This is the first chance I’ve gotten to write. We’re on our second train to Granada today, after changing in Antequera-Santa Ana. We just spent a whirlwind few days in Madrid. To say that I am jet lagged would be the grandest of understatements. I’m mentally lost in time. I don’t remember basic words I need. I get tired in the middle of moments. My eyes feel gravity so acutely, so compellingly, that I have to wrestle with them to stay open sometimes just to get me home. But it’s hard to argue with the gentle lull of a train engine, even while exquisite cottony white clouds and terra cotta orange buildings float by the windows outside, and so I nap when I can, when appropriate.
I didn’t realize how used to traveling alone I was until suddenly Evie and I were here, together. It’s so nice having someone to bounce ideas off of, laugh with when ridiculous things happen, and eat with. It’s nice not feeling alone. I do miss coming and going exactly when I pleased and not having to consult someone when a whim drew me elsewhere. But these are minor negotiations and I’m more than grateful for the company.
For example, standing in front of a plaque outside of Jardines de Sabatini, I was reading different phrases in Spanish out loud. I’m desperately digging back into the dusty annals of my singular Spanish class at Oberlin, and the all too brief refresher course in Panama in December, so I’m reading everything out loud. Right after I read “Ayuntamiento de Madrid” on the manhole cover below our feet Evie said, “There will be squirrels!” I immediately burst out laughing, and couldn’t get a word out without busting up until finally I was able to calm myself down enough to explain the source of my laughing tears. Basically, it sounded like she was translating my Spanish, but ridiculously, instead of reading off of the sign in front of her. If you see either of us when we return, just say, “There will be squirrels!” and we’ll both crack up.
One of my favorite things about traveling almost anywhere outside of Los Angeles is the amount of walking I do. It’s just so civilized. And now that I have the perfect shoes for walking that many miles/kilometers in, it’s even better. I’m wearing Birkenstocks. I feel like a hippie. In case you think I’m not stylish (like I care), mark my words, Birks are back. Yet one more reason for me to visit Berlin in the near future.
Evie and I walked positively everywhere that we went in Madrid. It was glorious. On our last full day there, we took in two amazing museums. Museo del Prado and Centro de Arte Reine Sofia. Prado is filled with classical art, mostly from the early 11th century through the 19th century. One of the most notable pieces in the collection is Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. I loved this piece when we studied it in the art class I audited in college. And it was spectacular in person, especially because you can peer behind the triptych and see the backs of the side panels, or really the front, when it’s closed. The detail of the Flemish painting is exquisite, matched perhaps only by Spanish artists Salvador Dali and Oscar something (I can’t remember his surname) also featured in the collection. Art is meant to be seen and experienced in person. It breaks my heart repeatedly that we don’t value the arts in the U.S. and our government routinely seeks to defund artistic endeavors and therefore strip it of any importance. If only we’d wake up to the fact that we’ve slipped permanently from first place in the world of superpowers in part because we don’t value art and education and therefore will probably never have that same power again. But I digress.
The Reine Sofia is a glorious home of modern art. The building is huge, with sloping red, granite, and metal edges. The elevators are glass and face a courtyard. The door is a gigantic metal gate that swings widely outward. Everything about the museum is new and grand, at least on the outside. Inside is a classic courtyard with an Alexander Calder installation in the center and a Richard Serra in the front. The first floor has a combination of sculpture and video art, and the second floor has the piece de resistance, so to speak, Picasso’s Guernica.
Guernica is a spectacle in every sense of the word. First of all, it’s huge. Massive. It covers one giant wall and has two dedicated guards on either side of it. There are trip cords in the front, keeping people back. But you want to view it from a distance to gather it all in with your eyes. You could spend hours standing in front of it just exploring the different characters, and I did. Well, I spent minutes. Many minutes longer than most. There is just so much to see in that huge, amazing achievement. It’s funny how non-representative art seems “easy” to people to create. There is no way in hell that I could paint like Picasso, no matter how many screwy faces and seemingly random lines he threw in. There is method to the madness, no matter how childish it seems.
We’ve arrived in Granada now, found a hotel, or rather a new hotel after I booked us in on the wrong day at the other one, and eaten the most delicious and fun dinner at a tapas bar. We sidled up to the counter, ordered some food and wine, and then were highly entertained by our charming, funny, silly waiter. He sang songs, told the other waiters that we were from California, sang Hotel California, and generally just enjoyed himself and his job. It was nice to see and made for an awesome evening.
Tomorrow morning we’re getting up at the crack of dawn to try to get tickets to Alhambra, the old castle in town. Or is it a palace? It has gardens and towers and buildings galore. You’re supposed to book your tickets months in advance. Oops. Guess we’ll get up at 7am to stand in line for tickets. Fingers crossed that we’ll get some.
One of the things I love most about Spain is the light. It seems extra special somehow, especially during magic hour before sunset, which is later at night, around 8:30pm. Because it stays light late, it’s particularly confusing for sleeping and eating patterns, but mine are so screwed up, it doesn’t much matter. All I know is that we’ve been getting very late starts, so it’s incredibly nice that things are open late here.
Okay, it's nearly midnight and I can't keep my eyes open anymore, which is good, because we've got a castle to visit in the morning, and we want tickets. Cross your fingers that we get them!