Got a surprising amount of stuff I wanted to do done yesterday, despite reading comic book discussions and guitar magazines, and having a few things go pete tong.

So I promised to tell the sangria story, of how Spain finally drove me to drink.

Read more... )
So that, ladies and gentlemen, were my adventures in the great world of those who like ethanol.
Am now back in the apartment I call home until I find a better name for it or find a better place.

When I awake, remind me to
1) Sort my mail
2) Find a charger for the other cell phone; apparently, the one I thought was my charger...has a European plug. No, not what I need now.
3) Fix my old netbook's operating system; also, optionally, my new netbook's operating system.
4) Tell the story of (a) the sangria (b) the customs adventures on both sides of the Atlantic (c) the race car driver.

For now, sleep time, for it is 4 am in Spain, and I need to persuade my brain not to wake up until the fairly godly time of 6:15 am Eastern Prevailing, you hear me, body, Eastern Prevailing!

Good night.
 At midnight, we went walking for the last time in Madrid. Through Puerta del Sol, where youth gathered around the fountains, talking, laughing in multiple languages, just enjoying the night. It made me think of the movie L'auberge espagnole, and of the old rhyme,

Boys and girls, come out to play
The moon doth shine as bright as day.
Forget your supper and forget your sleep
And join your playfellows on the street.
Come with a whoop and come with a call,
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A half-penny loaf will serve us all.

That rhyme had always fascinated me, and I realized that I've missed the L'auberge espagnole experience in my early twenties, when most people do it. Aw well, there is still time, and it will still be fun if I manage my schedule well, rather than being solid and tired and all. I just cannot do such a "Boys and girls come out to play" every day, or prior to every day.

We walked all the way to the Royal Palace. There, on the courtyard that's technically behind it, a young man dressed in black, with cloak and forearm braces and combat boots, was playing a small lever floor harp. Quite well. He played "Greensleeves" while we watched. I know it sounds trite, but he was aiming for a magical experience, I know, and he just about gave one, and it wasn't to just us.

We walked back through the bright lights and patterned shadows of the city.

In my life I've had desperate crushes, for years, gradually turning, as I grew to know and work with the person better, into reliable, steady, platonic friendships, allowing for months without contact, without dreaming of the curve of his neck or how he had said this phrase or other. 

I think my crush on Madrid, too, went that way. 

Breakfast, last packing, and flight; this may be my last dispatch in 30 hours or more. 
Thinking of getting paella, just to say that we did, for our last dinner in Madrid, we asked the concierge downstairs to recommend good restaurants close by. Of course, he recommended the one in the hotel as being close by and pretty good, and then, one called La Finca de Susana, on the next block.

We went to La Finca; its menu showed surprisingly adequate prices --- nothing above 10 euros. If we assume that the prices in Spain are just like Canada, only in euros, food is amazingly cheap; for a restaurant of that class and style in Toronto or Ottawa, I would have assumed a menu ranging from $9.95 to $35.95 or so (which proves that I've spent too long in Toronto with a meal allowance and a thirst for various ways to spend it, which is another story.)Read more... )
syncategorematic: (sophia - curlty and in a good mood)
( Jul. 18th, 2010 01:17 pm)
 So today is the last full day in Madrid; we are flying out at 1 pm-ish, and it's a 8-hour flight. I dread it. I saved most of Catherynne M. Valente's "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" to read on the plane. I admit that this is because I forgot the logon instructions to re-download the computational linguistics textbook. There is a point there of some sort.

(Over this vacation, I read most of the Viscount of Adrilankha twice, and also read my brother's biology textbook In Praise of Plants by Francis Halle, which is actually a really really good textbook, beautifully written and accessible even to 'I'm not a biologist, I just occasionally play one on a quiz team' me.) 

We went to the Museo del America and then to the Museo del Lazaro Galdiano, both of which are free on Sundays. Read more... )
 The vacation is winding down. We slept in for a while, because my brother went clubbing last night --- I had been up at seven so I did not go by that point, as I cannot afford to adapt to the Madrid lifestyle clock as well as its timezone; instead I was already in bed, because I am so boring, and read Soldier of Fortune magazines.

Yeah, their political alignment is so far from mine it is ridiculous, but I have to admit that there is some sense to the value system they operate from. And the ads are fun. There is an interesting serial column on law enforcement in the magazine that I found well worth reading. 

Today we went grocery shopping, ate, and then went back to the park and rented a rowboat again. However, this time our ride was earlier, the sun was higher in the sky, and even though I was wearing a hat, I got a headache. I used to know the symptoms of sunstroke and heat exhaustion, but that was a long time ago. Rest assured that I am drinking lots of water, and will probably be fine. 

So, general observations on Madrid:

Old Madrid seems to have the circular-radial spiderweb layout, but unlike Moscow, the classic example of this layout, there is no one hub to the spiderweb, but multiple ones, the various plazas and puertas of the old city, leaving to a tangled cobweb of streets, with turns at the oddest angles. Except in the Salamanca region; looking at the map of Madrid, I quipped that the Salamanca region is where the urban planners actually found themselves some graph paper and put it to good use.

The people adapt to the summer heat not by dress so much as by very tactical use of the shaded sides of the street. In an effort to emulate them, my brother particularly grew quite adept at navigating the narrower alleys of the cobweb, where they were narrow enough to be shady on both sides.

There are a lot of beggars, particularly people who are visibly disabled, and it makes me sad. In the Canadian cities I have lived in, panhandlers generally look able-bodied, and from what I have heard, tend to be addicts or mentally ill. Here it is the physically disabled who seem to fall through the social cracks; Spain has a socialist system, but not enough, it seems, probably particularly at this time, when unemployment overall is sky-high.

There are also a lot of buskers, ranging across karaoke, classical guitar, erhu, cello, electric guitar, drums, jazz clarinet, or jazz trumpet. My brother tells of an eighty-year-old woman played "Besame Mucho" on the violin in Puerta del Sol at one in the morning. We passed an accordeon and a violin playing the "Habanera" from Carmen when we were on the way to the Royal Palace. I almost sang along, but my brother asked me to stop. The buskers seem to be enjoying themselves more, and are generally pretty good; some sell CDs.

There is a LOT of graffiti. Including in weird places like on bushes, on the domes of buildings, and, I swear, on the wheels of subway cars. There are signs that the street cleaners attempt to remove it, but not enough. Mostly slogans; not a Banksy among them; we did once encounter a couple of rather poetic ones by someone apparently lovestruck: "You exist, you are, I believe in you; that is enough for me." And I noted the supreme irony of a graffito on a public park bench saying "Madrid bonito," pretty Madrid. But mostly, they're illegible, just annoying. 

Ham is, indeed, assumed to be part of the diet. We mostly, as I said, bought groceries and assembled sandwiches, but I can see how eating out for a vegetarian, or someone who keeps kosher or halal, would be quite challenging. The hotel continental breakfast, though well-served, was monotonous, and generally carb-heavy, although it also included ham.
syncategorematic: (durer - irascible curly-head)
( Jul. 16th, 2010 02:07 pm)
 While we were in the area, we went to check out the ABC Serrano mall that was advertised in the tourist materials we had gotten from the tour company on the first day. 

I have to say I was disappointed. Not by the prices; every single store in the mall is having 40-60% off sales. But still, there was hardly anyone there. I looked around for nice shoes; alas, the fashion this year is not to my taste, and those shoes that did look fairly nice had very thin, hard soles, and I have reached the age, and have walked enough miles and danced enough at rehearsals, that the comfort of a shoe is just as important as its appearance, so I just kept on walking in my Clarks. Somehow a mall during a recession, when the largest towers in Spain are standing empty because no one can swing their leasing fees, is just not as fun. The glyptodont and the Toledo knife may be the only things I will bring back.

We fled that most depressing of malls, and decided that we did not feel like grocery shopping, so we finally checked out the tapas bar restaurant a few metres from our hotel.

We both had the salad, and then I picked a filet of steak while my brother ended up getting fish, because he was not sure what boquerones were on the menu (they're little sardine-like fish.) Flipping through the menu, which was trying to be bilingual, we cracked up at the sight of "Raciones y Tapas" being translated as "Shares and Lids."

I snapped a photo, to find the waiter standing over my shoulder. So we got into a discussion with him as to what the rest of the world calls tapas --- 'tapas,' I do believe. So we told him about Canada, and about how much housing costs and what the minimum wage is for a waiter (he at first asked how much the weekly wage is for a normal person, and um, I can tell him mine, but I'm not a normal person. I told him how much my apartment was, too.)

He told us that he was from Colombia, and all his life he had been told to go to the U.S., it's the land of opportunity, but he could not make it to the U.S, while no one was mentioning going to Europe. So he had ended up in Europe, spent some time in Germany and Switzerland before spending the last fourteen years now in Spain. Having the same language did not help as much as we thought it did. He complimented me on my Castilian, by the way, which made me happy. So I told him about this being the second time I was in Spain, the first time having been in Soria, which, ironically, my mineral water was from (a drink was included, and I asked for water. In esprit d'escalier, I later thought of asking for wine instead, but by then it was too late.)

He was fun. And the food was pretty good, especially at the price. Even though this would be the first three-course meal with restaurant-sized plates I've eaten in...maybe two years, and oh gods I do not generally eat this much. 

So that is the end of today's stories so far.
 We stopped back at the hotel and decided to go to the Archeological Museum, and as the National Library is in the same building, and apparently my brother is already a fan of Spain's National Library, we will visit that as well.

The National Library's Museum entrance also featured a security scanner, and a receptionist who tried speaking to me in halting English before discovering to her relief that I understood Spanish pretty well.

So there was an exhibit on the Moriscos, the Moors in Spain who had been forced to convert or be exiled by the Christians after the conquest of Granada.

The exhibit was mostly books, and books in Arabic to boot, but I thoroughly (for once) read the Spanish texts above them. It's a library; you gotta read, right? Even though I am aware that I read Spanish much more slowly than English or Russian, and it frustrates me. But I learned some interesting things, like the fact that there were networks smuggling forbidden books around Morisco communities when all books in Arabic script were prohibited and many were destroyed --- even though many of those books were Spanish transliterated into Arabic script, the so-called 'aljamiados', as the Moors living in Andalusia gradually forgot how to speak Arabic fluently. The Toledo guide had pointed that out too, that at the time of the Reconquista, the Moors were not Arabic; they were not African; they were Spanish.

From the exhibit, we went to the display of the library museum proper. The history of writing across various languages (Baruch Hashem, their Hebrew was displayed right side up) including, cool, Phoenician. A display on Braille text and the writing boards used for that. A really neat display on old music recording and playback devices, which allowed you to listen to each of them. Antique typewriters that had only 22 letters for Spanish and were not QWERTY. Printing presses and their history, including Gutenberg typecases. A display of the bookbinding art, including gorgeous books that had won the National Bookbinding Competition in 1995 and 1996 (which supports my thesis that whatever you can possibly imagine, there are people who do it very very well, and there is a competition in it.) A 1989 Macintosh that looked hopelessly quaint. 


The Archeological Museum is on the other side of the building, but there is no way through, so we had to go around.

The Museum was a little bit of a disappointment, because, alas, I've been to the British Museum and more than once. We did not find a replica of the caves at Altamira, which was what I had been hoping to see; we did see the Lady of Elx and the other Roman ruins (sorry, it seems that seeing Numancia has soured me forever from enthusiasm about Romans in Spain, which is no good). They had a lovely collection of Greek vases, as well as 17th and 18th century porcelain; some beautifully preserved gold coins of Greece, Rome, and Iberia; and some lovely Visigothic jewelry. But all in all, it was smaller than I had thought. Oh well, it was free, and I did learn something.
 So today we went to the Thyssen art museum, to the National Library's museum, to the Archeological Museum, and then to the ABC Serrano shopping mall and then out for dinner. 

The three first things all involved, again, my purse going through the X-ray machines. I swear, as soon as I get back, I am going to call up a friendly health physicist and ask if I can get my purse tested. It will be, oh, so spectacularly ironic if it picked up a higher radiation dose in two weeks holidaying in Spain than it did in a year and a half working at a nuclear reactor, but I am willing to bet in euros that is the case. 

The Thyssen Art Museum picks up where the Prado and Reina Sofia left off; it has many of the same authors, including Goya (very little Joan Miro, though.) 

First, we saw the special exhibition on of Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, and the Renaissance workshops. The second-tier Renaissance masters: not Leonardo, Raphael, or Michelangelo, Tintoretto or Titian, but Botticelli, Ghirlandaio (whom I hear of for the first time), Perugino, and Verocchio. Particularly fascinatingv was the room giving closeups of a particular painting under radiographic, ultraviolet, and materials analyses, showing how it had been corrected and repainted.

[ profile] chernobylred , it has one Caravaggio that I noticed, the painting of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It has a lovely collection of Max Ernst (my favourite was "33 girls in search of a white butterfly";  try to find all 33 girls and the butterfly. No, I don't know the answer.) As well, some lesser-known Picassos that support my thesis that they guy could draw well if he felt like it, some lovely Impressionists, some works by Kandinsky, Chagall, Picabia, even, I think, Malevich himself. 

One painting that made me stop was Eugene Delacroix's The Duke of Orleans Showing His Lover To The Duke of Burgundy (potentially NSFW):  I kept wondering why, and what the lover thought of this --- did she lie back passively, knowing there was no escape? Or was she actually an opportunistic woman in the style of Empress Catherine I (who rose from Polish peasant's wife to Empress of Russia through pretty much the definition of sleeping her way to the top, although she was brilliant as well)? Did she love the Duke of Orleans but wish he wouldn't do that? Did the Duke of Burgundy coerce him into doing it, or was it of his own volition? 

Thyssen also has a beautiful collection of Dutch Old Masters. The paintings of Frans Hals are particularly lovely. I liked the Dutch Renaissance; it seems somehow more peaceful in every way than the Italian one. 

(I should spend some time in Holland: peace, coffee shops, bicycles, logicians...)

I also saw a Vernet knowingly for the first time. The thing that popped into mind with my associative memory, was Sherlock Holmes saying, in one of the Russian TV series episodes which mixed and matched script from various stories actually, that his grandmother was related to Vernet. This amused me.

One thing I have to say for Thyssen --- their gift shop employs an amazing jeweller. There were several lines of jewelry based on famous paintings in the collection, and darn if I didn't want some of it. Alas, no, no frivolity for me. But le sigh.

The rest will be next post.
 It's no longer my feet, it's my knees and back. At least in both of these cases I can tell it's muscles and tendons hurting --- ligaments and spine would have been way worse. 

My brother and I spent five hours walking around the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art. 

First of all, I LOVE the architecture of the Reina Sofia, even though it is one of those buildings where an old building got a glass-and-steel structure built next to it and moulded with it. The glass-and-steel part is awesome, even though the elevators, within columns of glass, gave me vertigo. I took a lot of photos just of it. 

The SITE building at the University of Ottawa tries to imitate this style, I think, and I think I appreciate the architecture of that building more now that I am no longer a student there.

First of all, we went into the exhibition on The Potosi Principle. In short, it is about exploitation of workers by the capitalist system. In is a series of 32 exhibits in various media, from oil paintings to videos to glass bottles to interactive computer maps to texts, ordered in a knotwork pathway around a room that you need a program book with commentary to go through. Sometimes the program book makes you return to a previous exhibit to look at it a bit more. It covers silver mine workers in Potosi, Bolivia, throughout history; migrant workers in China, illegal immigrant workers in Dubai, the influence of the Catholic church, the plight of women, the destruction of quipu and the knowledge of reading them, the way Russians were taught English using the writings of Karl Marx, etc. etc.  [ profile] changeofthemoon would have enjoyed it a great deal, I think. 

My favourite part of it was a Russian film with Spanish and English subtitles, a Brechtian songspiel on the proposed building of a 403-metre skyscraper by Gazprom in St. Petersburg, in imitation of Dubai. And the film is available online (I haven't checked if the subtitles are there, due to bandwidth limits, but given that the blog entry is in English, they should be). Thirty minutes. Recommended. 

Out of there we went into the modern art itself, displayed in somewhat more traditional format.
Long discussion of Picasso and other modern art and what it measn to me )"One thing I'm wondering," I said on the walk back, "all those paintings, sculptures, photographs --- and there is not a single item of digital art? Why not?"

Well, there were a couple of exhibits in the Potosi Principle that could sort of count, but not really. Really, there are absolutely stunning digital artworks being created out there. Is even the modern art scene conservative? Anyone closer to it than I am that can tell me where there are physical galleries of stunning works of Photoshop and Corel Draw? 
 Words cannot describe how disappointed I am by this

For those tuning in late to this serial: as a child, I was crazy about animals. Including dinosaurs and prehistoric megafauna. I did not turn this obsession into a career, as I actually took no biology courses in high school, and I am glad I stuck to theoretical patterns for other reasons, but I still have a pile of animal facts in the back of my brain, and love visiting natural history museums, (ethically run) zoos and aquariums, and suchlike. One of my cultivated eccentricities is a small collection of photos of Megatherium (giant ground sloth) skeletons particularly: I have one from the Field Museum in Chicago, one from the ROM in Toronto, and one from the Natural History Museum in London. Take me to a natural history museum, with a digital camera, and there will be a Facebook album of photos of dinosaur skeletons and critters of various sorts.

So I was looking forward to the Museo de Ciencias Naturales, and my brother's biology minor made him on my side.

Alas, their dinosaur exhibit is under renovation, and there was only one Allosaurus skeleton cast in the front of the museum's second building, and the rest of the exhibit was all warded off. I took pictures around the screen anyway, until the guard yelled at me...that it would be better to look from another angle. I saw a sauropod and a Stegosaurus skeleton, and, too far away to take a picture, a preserved coelacanth, which my brother and I both agreed were awesome, and wished we could see up close. But, there was only a Megatherium cranium and jawbone, that I definitely did take a photo of to add to the collection, but I know they have the entire thing; why isn't my timing right this time? 

Read more... )

In the gift shop, there was a plush ichthyosaur, and I wanted it So Bad. Alas, it was 18 euros, which I think is a little much for a plush, don't let me remember how much my spiny lizard from the Shedd Aquarium actually cost, it was to benefit conservation programs, I swear it was... But in the other building's gift shop, I fell for a little glyptodont, for a more reasonable price, and now I have a little plush glyptodont sitting by my hotel room bedside table, and it is adorable and fuzzy in its great-ancient-armadillo way. I benefactored conservation programs. I swear I did. (I swear benefactored is a word too.)
Tags: soon as I post about being an Internet ganglion again, my Internet conkers out.

So a lot of yesterday and today was spent trying to figure out what's wrong, without using the Internet.
Read more... )
I solved the computer problem by throwing money at it. The good news is that I have a new netbook, that is both smaller and cheaper than the old one is (particularly with the refund of the VAT, it was a pretty good deal) and I am therefore once again a ganglion of the Internet. It also has the option of booting using Android, preventing the operating system flaw that felled my last netbook.

The bad news is that the keyboard has Spanish markings on it (although I set it to United States Qwerty) so I have to rely entirely on muscle memory to type, because the special non-alphanumerics will not be the same. And the Windows interface is in Spanish; I can't change it at this point; I learned quite quickly what "Save" or "Cancel" is in Spanish. I guess I can reinstall the operating system somehow when I get home, as well as requesting what I can do with regards to warranty on my current netbook, which was still a very nice little machine.

It is still surprisingly noisy out there; I saw a great many fans walking somewhere. Maybe they are meeting the returning team.

We went to the zoo. It was very extensive, and looks pretty well run.
 This was written in near real time yesterday. I will need to go back and fix the special characters later:
The World Cup Final in Madrid )
syncategorematic: (Default)
( Jul. 11th, 2010 02:50 pm)
My netbook, faithful little thing, betrayed me. Its boot sector fried.

Madrid is insane with World Cup fever. Yesternight was bad, and tonight will be beyond imagining.
My feet were beginning to complain by the time we went to the Prado, which is a pretty good walk from the Royal Palace.
Read more... )
Paintings that I wrote down that I liked:

Nicholas Poussin's Saint Cecilia
Miichel Coxcie, Saint Cecilia also (I like music, in case you haven't noticed)
Mor, Pejeron the Buffoon (somehow the court paintings of the buffoons made them very sad people)
Quentin Massys, Christ Shown To The People
Joaquin Sorolla, And They Still Say Fish Is Expensive  (it shows two fishermen trying to revive a dying young fisherman)
Antonio Gisbert, The Execution of Torrijos
Raimundo de Madrazo, Aline Masson (there were two portraits of her I liked; Wikimedia only has the one with a white mantilla)
Emilio Sala, Expulsion of the Jews (this was the first time a painting conveyed to me how the Catholic kings actually felt when they did it, and how did Torquemada feel; it does not excuse the act, but...)

and some others I can't find on Wikimedia right now.

Please let me know of any mistaken links.

But yes, I can say I've seen Titian and Tintoretto and Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

And Goya's Black Paintings.

Goya ended up going the same way Turner did; I first met Goya when one of the things I brought back from my first trip to Spain was a stationery set featuring his paintings, on sale. By the end of the Museo del Prado, I can recognize a Goya dead on at twenty paces --- and I skipped ten rooms of Goya.
My feet have apparently sinned against me sometime in the distant past, because every vacation I go on, I proceed to beat the daylights out of them.

Today we went to the Royal Palace and to the Prado, mainly because they are things that everyone will be asking us about anyway. Well, I was keen on the Prado; I don't think my brother is as keen on art.
The Royal Palace: A Tale of Two Empires, and the Bilingual People Inside Them )

The Prado is next post.
syncategorematic: (sophia - curlty and in a good mood)
( Jul. 10th, 2010 05:17 am)
At Segovia, those of the tour people who would be provided with lunch broke off to the designated restaurant, while the rest of us were given a generous hour and a quarter to find lunch ourselves as we please and then meet in the shade by the aqueduct. My brother's and my tour package not including the lunch option, we had the foresight to pack sandwiches.

The aqueduct:

The aqueduct seems to be Segovia's most famous  landmark. A stunningly well-preserved artifact of Roman times, it was built mortarless (except for at the top where there is new construction with mortar) and t rises gracefully over the eighteenth-nineteenth-century buildings of that area of Segovia. Looking at it through the alleys, a series of arches framing empty space, obviously alien...

"It's a stargate!" I burst out.

My brother later admitted that the alienness of the thing made him feel annoyed at the Romans for plonking it down in the middle of the city where it doesn't belong. I grinned and told him of the Viennese palace,  that I had brought up in conversation a couple of weeks before, that has Roman excavations going on in its courtyard, and how my first thought was, "Dumb Romans, to go and build stuff right in the courtyard of a Viennese palace."

More on the aqueduct, the Cathedral of Segovia, and how I learned to stop worrying and respect castle moats )

My legs were aching on the descent down to the bus, and there ends my summary, without pictures that, even with my meager photography skills, can tell a thousand words, of our visits to Avila and Segovia.
So today we had a full day's tour my feet are aching from, of Avila and Segovia.

On the bus from Madrid to Avila, my camera graciously informed me that its batteries were running out. I know I should have been prepared for this, they being cheap Panasonic batteries I had bought in the airport prior to flying to NASSLLI, but alas, neither my brother not I were prepared with backup batteries (from playing with Lego robots through my wayward youth, I had learned that ONLY Duracell or Energizer batteries would do, and not to trust the rest). The guide, in two languages, expounded on the virtues of Avila's famous ancient and extremely well-preserved city walls, and I pondered various plans for preserving my memory of said walls. My Blackberry could take some photos, but ITS battery was on its last legs as well, and emailing the photos out would wreak havoc to my data plan costs. I had noted that the previous tour, in Toledo, had us stop at a souvenir shop or somesuch for restroom use prior to the tour, so I had the equivalent be my Plan A.

And no sooner decided than acted upon. We had a first stop by a hotel outside Avila, and next to it was a BP gas station. My brother and I proceeded into the gas station, and at the back were Sony batteries, with a pack of 4 AAs for 2,95 euro.

"We might as well help BP out at this difficult time for them," my brother drawled as we left with the batteries in my pocket, and I, feeling like I was reloading the bullets from a revolver, changed the batteries in the camera. Thank the gods that I had decided on a camera that runs AAs rather than lithium ion; I had been burned with this in Vancouver.

The walls of Avila really are spectacular.

We went to St. Vincent's cathedral, the oldest church in Spain showing elements of Gothic architecture (and later we would visit the cathedral of Segovia, which is the last church in Spain to do so). My art history came as part of a couple of years of small-group art lessons with an architect/artist in Ottawa, (which lessons I had quit after I reached my teens and the teacher's behaviour started tripping a few of my alarm bells) but perhaps the only thing I still remember was the transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The guide kept pronouncing Romanesque as Romanex when he spoke English, but other than that, he was quite knowledgeable about the works.

After St. Vincent's church, the rest of our tour of Avila was heavily coloured with the biography of perhaps its most famous resident (well, Queen Isabella of Castile was born there too), St. Teresa of Avila. I regret to admit that the first time I had heard of St. Teresa was when the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab dedicated a Salon scent to the sculpture of her, but I have learned a fair amount to not seem ignorant since, and St. Teresa is a fascinating woman. There was one quotation by her in the souvenir shop, which I recall as "I believe, unless I had a new book, I was never happy." That struck a chord with me.

I took a whole pile of pictures from Avila, and then we got on the bus to Segovia. On the bus I had a rather serious conversation with my brother, but it ended well.

Segovia will be told of in the next entry.
Besides our logistics, my brother and I are actually doing cultural-type things.

On Wednesday, we went to the museum at the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Unfortunately, I admit I could not find my camera in my handbag and thought that I forgot it, so I did not take any pictures. But there was a fascinating exhibition showing the process of restoring various sculptures and drawings --- each work of art will be shown with a poster about its restoration process right beside it. You definitely look with new eyes at the more traditional art in the rest of the gallery once you have some idea (some, because the posters were all in Spanish) of the backbreaking work that goes into turning back the clock and making it look like it was only recently done.

Of the paintings in the rest of the exhibition, my favourites were that of the Marquesa de Llano, of the great soprano castrato Farinelli, which actual painting I cannot find online at the moment, and the Knight's Dream; the latter strongly reminded me of the Flanders Panel book that Ms_danson gave me; it is just asking to have a novel written about it. My brother, too, found the Knight's Dream quite impressive.

So learning about the restoration techniques made me far more impressed when we saw El Greco's masterpiece The Burial of Count Orgaz today in Toledo, and learned that it has never been restored; it looks just like that. I carefully refrained from illicitly taking photos, aware of how much damage a painting can suffer. Four by three metres, that painting really is impressive in the flesh, even though I had seen reproductions many times before.

More on Toledo, egregious errors, and soul searching )


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