02.12.2012 - 03.12.2012 8 °C
We have extended our stay in Madrid to six days to allow Hannah a full recovery. We would have considered staying a bit longer but we have a place booked in southern Portugal. We originally wanted to take side trips to the quaint Spanish towns of Segovia and Toledo but it was best to lay low to get everyone back on their feet again.
Yesterday, Hannah was not totally recovered so elected to stay home during our day's sightseeing. Abby, Ben and I toured the Palacio Real, the largest royal palace in Western Europe, with varying accounts of the number of rooms: we've seen sites listing the number at 2800. While it may have felt to Abby that we saw most of them, the route took us through about 20. The rooms were smaller than those in the French chateaux we saw; however, these appeared even more decorated and detailed. This was no doubt due to the appearance of the Rococo style. It was an evolution of the Baroque art and architecture, where artists (read decorators) used a more ornate approach (yes, even more ornate than Baroque!) and favoured creamy, pastel colours, assymetrical designs, curves and gold. Apparently, "Rococo rooms were designed as total works of art with elegant and ornate furniture, small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry complementing the architecture, reliefs, and wall paintings." We certainly saw this in the palace rooms. Each room had been designed by an individual artist and was as distinctive as the next. We often saw the wallpaper pattern echoed in the furniture coverings and/or the rugs (sometimes too much of a good thing, in my opinion). After a while, I yearned for some nice, bold solids to break the patterned effect. But, in many instances, I appreciated how everything in a room flowed together, and I could see how the whole effect of the ceiling, the walls, the floor and the furnishings resulted in a complete piece. There was quite a variety in the rooms as one had wood paneling (a billiard room added in a later century), some had tapestries, others favoured the hand-embroidered silk wall paper and still others displayed walls and ceilings of porcelain. Abby found it too similar to the French 'houses' we looked at to warrant much awe.
Hannah was well enough to venture out at night so we walked through the city streets, visiting the large plazas, watching the night entertainers and reviewing the vendors' wares. Many stalls were chock-a-block with smll figurines of people, animals, farm implements, food stuffs, etc.; we gather that people here buy them to construct little scenes in their homes for Christmas. Abby really liked these doll house-sized pieces and yearned to make her own scene. There were literally hundreds of little pieces in almost every stall, some with built in fountains and electricty. Another common view was that of costumed hats and wigs; I haven't been able to find out what occasion these are all for (New Year's perhaps) but they are in plenty. Lots of Christmas lights in the streets but none turned on yet.
Today, Hannah was upright so we took her with us on our excursions. We visited two museums, one museum too many. That was not because the second one wasn't worth it -- it's just that it's far too much to take in during one day. We wouldn't have done it except that we're leaving tomorrow. The Prado is equivalent to a Spanish Louvre: lots of paintings, sculptures and long hallways! It's the place for Spanish art, with Francisco de Goya its most repesented artist. We also saw works by Velázquez, Titian, Rubens (Abby noticed his models were quite 'tubby'), El Greco (known as 'The Greek' and, no, he was not a professional wrestler although he should have been with a name like that) and Bosch. Hieronymus Bosch produced quite fantastical works, especially considering he was creating his stuff about 1500; we wondered how he was received back then in the more standard circles. My favourite work was a sculpture titled "Isebella II, veiled" by Camillo Torreggiani. It portrays the queen under a veil and is so realistic it is hard to believe it is carved out of a hard medium.
While Abby said it wasn't her thing, Hannah preferred the Renia Sofia, a modern art museum, because the works were so different from what we'd seen so far. I found it interesting to see some of Picasso's works but most of the items won't be appearing under my 'favourites' links. We appreciated Guernica, Picasso's commissioned work commemorating the Nazi's bombing of a defenseless civilian Spanish town in the 1930s. After seeing some of the other paintings, Abby wondered aloud why her grade three art work didn't fetch the same prices as these.
Unfortunately, we were not able to take any pictures in the palace or the Prado and were only allowed to snap certain areas in the Renia Sofia so the museum pics in this posting are not our own (hence, the sudden increase in quality!). Aside from the sights, Madrid was great for getting us in shape: we walked so many hours here. At the end of the day today, I congratulated the kids for walking so much and being able avoid the subway. "You're telling us NOW there's a subway here?!"