagio degli Onesti ("The Encounter with the Damned in the Pine Forest" 1482-1483). I was unfamiliar with both the story and the paintings, but found them utterly fascinating.
We left the Prado and headed to Retiro Park to enjoy the bright green trees and the bright warm sun. Really, the weather has been surprisingly comfortable here in Madrid, not at all what I expected for July. We walked through the southwest section of the park, explored the memorial to the March 11, 2005 bombings, and then headed over to the Thyssen.
The Thyssen's collection is not the best, but I absolutely love the layout. Not only is it easy to navigate, designed so one can walk from room to room through the entire collection without missing a piece and with minimal backtracking, but the collection is laid out chronologically so you really get a good sense of the progression of style, technique, and tastes from medieval to post-modern. It's fascinating, and I enjoyed seeing this museum again, even through my dehydrated and museum-sore end-of-the-day haze.
We finished up shortly before closing at 7, and we were both dragging. So we headed back to the Plaza Mayor through the Barrio de las Letras, the literary neighborhood where plaques and street markers commemorated things like Cervantes' house.
Yesterday in our wanderings in the Plaza Mayor we passed this enticing window:
We did not go in, but it stayed on Jason's mind. A fan of haberdasheries myself, I was eager to go back when he proposed it. We were excited to find it open, and even more delighted to find a friendly and opinionated shop assistant inside who told us clearly and quickly what hats looked good and which did not. It took very little convincing to get both of us to leave with new hats, and the saleswoman, Sara, very sweetly posed with her happy customers.
(Side note: When we introduced ourselves, Sara commented that "Amanda" is a common name used in Spanish soap operas because it sounds so beautiful. I told Jason as we left that it's strange I haven't ever met an Amanda in Spain. He told me I needed to go to the trailer parks to do that, since those are the kinds of people who would name their children after soap opera characters. Sara could think of very little references to a "Jack" in Spanish culture.)
We walked to the Mercado de San Miguel we discovered yesterday, but despite enticing displays like this:
...the food just didn't look too enticing. I suspected dehydration, so I self-medicated with a lemon-chocolate gelato and a bottle of water while Jason treated himself to some wee Bavarian sausages:
We wandered around the neighborhood to the south of the Mercado, somewhat looking for dinner and somewhat enjoying the city waking up as the night set in. We wound up going back to the Plaza Mayor for a touristy dinner with great people-watching:
Back to Sol and then down the Calle de Alcala to the Bank of Spain and the current and grand-looking Town Hall:
Just as we turned to head towards the hotel we heard the sounds of whistles and people shouting. Suddenly, we were swept up in a massive demonstration! Hundreds of people poured down the middle of the street with police walking in front and driving behind the crowds to hold off traffic as the citizens marched through the roundabout and right past us. Try as we might, we couldn't figure out what they were protesting. The few holding signs held them so haphazardly that we couldn't see the words painted on them. After the Goya and the Rubens earlier we were ready for some passionate, bloody, breast-baring revolts. Sadly, there was nary a bare chest to be seen. The people strolled down the street, some smoking a cigarette, some walking their dogs, many taking photos of the people taking photos of them. It was a huge demonstration of very little passion.
Viva la Revolution! Or not. Whatever.
Once the tidal wave of the impassioned passed, we turned down the Calle de Prado and walked back to the hotel, pausing to admire this awesome vertical garden on the way:
A quick hour or two of bloggig (that is, until the internet goes out on us moments before posting) then we need to pack and go to bed for tomorrow, Morocco!