Saturday 6 July 2019
I left Segovia later than planned on Thursday. With temperatures in the mid-thirties all day, it takes a few hours after sunset to lose enough heat to even consider sleep. I woke up around ten but it was midday before I was on the road. And what a road.
A two thousand metre climb, incorporating many hairpin bends, was followed by the same as a decent on the other side. The weight of the full tank kept it interesting. There is no water where I’m heading to in Madrid so I’d topped up.
In the heat, it was impossible to imagine the mountains covered in snow, but at the top there was a ski resort.
I’m parked in a new town called Valdebernardo about forty minutes from the centre of Madrid. It was too late to go into the city, so I checked out the local area – anonymous – but spotted a barber so got a haircut.
On Friday I used the excellent metro to get to the famous Prado gallery. The only downside with the metro is you don’t really know where you’ve popped up. I had a little walk around and took a couple of snaps, but decided to just head to the gallery as I didn’t know what I was looking at.
The Prado is Madrid’s Louvre, and I couldn’t visit Madrid and not go there. Like the Louvre, it’s all classic fm, and like the Louvre, it’s huge. When most isn’t to your taste, it can be a bit of a chore, but of artists I like, there were some great Goyas, excellent El Grecos, and a very fine Fra Angelico exhibition to mark two hundred years of the Prado, for which they’d restored The Annuciation. It was vibrant.
Icing on the cake was a scattering of sculptural figures from Swiss artist Giacometti, who I’m partial to.
Due to the no photo policy at the Prado, as with the above, I’ve pinched this Giacometti from t’interweb if you’ve not seen his figures.
I was a little better organised today and had a plan. I popped out of the metro by the royal palace.
They were expecting me.
There are stages across the city. This one was for summer opera, but there are gigs in parks, on the street and for Pride.
Beside the palace is a wide plaza,
across from which is the cathedral.
In front of the cathedral, in the bouncing heat, stood groups of musicians and dancers in thick traditional costumes.
I hung around in case they were doing a show, but they were there to meet others, also inappropriately dressed.
Wearing clothes like that in these temperatures should be a cardinal sin.
Around the back of the cathedral I found this park.
The wall is probably the oldest construction extant in the city, being built in the 9th century, during the Muslim domination of the Iberian Peninsula. It overlooks the Manzanares river. The walls were built around 870 by Muhammed I of Córdoba, considered the founder of the city, and defended the almudaina, or Muslim citadel, of Mayrit (first name of the city), located on the site now occupied by the royal palace.
I passed through the tourist trap which is Plaza Major,
then on to the Cortez district, which runs down to the Prado,
but veered off to the Reina Sofia gallery.
Madrid does grand buildings; this contemporary art gallery is overlaid with modern.
Four floors surround a courtyard, a great place to take a break from the exhibitions.
The large white mobile is by Alexander Calder, whose exhibition I enjoyed in Santander.
The glass lifts give a good view over the plaza,
which filled up later on as the Pride parade ran nearby.
The rear has a modern annex of offices, workshops and auditoria, in glass and steel,
that offers views over the city,
and the Pride parade,
and where this triple unicorn is perched.
The gallery’s permanent collection is wonderful, and you can take pictures of most of it. Lots of Miró, Dali and Picasso as you’d expect, including this early Picasso,
which I would never spotted as his, and the original Guernica – no photos, but very impressive.
The temporary exhibitions by artists new to me were enjoyable. Swiss artist Miriam Cahn,
covering her career,
and Spanish artist Rogelio López Cuenc, graphics
The highlight was work by David Wojnarowicz.
The New Yorker died at thirty-eight,
but his mix of styles and materials,
It’s gone midnight and the temperature is thirty and no breeze. I won’t be sleeping for a while.