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Sunday, February 08, 2004

Spanish Cultural Overdose

I missed a couple of days so I will start from the beginning. The laundromat here has an Internet hook-up so I can kill two birds with one stone.

I won’t say much about the Prado museum, you can read about that in a book. It deserves another visit or two during my stay as about the only paintings I looked at were the Goya works depicting life in Spain in the 16th century. I don’t really care too much about painting except for how it can be a history lesson for those of us looking at it centuries later. I especially like paintings of people playing old musical instruments.

In one painting a Flemish artist had done a portrait of himself and his family, including one of his servants. In the self-portrait he is holding a lute. He seems to be bragging a bit about his stature as an artist (in those days they were considered artisans, like masonry workers or carpenters) and as a musician.  I suppose he’s just putting his best foot forward. He may have been resentful of his status below the aristocracy of the time and just wanted them to know that he was above them.

We went to the house of our Spanish friends in the evening. Marta and Jacobo live in the Argüelles area of Madrid which is only a few metro stops from our hotel. We sat in the living room and had Spanish wine and a selection of Spanish foods: tortilla de patatas, cured ham, sausages, cheeses, and a variety of olives. We talked for a few hours (all in Spanish which left my brother struggling a bit but he held his own) and then they had made plans for us to go out.

El Cafe de las Chinitas is walking distance from their apartment. Las Chinitas presents Flamenco artists every evening. The espectáculo starts at 10:30. When Marta first mentioned that we were going to a flamenco show I thought at first that it might be a little touristy. If I have ever been more wrong in my life I can’t remember when. It was one of the most intense performances I have ever seen anywhere. It didn’t hurt that the women were breathtakingly beautiful. It was such an incredibly quintessential Spanish experience that I had nothing to gauge it by while I was watching. As much time as I have spent studying Spanish and travelling in Latin countries I had never made this kind of connection to Spanish culture before. Perhaps I can articulate this better when I’m not sitting in a laundromat. I’ll get back to you.

We walked out of the restaurant a little before two. Marta turned to me and said, ¿Una buena hora, no? I had to agree that it was a good time of night. The streets were completely full of people at this late hour. On the walk back to our hotel we stopped off for a drink and a bite to eat. By the time I got back to the hotel in was after three and things were still going strong outside.

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