Te deho Madrid

21 November 2011 § Leave a comment

21 novembre 2011

For most of my life, I have hated the Spanish language.  I think it was mostly because of hearing Tennesseean Spanish during high school.  But now, I think quite highly of Spain.  The Madrid trip was perhaps the most fun I have had during any of my trips so far.  Sara, Laura, Maggie, and I met up with our friends Karen and Katherine from Duke, and they were the perfect tour guides.  We arrived late on Friday night and met them on Saturday morning for churros and chocolate, which is hot and thick enough for dipping and also for eating by itself.  Apparently people eat this combination for breakfast after partying all night.

Outdoor chocolateria

Churros and chocolate

Maggie and I were excited about having chocolate for breakfast

We walked around the city, stopping by several main squares and parks and the main cathedral and palace across from it.  One of my favourite parts of this little tour was a park from which we had a magnificent view of the whole city.  Then, we had a leisurely lunch at which I tried sangría for the first time and confirmed that wine with chopped up fruit in it is better than wine without chopped up fruit in it.  Somehow it takes the alcoholy taste out of the wine, which makes it much more delicious.  The centimeter of undissolved sugar in the bottom is also a highlight.  (My actual lunch involved cheese-ish sauce and creamed cod at some point.  I loved Spain, but death would come with haste if I lived there.)

Laura, Karen, Sara, and me

After lunch, we went to the Prado for some art times, i.e. my introduction to Spanish art.  Besides Goya and Velazquez, however, Rubens and Titian also made a strong showing, and there was a fascinating exhibit hidden away in a dark corridor that had modern portraits consisting of about ten seconds of filming each person’s face, done by an artist who wanted to make a study of those who visit the Prado.  I quite enjoyed the Spanish realist landscape painters (apparently Carlos de Haes was the great master in this realm).

Mancorbo Canal (Carlos de Haes, 1876)

After a nap (to prepare for a long night) and partial recovery from lunch, we went to dinner around nine at a crammed little place called El Tigre, where for five euros one buys a drink and receives plates of tapas.  This concept, along with that of people standing in extremely close quarters eating dinner at ten o’clock (we were there for a few hours), fascinated me.  It definitely would not happen in France.  I am lucky to have friends who gladly finish two thirds of my gallon (or nearly)-sized glass of sangría (this time it had mint leaves!) for me.  After chatting and meeting some friends of Katherine and Karen in the Duke program, we headed off through refreshing rain to a club called Cats (I never figured out why) to dance for a few hours.  It was the first time I had ever been to a club, and it was so much fun—it wasn’t too crowded, and they played a mix of Spanish and American music (although I was hoping for a bit of French)—not that I knew much of the American music that much better.  I definitely realised how much I have missed dancing, no matter what kind.

Our sangria was actually made with red wine

We turned in around four and straggled out of bed the next morning for a trip to the Reina Sofía museum, which has modern art, including Miró and Dalí and Picasso’s Guernica and a portrait of Tristan Tzara, who started the dada movement.  I usually dismiss modern art as meaningless and ugly, but I read a little article written by Picasso that made me evaluate my methods of evaluating art.  He states that he does not believe in art criticism, and his argument is that art is by nature the realm that is not burdened by rules (so one cannot impose rules on what one regards), and that the viewer cannot know the soul or the aims of the artist, and that, since every artist is seeking truth, one cannot discount another’s work; one may say, “This pleases me” or, “This pleases me not.”  Now I feel justified in announcing that a work displeases me if I find it repulsive.  Not that I ever needed a reason before . . . honestly, though, I can see Picasso’s point, which is that we can voice our opinions but that rejecting a work of art on the basis that it does not conform to an ideal or our idea of what art is or should be is simply not allowed.

Jardin d'Aranjuez (Santiago Rusiñol, 1907): this pleases me

“Impressionism is but an expression of the eternal yearning of man to reach the truth.”


We also saw the Danse Serpentine (created by the brothers Lumière).  Apparently her dress was coloured in on the separate slides right after the dance was filmed.

Seeing Karen and Katherine was the most enjoyable part—spending a few concentrated days with friends here and there flitting about new places differs vastly from the hour or two (or five minutes) that we all spend together when we’re at school.

We found a fun mirror

This morning while I was walking to class, I saw men stringing greenery across the narrow streets, and last night when I returned from Madrid, I walked along cours Mirabeau under Christmas lights and along wooden booths with bundled marchands selling all manner of things, honey and lavender and glass and Alsatian pain d’épices and various crafts.  What a delight to discover upon my return!

This evening, Mme Marchetto made turkey for us in preparation for Thanksgiving.  It was tiny compared to the turkeys that people usually make, because there are only four of us.  In France, turkeys are made with chestnuts around them, and it was the first time I tasted chestnuts—quite delicious.  There is also an inkling of a possibility that Chloe and Luke and I might sortir (go out: her definition of the term, however, meaning the theatre) with her in Paris this coming weekend—we have a school trip, and she will be there visiting some friends.  I loved seeing her describe with great enthusiasm how she wanted to sortir every night she is there.

On the way home from dinner, I found a gigantic pine cone.

Rain in Spain



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