Spain - Madrid

by Kimp 21. June 2013 23:40
Photo Blog
I love Spain:
One of these times, I'm going to go to Spain and one of two things is going to happen. I'm either not going to leave, or I'm going to leave with a wife. This time, I didn't leave with a wife, but I think that I may have been adopted by a family while I was there.  It's been said, that the people we are most attracted to are a result of experiences we had before we were 5 years old. Not sure what Spanish cutie, I really liked, when I was under 5, but she must have really been something. I can remember one that looked Spanish when I was in 3rd grade and yes, she was really something.
I was attending a large European Technical conference and was really sick the whole time I was in Spain (the sickness ended up lasting 6 weeks, I'll write about that later), but someone had paid a lot for me to be there, so I didn't want to back out at the last second. I did cancel several trips after this one. The sickness slowed me down a little but I kept up a pretty good pace and continued to function while I learned to live with the disabilities that I had. I had a very close friend, named Tina, who went though a lot of serious health problems, and I watched her continue to function and not let that slow her down. I use those memories, to give me strength, when I'm less then 100%. 
Spain as a whole is really struggling economically, but Madrid is doing very well, much better then most of Europe. Most of Spain's large companies are in Madrid and its standard of living is relatively high. 
Madrid History:
Madrid wasn't always the capital of Spain. Toledo was. In the 9th century, the Muslims built a fortress at Madrid (which means three rivers), to protect Toledo from attack by the Christians. The Christians were able to conquer it in 1085 and in 1561 it became the Capital of Spain, mostly because Toledo is on the top of a hill and could not be expanded. In 1806 France and Spain were allies against the United Kingdom after the UK wiped out the Spanish Navy. Spain was unable to convince Portugal to take their side in the matter, so they invited French troops to enter their country to attack Portugal. The Spanish people were upset that French troops were allowed to enter and revolted against the king. Napoleon siezed that opportunity to capture the Spanish kingdom for himself. However there was a large resistance to this amongst the Spanish population and eventually the resistance teamed up with Portugal and the UK to retake the throne in 1813.
A civil war broke in Spain in 1936. The dictator Francisco Franco's Nationalist party won the civil war and he became Spain's Ruler. Under Franco the Spanish economy flourished, however, shortly before his death in 1975, he appointed the grandson of Spain's former King, Juan Carlos, as the king. After Franco died the new king implemented democracy.
One of the nice features of Madrid is that it's elevation is fairly high, 2200 ft (700 m), and there are mountains in the vicinity. This gives it both low humidity and cool nights. by days its warm and dry, and by night, it is cool and dry.

Madrid metro (subway):
Madrid's metro is a web design (similar to Paris). That means that you can pretty much get on any train going any direction and find a route to your destination that doesn't backtrack. Makes for easily taking a section out for maintenance at any time. It probably sounded great when they were first selling the concept. The problem is that it is difficult to predict the traffic patterns and most subway stop's are extremely congested with people in transition as well as people entering and exiting at that stop. Also there are long transition paths when changing trains with multiple levels of stairs and it is easy to get on a train in the wrong direction. The congestion is also magnified when a section is out for service, or a special event is taking place. Many stop about every block which slows things down as well. Just plan for a long subway ride. The one nice thing is that they are air conditioned and quite comfortable on the inside. Picture the days before there were interstates and you had to drive on secondary roads through cities.
The conference was in the Madrid Exposition Center, which has a beautiful long courtyard going down the center of it. During the conference, by lunch time,  I was completely exhausted (due to being sick) and my stomach could not handle much food, so I would go into the courtyard and lay down on one of the benches and just bask in the sun. It was like laying on the beach. Just that hour of laying the sun, gave me enough energy to make it through the rest of the day.
Family I stayed with:
While attending the conference I stayed with a Spanish family. The father was named Ignacio and the mother was named Maria. They had been married for about 25 years. From my point of view, it looked like a fairly close and loving marriage. Their was a famous Spanish priest named Ignacio, who started a revolt against Napoleon on May 2nd, 1808.  He inspired the citizens of Madrid to revolt against the French troops and the revolutionaries were slaughtered. The next day the French troops, rounded up the ring leaders and put them in front of a public firing squad. When I heard this dudes name was Ignacio, I wasn't sure what I was in for. I was picturing a fairly radical dude. He turned out to be about my age and was an old school software developer that I really got along well with.
 As soon as I saw his wife, I knew I was in good hands. She grew up in the era when Franco was dictator. Franco stressed that a woman's role was taking care of her parents, her brothers, and her children.  From very early on, it was evident to me that she was treating me like I was her brother. Her dad had owned a construction company and had built the entire upscale development that they lived in. He had given a house to her and most of her relatives lived in houses that were adjacent to their house.
They had a brilliant daughter who was attending private college majoring in Economy, under a 5 year program. Four years of economy then one year of marketing. All of their daughters friends were extremely smart. One was in pre-med, and another was in engineering. I seldom meet women engineers, so her and I talked a lot. She spoke excellent English and was told by many that she should have taken language studies, but she choose engineering instead. All I kept thinking was, "Man, wish I was 30 years younger."
The end of the second day of conference left me completely drained.  I just wanted to go back to their house and sleep until I had to get up the next day. I get there and Maria wants me to eat supper with them. Spanish people are late people. They get up late, eat supper around 9 P.M. and go to bed after midnight. She didn't ask me if I wanted to eat with them, she told me that I was eating supper with them. In fact she was headed to the market to get something special for the meal. So I went with them. We walked to a local market that looked like a convenience store. In the US this type of store would have mostly junk food in it. In Spain, there is a Deli counter in the back, a whole wall of fresh meat, fresh fruit and healthy snacks. No junk food at all. Oh man, it was awesome.
We ate on the outdoor patio and, oh man, what an awesome meal. It was like a smorgasbord of regular and special home cooked Spanish Cuisine. I was about to sit down at the side of the table and Maria adamantly commands, "No, you are no sitting there. Sit there!!!" as she points to the head of the table. "You are the Presidente." They had a few people over and I ended up hanging out and talking until around midnight. One of the funniest parts was after the meal. Ignacio and I were the only males and all of the rest were females. All of the women jump up at the same time to clear off the table, so I get up to help. Ignacio says quietly but sternly, "Dude! Sit back down!!!". After they left, he tells me that I need to learn a lesson in machismo. He says, "Let the women, do the women's work. You and I are supposed to just sit here, relax, and have a beer.". From my point of view, this machismo thing, is growing on me pretty quick.
Cooking isn't a science, its an art form:
After they clean up, all of the young girls in the house gather around, and mom teaches them how to make an awesome desert. It doesn't matter if they are family, friends, friends of family, or complete strangers, all young women in the house are required to and enjoy participating in this art class. Unlike the recipe science where you have to have certain ingredients, it has to be perfectly measured and the science procedure has to be followed perfectly, this is an art class. You just take a little of this, a little of that, oh I think I'll try a little of this today cause it's in season and I just got it at the market, gee we're out of something I normally use, so I'll just substitute this for that. It all comes together nicely and magically appears at the table as simply scrumptious.      
Party at the Casa de Campo:
One of the days after the conference, we were all treated to a huge party at a place called Casa De Campo. I told Maria that I wouldn't be home for dinner that night because I was meeting some friends for dinner and that I would be home very late.
Casa de Campo is a park district on the edge of Madrid. It's a picnic place, amusement park and zoo by day, but takes a complete 180 degree switch at night, read on.  It was getting near dark when we got there, so we all just hurried on in. It was one of those stand up parties, where you just mingle the whole time and women dressed up in either French Maid outfits or wearing a Tuxedo with a bow tie serve you drinks and hors d'oeuvres. About four hours later, it was extremely dark as I was leaving for the long walk to the subway train back to where I was staying. A short distance in front of me, under a light I could see a women wearing what looked like an extremely short shirt. As I got closer, it kind of looked like it wasn't a skirt, but was more of a stretchy type top. She had a nice physic, so I figured that was probably a dancer who was wearing skin tone leggings. As I closed in, I could clearly tell that those weren't leggings, that was skin tone colored skin. As I started to look around, gee there's another, then another, then another. Oh, I am smack dap in the middle of the red light district. This was quite a sight and I couldn't help but take in the rest of the sights as I was on my way to the subway station.
When I got back to the place I was staying, Maria asked me where I had dinner at. I immediately said, "Casa De Campo, and it was really good!". All she said was, "Oh", with a surprised look on her face. That's when I remembered that, that's the red light district. Gee, if I was thinking, I could have just said that we didn't really eat, we just kind of hung out and snacked and drank and I wasn't sure exactly where we were at. 
The next day during a break, I researched and found out that people have complained about how skimpy the women dress there, but the police will not do anything about it, citing that their dress is a requirement of their job.
Art Museums:
Another day, Maria says to me that she is going to have a little party. When I arrived I could tell that Maria liked to entertain. They had a sectional couch that sat about a dozen and a table that seated about 15, plus a nice outdoor patio with a big table.  She says, "It's just going to be a small party. Not going to be too many people. Probably just 25 or 30.". Holy smokes, what's big??? Madrid's museums are open late (until 10 P.M.), so I decided that would be a great night to hit two of Spain's museums.
Madrid has the best painting museum in the world. It's called the Prado. The Spanish kings were fascinated by the Italian Renaissance, so there are Italian Renaissance paintings as well as painting's from some of the Spanish Masters; El Greco, Velazquez and Goya. They don't have just a few masterpieces from each, they have entire rooms of masterpieces.
The Francisco Goya exhibit covered his entire life, which was the most fascinating for me. He was the official Royal court painter. Besides the normal formal royal portraits, he also created several paintings of the royal family out having a great time. Playing games, dancing, picnicking, partying and relaxing. For a short while, he created several risqué paintings. One of the them was the first of a mortal nude woman. Before this time, only goddesses were painted in the nude. 
Then during the Napoleon era, he became a political rebel, painting the firing squad of May 3rd,1808 and also several other's depicting disasters of war.  It is suspected that the lead in his paint made him both deaf and insane in his later years. He hide in seclusion and painted several very dark paintings on the walls of the house. Dark both in color and mood. All of this is in the Prado. Simply the biggest and most awesome exhibit I have ever seen. I could feel, what he was feeling, during the span of his life. 
The Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is a modern art museum which had a huge Dali exhibit while I was there and it also always has Picasso's famous Guernica painting. Its one of Spain's national treasures. Guernica was a town in Spain that Franco (the dictator) had bombed during Spain's civil war. During the civil war, Franco was allied with Hitler and Mussolini. In 1937, Hitler who was preparing for WWII, sent his Luftwaffe on a bombing run of Guernica to see what kind of destruction they would cause. At that time, Picasso was in exile in Paris and had been commissioned by the side fighting against Franco, to create a painting for the 1937 Worlds fair in Paris. After Picasso read (in the NY Times) the account of the slaughtering of innocent civilians in Guernica, he changed his plans, and painted a very large mural sized canvas portraying the effects of that attack. He completed it in a little more than one month. After the World's fair it went on a world tour. To stand in the Reina Sofia, amongst all of Spanish people, and feel the powerful message that painting portrays, is really emotional. 
Flamenco Dancers:
I went to the Flamenco district one Saturday night to catch a show. In my opinion, it wasn't quite the caliber of the impromptu shows that Jason and I had seen in Seville, but it was very nice. It was about midnight when I got up to leave and the waitress was pretty much begging me to stay, "You can't leave, it's not finished yet!!!". That was extremly tempting, but I was just too sick to stay. All I could think about was getting back to the air conditioned room, where I was staying, and sleeping until noon the next day.    
The covert nun operation:
There is a cookie speakeasy in Madrid. It is inside of a monestary. I rang the door bell, and heard a woman's voice say "Si". Then I clearly pronounced the magic password "Dulces". (Dol-thays) is the code word for, "I'm a fat American and I want me some cake". The latch was remotely released and I entered alone. Once inside, I was still alone. Kind of spooky, since I thought I would see another human after I entered. A smart person would have probably followed the arrows, which I didn't see at first. I kind of wandered around the monestary on my own for a while, looking for the cake dispenser I had heard about (a lazy Susan). Not finding it, I returned to the entrance then saw the arrows, which lead me to it. I ordered my goodies from a menu, a nun's voice appeared from nowhere, telling me what to pay. I placed the money on the lazy Susan and it spun, then magically my money was replaced with cookies and change. The lemon biscuit cookies are exceptional.



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