Picture of the Week

21 January 2012

Week 02: mostly Madrid

Filed under: — Administrator @ 17:50

I came home from Poland on January 6th. But the vacation was not quite over yet; my wife and children were still in Puerto Rico, and a couple of days later my best friend from Denmark, Lars, was arriving for his now customary January two-week visit. This gives him a nice break from the Danish winter, and allows us to indulge in our common interests of cycling, photography, and Belgian beer, and much else.

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The day after my return from Poland, I went to the pet hotel to bring Taco and Cheeta home. The cat let me know in no uncertain terms that he did not enjoy being imprisoned for several days:
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The following day, Lars arrived. Waiting for him here was a shift lens I had bought for him during my trip to the US in December. Here he is experimenting on our back porch:
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Lars brought his portable photo studio with him, and set about testing it on the cat:
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The first evening we went for dinner at Los Charros, our local tapas place. It is totally non-fancy; here, a customer is shown the house wine so he can decide whether he wants a glass:
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I did work three of the five days during the week. One of those days, our Beatrice came by to show off her baby girl:
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My daughter will be graduating from the European School of Alicante this summer, and she and her classmates are holding various bake sales etc. to raise money for their graduation party. Monica loves to bake her vegan cookies. Here is a batch cooling on the counter, surrounded by a “fortress” to protect them from our always hungry dog:
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This was late in the evening, and I was out late, so she had left an explanatory note for me:
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The main event of the week was a trip to Madrid Friday and Saturday. Despite having visited us here in Spain several times, Lars had never been to Madrid, and as an artist and art teacher, he was anxious to see El Prado, particularly since it holds many works by his favourite painters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Goya. The rest of this week’s images are from that trip.

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A rest stop in Castilla La Mancha. The petrol station had this metal sculpture of Don Quijote:
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When I go to Madrid, I usually book a hotel a bit outside the centre, leave the car there and move around the city using its excellent metro system. As long as the hotel has free or cheap parking and there is a metro station within walking distance, I am happy. And so it was this time; we left the car at the Etap hotel and descended into the bowels of Madrid’s metro:
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Our main goal of the afternoon was El Prado, where we spent the next 3-4 hours. Sadly, photography is totally forbidden inside the museum, so this is my only picture from there:
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After enjoying the awesome paintings at El Prado, we made our way to Sol and walked down to Plaza Mayor, one of Madrid’s most touristy spots. But there are not many tourists on a January evening. However, the square is never empty:
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It was getting late and time for dinner. As we walked around, we increasingly looked at the restaurants we passed:
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We made our way back to Sol, the square that was occupied by the Indignados for several months during the summer and autumn. Now it was back to its normal busy self:
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Two street performers discussing marketing strategy, presumably:
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Saturday morning we decided to walk around the neighbourhoods of Lavapies and El Rastro. These are immgrant, traditionally low-income areas, although in recent years a certain amount of gentrification has set in. This is a typical street in early morning light:
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Small shops near the local market:
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A teteria is, as the name implies, a tea house:
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Fruit and veg delivery:
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Many different causes are being championed here:
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Newsstand conversation:
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Shoe store:
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The back of a newsstand:
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Another contre-jour street:
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Urban growth:
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Urban renewal, suspended?:
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Little square in El Rastro:
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Tio redondo means literally “round uncle/guy” but it can also refer to being tipsy. Both seem to apply here:
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Photo booth:
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The remaining five images are from a truly surreal place, about 50 km from Madrid, called Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). It is a place in the mountains where Franco had a huge basilica build in the 1950s to honour his fascist movement and its fallen during Spain’s civil war (although it must said that there are also republican soldiers buried there). The only two people buried in the Basilica are the founder of the Falangist party, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and Franco himself. The place remains controversial, not least because extreme right-wing groups have gathered there to celebrate Franco’s birthday. When you drive into the complex, you are handed a notice that visits are only for “religious purposes”, presumably as opposed to political manifestations. A truly weird place.

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Overall view of the huge basilica:
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Walkway towards the entrance. The feeling one gets is that the structure is designed so as to crush the human spirit:
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Base of the huge cross. It all looks very grand, but actually inside the basilica there are several indications of sloppy construction, including water leaks. Sadly, photography is strictly forbidden inside, for reasons that escape me:
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Aside from the gloomy basilica, the place is quite pretty:
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As we were leaving, a busload of elderly tourists arrived. We could only guess at their political leanings; they seemed very reverend towards the place:
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More on the Valley of the Fallen here.

2 Comments »

  1. Nathan–many, many thanks for your weekly travelogs! You can’t imagine how much they are enjoyed.
    Great pictures and commentary–
    Thanks again!
    Paul Beavin
    Suwanee GA USA

    Comment by Paul — 21 January 2012 @ 21:50

  2. Taco Cat 🙂

    Comment by Lone — 15 May 2012 @ 01:48

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