Caroli and Mike in Spain 2016 travel blog

Plaza Olavides in our neighborhood, 10 p.m.

Reina Sofia facade with elevators

A view from one elevator

A view from another elevator

Taking a break in the Reina Sofia courtyard

View from our sofa

Usually I'm horizontal here!

Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida

Goya dome inside chapel

Taking a break on the top floor of El Corte Ingles


Friday, June 10: Maria Jose Martin, the woman who owns our apartment, called the day before to see if she could drop off extra sheets for the beds, around 10 a.m. She arrived on time and ended up staying for over an hour. Maria is a fun, outgoing woman of about 40 years old and she has a much better grasp of English than we do of Espanol. She did learn a word or two from us, though, and she certainly helped us with some Spanish words and phrases. Maria also gave us some ideas and recommendations for places to go in the country and especially Madrid. Nice lady.

We decided to walk to our favorite map and book store to pick up another book about Spain. We brought with us from Arizona a Rick Steves Spain 2016 (thank you, Carolyn & Christopher), and today got a Lonely Planet Spain. We’re going to be traveling around and it will be good to have both books.

We explored some new neighborhoods on the way back. Continuing our comparative study of mercados, we went into a couple to see what they were like. We just can’t seem to walk past a mercado or fruit & vegetable market without going in! And then we always seem to remember something we need….milk, tomatoes, bread….something.

Mike is busy planning our future trips in Spain. They may involve trains, planes, buses, hotels, etc. and some of the web sites are in Spanish, so this process can be a bit challenging at times. He’s very good at it! I have an advisory role…

In the evenings, we often wander down to our favorite little Plaza Olavides to relax and people-watch. The fountain is beautiful at night.

It was time to do some laundry on Saturday morning. It is interesting to hang out the window to hang out the wash. I often see other women (so far, only women) doing the same thing, and we smile and nod at each other. This is not the time to strike up conversation, though. If one were to drop an article of laundry down into the courtyard, one would have to ask Andres, the purported building manager/handyman, to retrieve it. Only Andres has access to this small, concrete courtyard. However, we’ve been here two weeks and have never seen Andres. There are quite a few dead clothespins in the courtyard….some may have been dropped, but some suddenly spring off the clothesline, as if making a stab at freedom, only to land where no man (except Andres) goes. The spring in older clothespins can snap, the clothespin pops off the line and then plummets. This happened once while I was hanging clothes….I heard the snap and then a clothespin from above hit my hand on its way down. So this laundry job is serious business. Some of our neighbors above, below and across from us leave their windows open in the courtyard. We can hear the muted buzz of conversations in Spanish, the clattering of dishes, Spanish music in the background, and best of all, we are enchanted by the aromas of food cooking at all hours of the day. Those are the people we need to get to know!

Once the laundry was hung out to dry, Mike and I walked to the metro and rode to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, aka the Reina Sofia. This is one of Spain’s premier modern art museums. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky and others…. This museum’s most famous piece of artwork is Picasso’s Guernica, and it is magnificent. 13 feet vertical by 25 feet horizontal, painted in gray, black and white, this painting has an interesting history. We were helped to appreciate it by reading about it before our visit to the museum. In essence, war is hell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(Picasso)

The Reina Sofia museum started out as a hospital in the 16th century. There were expansions and modifications made over many years, until it closed in 1965. The building’s survival was guaranteed in 1977 when it was made a national monument. A restoration began in 1980, and in 1986 it opened as the Reina Sofia Art Center. In 1988, two Spanish and one British architect made final improvements and the Reina Sofia became a national museum, opening in 1990. I’m sharing this about the architecture because during the final modifications, three steel and glass elevators were added. It was fun to ride on them and take photos. The grandchildren would have enjoyed these elevators, too! The museum is only 4 stories tall (5 in the U.S.) but the views at the top were nice, nevertheless.

We had planned to walk the couple of miles home from the museum, but the streets were thronged with people out on a Saturday evening. It was difficult to avoid being bumped or to avoid bumping into others. So we hopped on the nearest metro and were home in minutes. Well, we made one detour into a frutas y verduras mercado in our neighborhood. After all, the door was wide open…

On Sunday morning, we cleaned the apartment a bit and later, stretched out on opposite ends of our roomy sofa with our books. We had the huge living room windows wide open. It was lovely to spend the afternoon reading. And at 5 p.m. my time, as planned, we had a Skype visit with Carla, Spencer and Amara in Phoenix. We saw Spencer’s loose front tooth up close, and Amara repeated the line she had in the school play for us. Fun.

After dinner, Mike and I walked down to our favorite plaza to watch the sky darken and the lights come on around the fountain. What a sweet way to end the day!

June 13, Monday: Maria had told us about Verbena (street festival) de San Antonio de la Florida, happening all weekend and into Monday (the actual feast day). St. Anthony was the patron saint of unmarried girls, and also became known for the following miracle: Anthony’s father was wrongfully accused of murder in Lisbon, Portugal. Anthony traveled there from Italy, demanded to see the slain victim, and asked the victim whether the accused was guilty of his death. The corpse returned to life and declared the father’s innocence, as a crowd of people watched in stunned disbelief. This story is depicted on the domed ceiling of a lovely chapel in La Florida Square, beautifully enhanced by a myriad of angels on the walls below. These gorgeous frescoes were painted by none other than Francisco de Goya in 1799. Goya died in 1828 and is buried here. On our walk home, we stopped into El Corte Ingles. This is one store in a chain, which is headquartered in Madrid. It’s the biggest department store group in Europe and ranks fourth worldwide. We just had to see what it was like! It’s just like a big department store. We had a tea/coffee break on the top floor, overlooking a little piece of Madrid.

Mike completed the day by finalizing plans for our trips to Granada and Seville in early July.



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