The mother ship. The Prado. I just spent three solid hours pouring over Bosch- el Bosco- the largest show of his work ever mounted. It had been going to close mere days before I arrived, but was extended. I only got through half of it, but I know myself well enough to have gotten tickets for tomorrow too, the last day- and another general ticket to the permanent collections for another day still. It was *just barely* not worth it for me to get a membership for the 5 days I'm here. Now a little siesta, and go to the pretty botanic gardens I noticed walking around the end of the Prado- where wee parrots seem to fly wild with the pigeons <3
I had El Bosco's Garden of Earthly Delights all to myself for a few moments today, then wandered El Rastro <3 someone coughed on me and I've got a bit of a cold- resting the rest of the day. This city is beyond beautiful.
A bakery with a spinning tower of jewel-like candied fruits and flaky pastries beyond my wildest imaginings
Everything went sideways. My beautiful brave intrepid mother had given us this trip, the trip that was to have been my graduation present were it not for the recession, to help us heal old wounds that we had rubbed raw in years of living together, because we have learned that she is the victim of dementia, could not handle the stressed, the fluidity of travel, as well as she had been managing its onset in her everyday life. An airbandb cancellation the night before we were due to take the train to Seville cast the whole adventure into a frightening light and glossing over the details of an excruciatingly sad and stressful day, she is back in the States with her dearest friend, Karol, and I am tucked safely into a little room in Seville carefully and cheerfully decorated by a caring hostess in red and white polka dots - finally, now, crisis past - weeping inconsolably. I will see beautiful things, in the days here I have ahead, and love them, and hate that neither she nor I could be or do enough to have this together. We will have what we have always had- that we are willing to fight insurmountable obstacles and our very own worst natures to try to show love in a way the other can... take it in. We are such fundamentally different people, and yet so much alike.
This was our day of together time in Madrid; I had no idea I would have no other chances in Spain. I will not forget that I still have many chances in NY. If I blow off events this season, you can be assured, I'm with my mom.
Reale Alcazar Seville - with a cafe cat and peacocks that asked politely for crumbs, and then a bit of the Jewish quarter - very labyrinthine, the oldest part of the city I think, and I after I came upon the same square for a third time I should try to leave before becoming the protagonist in an epic allegorical tale - there is these sense of an epic allegorical tale in everything about this place. Mom checked in, she's snug and safe with Karol and hopes I see everything I wanted to see. I still wish she could see it with me. Seville is a bit grittier than Madrid, a little darker and less beautiful, less elegant, and less lofty- a land of gypsies rather than queens- somehow it fits.
Today the cathedral and the bullring- did I mention everything about this place rang of allegory? My love of space and place was well met by these architectural Goliaths with broad swathes of emptiness, intimate corners, and decoration of minute detail- to say nothing of the winnowing streets between; a car passed on one such and people plastered themselves to either wall to accommodate. The flamenco in the evening was good, the venue a charming courtyard, and they were kind enough to exchange mom's ticket for a performance by another troupe tomorrow. Duende.
Shades of Conrad in today's quest for Andalucia's answer to Dia Beacon- the bus didn't go where the map indicated- maps should be interpreted loosely, in Seville, I've noticed- I walked across the bridge and well beyond- no sign of it... I had no choice but to double back, a very long way, to find a taxi. It was deliriously hot. I found a band warming up. I took a taxi. I saw fair work in fairer spaces. I walked back. I found parts of Seville few tourists know. I found the band. I toured Alcazar at night, and saw more flamenco. At some point I realized I had lost my heart, literally, a little clasp on my pack- it had fallen of before and I knew if I didn't take great care with it it would vanish. I went back to the Plaza Duque de la Victoria where the bus had left me off to look for it, no luck- but I console myself it is either with the statue of Velazquez there, or installed in a contemporary art center across the river. I am ready for Córdoba.
Córdoba has it ALL over Seville. Chromatically- I swear the pigment is different- first, you have to understand that Spain itself is yellow and red, the earth is in ochre hues- these colors climb the walls alternately with white. In Seville, they all seemed a bit off, to my eye, flat and synthetic as though a historian working with the DCA decided everything had to be one or the other, and the sanctified modern choices fell far short of the mark- the yellow a shrill mustard and the dull red so devoid of luster it lacked even the warmth of brown- I didn't even realize such a color was possible- but Córdoba! Many shades of airy buttery yellow, deep, resonant reds, luminous creams- the whole city glows and here they have perfectly integrated modernity with their historical treasures- a visitor center a smooth cube in glowing cream marble beside the hulking plastered stone of the mosque, a trim boardwalk with steal railings running parallel to an excavated wall where pigeons roost in the evening. And the streets, mere meters wide, cobbled with pretty little stones and clean, with music reaching out to you from all directions. Perhaps best of all, my Airbnb, a small apartment over a house my hosts who live downstairs also have designated as a cultural center with performances in the courtyard, has fur people- a friendly ginger puss and a lovely old smelly dog who doesn't like it when you stop petting. I could stay here a month and not have enough time.
Today the mezquita and some kittens frisking among Roman ruins, everything else is closed today so I just meandered. I got lost in the Jewish quarter (again) and am resting with a divine plate of Moroccan pastries and coffee in a canopied courtyard cafe lined with tile and embroidered cushions. Much to see tomorrow so I'll head back to my little room to write postcards and rest.
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Synagogia, the patios of Viana, and lots of strolling around. Train in the morning....
Montecorto. Changed engines on the way in because this gorgeous eco-friendly paradise is at the back of nowhere. My hosts are another lovely artistic family and my room overlooks the mountains and two sun dappled courtyards where I have sketched and been served tea by the mother who amused herself making garlands of flowers from soda bottles. Joining the cool breeze in this still scorching sun, a channeled brook mirthfully makes its way down the hill just outside the casa walls. I'm racking my brain for ways to stay indefinitely.
Today I saw the birth of painting. A beautiful day for a beautiful drive to the Pileta caves to see paintings over 20,000 years old. No photos permitted, but they would not have conveyed a fraction of the experience. And now back at the little house doing a laundry and thinking of hopping into the teeny rooftop pool to cool off once I've gotten my Tshirts on the line to dry.
Mmm... Sit in the pool now, I should think.
A short and very pretty bus ride from Montecorto to Ronda, which greeted me with a pretty park with a heart stopping overlook. Left my bags early at the hotel and trotted around. I found in a small church dating back to moorish rule a living religion sincerely and rather sweetly plastered, painted, drenched in polyester lace and gilt- plastic flowers of genuine devotion withal. I climbed the tower, it was tiny and I had it all to myself- and I nearly flew out of my skin when the bells went of two feet from my head- I hadn't noticed it was noon. I backed as much into the corner of the three square foot platform as I could and plugged my ears for the duration, a couple having lunch on a patio a few stories down looked concerned but shared my levity when I was finally able to uncork my ears and howled with laughter- just like me to get into a scrape like that. Back down and on a little hike where I met an old man and his prettily dressed pony making his way up the hill to earn his living in the heart of town. My destination, the Arab Baths, where I took many study-photos, and on again, to Ronda's bullring and equestrian school- the Spanish know space, my friends, and dressage, and pomp. Back to the hotel to my room where I nearly wept to see- blackout curtains. And a coffee pot. And a bathtub. The view is pretty good too.
Now to find, with the help of four-star concierge - mom had said we should stay in one really fine hotel, I'm very sorry she is missing it - some good paella, thus far in my journeys I've only run across dubious tourist traps, and although I'm no foodie- I am a New Yorker, and I can tell a greasy-spoon when I see one, and have kept it simple; tonight I dine.
I hope you're not tired of outstanding scenery yet because Ronda has it in spades. A bit shy on art and architecture here but I found a few nuggets before hiking down the crevasse toward Puente Nuevo, and then further down, and away, where I found a trail about four feet wide blissfully shaded by a tier of hillock above, and sat and made a little drawing I had hoped to be able to make in the two months of planning this trip took. And then back up the mountain where I relished in paving and ice cream and the delightful amenities of the hotel. Tonight I will try for a guitar concert and have a reservation at a scenic patio restaurant a short distance down the road.
Climb down the mines, they said.... It'll be fun, they said....
To conclude: Arrived at Attocha, a grand lady with a little park and turtle pond to amuse waiting travelers, at night, and took a last little walk, sighing the while. Then Spain, gracious and generous hostess to the last, conspired to give me a few more precious hours delaying my flight enough to enjoy an 8:30 sunrise over Plaza Mayor, a cruise through Plaza Del Sol (looking for pastries for breakfast and Madrid's famed violet candies to bring home, where I said goodbye to the bear, and got smashed into by a bicyclist who zipped out from behind a truck - he braked and flew into me over his handlebars - Benjamin Nathan-Serio a sweetie pie and actor from NY - I found my pastries and candies), and a lovely lion on my way to bid my last farewell, to Velazquez.