Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The rain in Spain falls mainly in Madrid

We have been extremely fortunate on this trip to have had reasonably good weather almost all of the time. The one exception has been Madrid where it has rained each day for a significant time. However, this has not prevented us from seeing the sights and particularly the galleries.

Now I know this must sound like heresy, but I am a bit over the old masters and far prefer to see contemporary artwork. As a consequence, we are not going to visit the Museo del Prado (quelle horreur!!) So on our first day here we visited the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which, among other things, houses Picasso's Guernica. This is a very poorly laid out and sign-posted gallery and, while there are some Picassos and Dalis, I was expecting more. Guernica was good although, given its iconic and idealised status in Spain, it is not easy to get to see as it is surrounded by many onlookers for most of the time. All in all we were both quite underwhelmed by this art gallery.

Day two saw us visiting the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. This museum is made up of art works collected by two generations of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family which have subsequently been donated to Spain. It is a breathtaking collection which includes at least one painting (and often more) of almost every significant European painter and a number of American artists from the 20th century. At the same time they are running a blockbuster exhibition of the works of Marc Chagall. We both saw the Chagall exhibition and were very pleased we did. He has never loomed large on my art radar but seeing his paintings together has given me a real appreciation for his work.

Anyway, the T-BM was a highlight for us both.

We have been out and about in many of Spain's plazas, streets and malls now, and one dominant feature of all of them are the buskers. Many of these buskers, however, are the sort that wear elaborate costumes or makeup and generally stand stationary (apart from the occasional gesture and posing with individuals for a photo shoot - and a donation for the privilege). Some of these look impressive and others just look pathetic or bazarre.

I guess it's a living in a depressed economy.

We were going to take a day trip to Toledo on our last day in Madrid, but we have decided to return to Australia immediately as Judith's 92 year old father is ill and has been hospitalised.

We will have to save a visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and a week in Paris for another trip. C'est la vie.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cordoba: more of the same? Not exactly.

We got to Cordoba by train, but on arrival were greeted by a shower of some very heavy rain. So it is quite plain that the rain in Spain did not fall mainly on the train! (I've been waiting for something like that...) We hurriedly got into a taxi and took the short trip to our hotel which is a five star Marriott - at last a bit of luxury!! The hotel is very swish, and our room on the fifth floor has a spa bath and a double shower, all the amenities you could want and a great view of parkland.

The biggest tourist attraction in Cordoba is a cathedral (what else) called the Mezquita (the Mosque). Now, Judith and I have seen a few Cathedrals by now, and to be honest we're starting to develop a rather large dose of cathedral-lag (it's a bit like jet-lag where you see too much of the inside of a Boeing 747).

However, I would have to admit to once again being surprised and impressed by yet another oversized religious building. It was originally a Visigoth church (AD 600), converted into a mosque (AD 785), expanded over the centuries by many moorish rulers to its current size, and then converted back into a Christian church in 1236 when Ferdinand III of Castille recaptured Cordoba. It has remained a Catholic cathedral since then with a few modifications every couple of centuries or so.

So, it looks very much like a massively huge mosque with a huge cathedral bunged into the middle of it - which it in fact is. However, it still looks spectacular and is different from any other cathedral we have seen. We certainly thought it was worth seeing.

After we saw over the cathedral, we had an ice cream and walked over the bridge to the other side of the river where we walked along the bank, getting back to our hotel via another bridge further downstream.

Today we have really just taken things easy, done some washing, bought some supplies at a supermarket, looked around the shopping centre nearby, and generally enjoyed the amenities of our hotel. We have needed to take a break from all this sightseeing and traveling.

Tomorrow we take the train to Madrid where we are scheduled to stay five nights.