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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A stroll in Madrid, plus update on Claire

First, an up date on Claire:
 Last seen, by us, at Logan Airport on October 31st.

For us in Madrid, Claire now exists as a disembodied head on Skype. Here are her sisters, just last night, taking her for a tour of our apartment:

For this school year, Claire now resides with an Italian family in a suburb of Rome. She reports that the house is a lovely villa, but the bedrooms are very small. Hers is tiny, and she now laughs to think that she ever thought her bedroom in Concord was small!                                                                                  

The language barrier is a major obstacle. Sitting in an Italian high school class and not having the first idea what the teacher is saying -- well, you just have to imagine. And classes are held on Saturday morning. Back in the States when Claire was catching up on her beauty sleep, she is now taking 2 hours of Latin. (hee hee hee, say her mother). But, most importantly, she really likes her Italian family, and the Italians in general are super nice.
Here she is holding the 5 of hearts. She is with her Italian sister and friends, at a conference for people who play games on line and then get together to enact them. She said it was totally silly and a lot of fun.

She is loving Italy, but misses Concord and her friends and family. She, and Adele and Iris have been really surprised at how much they have missed their home town, and all the things they have found themselves appreciating in hindsight: the trees, the stores, the houses, the smells, the people, the sense of belonging.

Claire is being a very good exchange student and not spending time on Facebook and on emails in order to immerse herself in her surroundings, and in the language. But she would love to hear from friends, and get things in the mail. If you would like to have her address, just send me an email and I will send it to you. A a matter of fact, if you would like our address and telephone number, you can get that too (if I actually know who you are!):

A Walk from Home 

This particular posting is aimed at those friends and family who might be on the fence about visiting us -- If only Matt and Margot were in  a spot with some decent site-seeing...
First we walk a few block down our street, Paseo Pintor Rosales. 

Till we get to a terrace that overlooks the garden of the Royal Palace.
It is Sunday afternoon, and the Madriolenos are out in large numbers to stroll about. Here are a few friends going about on segways. 
 As you walk into the garden you come across this statue of Madrid's beloved Charles III, 1716 – 1788, who oversaw enormous construction projects and the building of roads to lead to the city from all quarters of the country.
 Charles III was so unattractive that the artists did not even try to disguise the fact. I just love this painting by Anton Raphael Mengs. The king's homely and friendly countenance just does not match the regal and war-like attire, and yet he is looking so pleased with himself.

Adele wants me to add that, on the way to the palace Matt and I were shaken down by three gypsy girls. At firt they appeared to be perfectly nice teenage girls who approached us to sign a petition and make donations to a charity for deaf and dumb children. We gave them about 8 euros and signed the petition that asked for our names and addresses. The girls asked to see identification as well. They were not satisfied with our driver's liscences and were quite peristant. Matt and I both suddenly felt very distrusting of them and found it difficult to get away as they sort of glommed onto us. We were pleased to have escaped with our wallets and without having allowed them to see the numbers on our credit cards.

We have made it to the Palace:
  The King and family do not live in this palace anymore, all though state functions do still take place here. Such as a grand reception and celebrationfor the soccar team after winning the world cup.

Many people were out enjoying the grounds of the palace. The Spanish definately know how to relax and enjoy their days off. Very telling of the difference of style between the Spanish and British -- here are the palace guards in London:

At the Palace in Madrid, the gaurds and soldiers seemed as relaxed as anyone:

I include the following photo of a statue outside the palace as it is one of the few examples I have found of one that is well executed and dynamic:

Most statues are more like this one. They look like rather stiff and awkward pieces by students who are studying Roman sculpture.

Next to the Palace, for the convenience of the King, is a little church, Almudena's Cathedral. Having seen many (Adele will tell you many too many) cathedrals during our trip to Europe last summer, we were not inclined to be overly impressed. The interior is based on the Gothic style but is fairly modest and plain. The building replaced a previous church (which replaced a mosque) and was only begun in the late 1800's and completed in 1993.

 But the cieling is marvelous and well worth the visit.
Also, I am very curious about this nun. Easily the most lively painting in the cathedral is of her ascending. Her name is Pilar Izquierdo Albero. I haven't found anything written on her that is in English or I would happily tell you why she was canonized.
Do you see me and Adele in the lower right here? Perhap you can tell I am having to hold her up as her boredom of and antipathy towards Cathedrals has become so powerful that she is collapsing into the fetal position. Poor girl.

Okay, better get going. A few blocks away we come across the Mercado de San Miguel. Adele is about to feel much better. San Miguel is very reminiscent of Quincy Market in Boston. It was built in 1916 as a covered market and was recently renovated and closed in by glass.

                                                  The Spanish love to display their meat.      

                          Garlic is usually sold 8 or more heads together. My kind of cooking.

          This is an oyster and champagne bar. The liquor flows freely at Mercado de San Miguel.

Can you see the jack-o lantern face on the pumpkin? The Spanish do not celebrate Holloween, but there are the occaisional references.
                                                                  Choclate cake for Adele

                                                            And a Napolean for Iris
And here is the wine bar, with a very impressive offering of about a 100 wines. Guess who is gravitating in that direction...............
                Spanish wines are quite good and surprisingly inexpensive. I think this was a Rioja.

                                  This is what I brought home. There is so much great cheese here.
On from the market, we made our way towards Plaza Mayor. We were charmed by this corner building.

The entrance to Plaza Mayor
The present day Plaza was mainly constructed in 1790, after a spate of fires, but the site has been a gathering place for commerce and ritual at least since the middle ages. It has held markets, soccer games, bull fights, and, during the late 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish Inquisition held Auto de fes, elaborate public readings of sentences, generally followed by executions.

                             Now, you can reliably find tourists gathered in the Plaza at all times.

By the time we left the Plaza Mayor, it was getting late and we had wandered about one and a half kilometers from home. So, here is Adele, looking out the window of our cab on the way back.

So, that is all for now!
Hasta Luego!

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