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Madrid Offerings

By Muriel

sunny 8 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

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.

Madrid: Palacio Real

Madrid: Palacio Real

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.

Madrid: Plaza Mayor

Madrid: Plaza Mayor

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.

Madrid: The Prado

Madrid: The Prado

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.

Isabella

Isabella

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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.

Guernica

Guernica

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?!"

Posted by KZFamily 13:38 Archived in Spain Tagged madrid Comments (1)

Healthier in Madrid

By Abby

sunny 7 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

As I woke up on the first day of December, something felt different... I was well! Yes, it was a miracle. I didn't feel sick, but I did feel quite hungry. After all, I hadn't eaten much more than a half-packet of crackers for the past three days. So, as Hannah still wasn't so good, my dad stayed behind with her while my mom took me out for my first taste of Madrid.

It was a little chilly, but we were properly bundled, and walked down the packed streets feeling warm and happy. First we went to a small covered market and picked up some food for breakfast. Then we went over to the oh-so-popular Carrefour Express. As small as it was it still had an amazing volume of people there, picking up some morning groceries. We bought a mango (we have been loving these because they are cheap, large and tasty!), some juice, a small honey cake, and a couple other items. I bought Hannah a Kinder Egg as a "better present" for her. But it's still sitting in the fridge as she hasn't gotten well enough to eat it yet.

021 to 022 Madrid 004 Plaza del Sol

021 to 022 Madrid 004 Plaza del Sol

After we ate a breakfast of cheese sandwiches, pastries and fruit salad (made up of mango, oranges and banana) my mom and I went out again, this time for longer. We travelled the large streets that were mainly used just for walking...and police motercycles. We popped in and out of the stores and checked out the prices. I told my mom all about my favourite jewlery that I found so that she knew for when Christmas and my birthday came around. Partway down the street we found an odd candy store called Oomuombo. We went inside and were very surprised by all the odd names that were given to the various assortment of treats. Some of our favourite names were Vingummi (winegums), Skumkola, Lakritsfudge (liquorice fudge), and Floppy Delfin. We chose to do the Pick&Mix so we could get a variety of things. We liked all the candies and enjoyed them as we looked into the shops. At the end of the street we found a large building that was at the corner. It looked very grand and had pillars holding up the top. We stopped to look at it, soon realizing it was only a McDonald's. So on we went to our next destination, Plaza del Sol.

Once we got the crowded square I noticed many people in costumes roaming around. A couple I noticed were Puss and Boots (whom I got a picture with), Scrat (from Ice Age), Spongebob (who followed us around after we didn't give him money for taking a picture with him), and three Mickey Mouses. After looking around the square we decided that it was time to start heading back. On the way it started to get colder, and a wind picked up, so my mom took my into a Starbucks and bought me a tall caramel macchiato, which I enjoyed immensly. By the time we got home we were very glad to be in the warm apartment. But we did feel bad for my father, having been trapped inside all day, so we took over the responsibilty of Hannah and let him go out for a bit. Hannah, my mom and I all played a very slow game of Dutch Blitz, which my mom won, but I came in second.

021 to 022 Madrid 018 Pizza by the Slice

021 to 022 Madrid 018 Pizza by the Slice

By the time my dad came back three out of the four of us were getting quite peckish (guess who wasn't), so those three went to the nearby pizza shop to get some dinner. When we got there we couldn't decide what types we wanted so we chose the easy way out--to get one piece of each of the thirteen choices. When we had purchased the pizza my dad made a quick dash to the grocery store to pick up a beer for himself, and a coke for my mom. When we got home we took a picture, and then started to chow down on some corn and anchovie pizza--no lie. After pizza we went to our usual routine...dessert and then a Downton Abbey (we are over halfway done the 2nd Season, and I highly reccomend it). But right before we started up the episode we got a Skype call from a very important person. My wonderful Aunty Helen. We had a nice chat, despite some technical difficulties. But the evening was good and I definately thoroughly enjoyed my day.

-Abby-

Posted by KZFamily 23:09 Archived in Spain Tagged madrid Comments (3)

Managing in Madrid

By Muriel

semi-overcast 7 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

We tucked the kids in last night, hoping for better health for them today. However, that was not to be. At 2 AM, we were visited by one who needed comfort and attention, only to discover the other was now running a fever. We spent the next three hours making tea, dispensing Tylenol, taking temperatures and providing TLC. In between, we watched Downtown Abbey together, all sharing the large couch. I am hoping Ben and I don't come down with the same virus but in such close quarters, it's hard to avoid contact. Abby suggested the night must have seemed to us like taking care of newborn babies again and we had to agree! However, neither of us has to worry about work in the morning and we have a very comfortable place to stay so there was no concern on those fronts. As the dawn started to arrive, we all attempted sleep once again.

Madrid: Stovetop Expresso

Madrid: Stovetop Expresso

Upon arising for the day (the second time), Ben immediately set to work on his espresso routine while I went out for morning pastries. There is a shop right down the street but when I entered, heard the sophisticated music playing, and surveyed their wares, I was somewhat put off by the 4,95 euro prices for the individual apple tarts. Therefore, I headed off to the mercado stall where we had bought our cake the previous day. Finding a line up of locals convinced me this was the place and they didn't disappoint. I was also pleased to be able to perform the whole transaction in (broken) Spanish, with much pointing. The first few days in Spain saw me speaking a combination of French, Spanish and English strung together so that no one had a hope of understanding me so this appears to be an improvement. I was also able to try out my linguistics at the 'farmacia,' the pharmacy where we went to get some medications for the girls. I began by asking in strong Spanish whether the pharmacist spoke Spanish. Looking surprised, she said she did but then asked whether I meant English? But, of course that's what I meant! We had a laugh and I then purchased the Tylenol and anti-nauseant. They came to the great price of less than 5 euro ($6.50) in total, much cheaper than in Canada. In addition to there being bread and fruit on every block, there is also a pharmacy every few steps -- we saw the same pattern in Brazil.

Madrid: Retiro Park

Madrid: Retiro Park

Aside from the morning outing, Ben and I went for a two hour walk to the main city park, called Parque del Buen Retiro (which means retreat). It was initially created as a royal park and belonged to the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace (1632). When it was created, the park was well outside the city walls, but now the city of Madrid has completely enclosed it. Since 1868, it has been open to the public. Today, we saw mainly tourista like ourselves: some snapped pictures, others rowed boats in the artificial lake, still others watched the street vendors and entertainers. We stumbled upon a colony of a few feral cats, sorry the girls were not able to see them (they miss their pet cat, Bella, whom we expect is currently enjoying the life of Riley in her upscale foster home). As we walked home, we saw more municipal employees putting up Christmas decorations. We hear that Madrid turns on the lights starting in December so we are looking forward to a night walk tomorrow. Canadians must also be getting in the decorating spirit so I hope that you all enjoy the upcoming light shows in your cities as well. We will miss seeing many of you at our annual Sinterklaas party, which would likely have been held this weekend but perhaps some of you will be partaking of tai tai and chocolate letters nonetheless.

Posted by KZFamily 20:34 Archived in Spain Tagged madrid Comments (5)

Travelling to Madrid

By Ben

all seasons in one day 11 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Today was a travel day from Bilbao to Madrid. It was pouring in Bilbao when we left. We were able to get to Madrid on a route that avoided toll roads which is a fair accomplishment in these parts. It did mean some winding roads and crossing a remote mountain pass. The difference in travel time was less than an hour and the distance was almost equivalent at 400 km.

The weather on the trip was quite wild. We had high cross winds, fog, driving rain, bright sun and more than just a little snow going through the mountains. The temperature went down to minus 3 and rose to 11 degrees in just an hour of driving. Any stereotypical images you may have of Spain just being a dry and dusty land are hopefully now thoroughly shattered.

The traffic consisted mostly of trucks and didn't get thick until we hit Madrid. It was nice to come into Madrid by mid afternoon in the sunshine and a temperature of 11 degrees. The drivers are a little more relaxed here than in Paris but there is a lot jostling just the same. We were blessed once again by the parking angel and found a place close to our hotel to get checked in. Parking is at a premium here. We will be in Madrid for 5 days and it will cost us 100 Euros for parking our Kangoo. The consolation prize is that our hotel-apartment is in a great location and is the nicest place we have stayed in so far. We will be very comfortable over the next 5 days (hopefully not spoiled).

We are in need of a little more Spanish words to help us through but were able to figure out through charades with the parking garage attendant how to get at our car after hours. This morning before we left Bilbao I had to let in the water meter reader which was another exercise in charades and lots of mention of agua, agua, agua.

Abby is feeling a little under the weather again but is putting on a brave face for us all. We hope a good night sleep will help clear things up. She hasn't been up and down for a while but keeps on soldiering on. We have had a fairly low key and relaxing evening.

I am having issues with our laptop and getting connected with the WIFI here. I am borrowing Abby's laptop to post these few words. I hope that tomorrow will bring some solutions. All our other devices can see the wireless network for our building except mine. The odd thing is that I can see dozens of other wireless networks and did see two other connections from the hotel but they have disappeared over the course of the evening. As a result of the problems I won't be posting any pictures today.

Thanks for some comments by a some more readers. We appreciated seeing comments from George, John, Marianne, Sheila, Irene and Sharon G. in the past few days for rounding out comments by our more regular contributers such as Opa and Rob.

Tomorrow we will begin some wandering in Madrid and scope out some places to get tapas and ingredients to make Paella.

My Dad asked about what the economics are like. So far we can say in Bilbao there were some people quietly looking for a donation but nothing to the scale we see in Victoria and in Madrid we have only seen some aggressive squiggie people at the stop lights.

Posted by KZFamily 13:29 Archived in Spain Tagged driving madrid Comments (3)

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