December 13, 2007
Calle Duque de Lira 3, Madrid
This has been a slow week, but not slow enough. Both Mike and I came down with pretty nasty colds. And we haven’t rested enough so we’re not better yet. Maeve has had a runny nose and been fussy when she wakes up, but otherwise okay.
So Tuesday, Maeve and I ran errands in the AM while Mike rested. We went to the post office to check and see if our credit cards had come in to the Lista de Correos, or general delivery. The mail wasn’t there. Then we went to the Banco de Espana, which is across the street from the main post office. There, we had over 10000 pesestas to change into Euros. There was one line for changing the bills and another for the coins. We got about 60 Euros for the bills and 12 for the coins – some of the coins weren’t changeable for some reason. One more thing out of our luggage. We then came back and I rested for an hour before heading out for a late lunch. We went to a vegetarian restaurant on M. Marsala street, not to far from where we’re staying. It was good – we got the fixed price Menu as usual, on Tuesday it was Italian, and one other main that had seitan. Evening was resting.
Wednesday we slept in and got out by 11 – getting close to Spanish time. We headed out to the Retiro park for an easy AM, then stopped back by the post office to check on the mail again. Still not there. On the side of the PO was the city nativity scene- called a Belen. Like in the US, where people might make a trip to see Christmas decorations or the town tree, people were lined up to see this Belen. We got interviewed by Reuters TV about it. It was nice, telling the story of the baby Jesus, the angles coming to the shephards, and the wise men searching for the baby in different scenes as you walked around it. Then we went out to lunch at Al Natural, a vegetarian restaurant recommended by Veronica Kribs, We got the Menu, as usual, and everything was great except for the minestrone soup, that was pretty much the veggie equivalent of chicken noodle soup out of a can. This was also the first time we’d been out to eat that Maeve was completely uninterested in eating and either Mike or I had to be up with her walking around the restaurant. This was probably because she’d OD’d on crackers at the post office. I got an afternoon nap with Maeve, but Mike went to sit outside Starbucks and work on line. He ended up being out for over 90 minutes, and it’s pretty cold, and came back not feeling great.
Today, we had tickets to take the high-speed train to Toledo. We talked about not going, but got up feeling okay and decided to make the trip. It was very cold there in the AM, and we were pretty unhappy campers. We took a bus from the train station to Plaza Zocodover, the main plaza, and walked from there to the Cathedral. It’s a five minute walk, but by that time we were all cold. We asked when buying tickets to the cathedral if it was heated, and they said yes. Well, it’s warmer inside than outside, but heated is perhaps an exaggeration. The cathedral is beautiful – well known for its altar and choro, but my favorite part was the “translucente” a big hole they’d cut in the ceiling to give more light on the altar and then had to decorate. It was pretty, and light. But generally, the cathedral was just cold. So we slipped inside the museum, which thankfully was heated. Maeve got happier, and we got to wander around and look at tons of paintings of different saints by El Greco. They weren’t too elongated or funky looking, but they were grey and looked El grecoish.
We then went to tourist information center and got a map, used the bathrooms, and gave Maeve a snack in the heat. Ahh, much better. Next, we walked to a church to see the El Greco painting the Death of Conde Orgaz. This is his masterpiece, and is still in situ, above where Conde Orgaz is buried. The “in situ” is true, but it’s not exactly the original context, as the area where the painting is has been walled off from the rest of the church and has it’s own entrance where you have to pay to get in to see it. So it’s really like a one-piece museum, which is a little weird. The painting shows the count dying in the bottom scene, surrounded by wealthy toledoeans, and in the upper scene shows his soul being carried to heaven where it’s received by saints and Jesus.
Afterwards we went to lunch at the insanely early hour of 12:30, mostly because I had a headache and thought I was hungry. We went to a pizza joint – good to eat warm food, and it’s hard to know where to get vegetarian here in the bars without just getting a cold sandwich. We’d thought we might take the early train home, but decided to stay until 3:25 when our train left. So after lunch, we walked back to the other section of town and went to the Synagogue of the Transit, which houses the national Jewish museum. The Synagogue building itself was amazing – it survived as a church – and has a beautiful wooden roof and mozarabic style windows. There was an upper gallery with five windows for the women – completely separate from the main worship space. There were also several rooms about Judaism in Spain, but they were most just about Judaism and had very basic information, like that Jewish people circumcise their children, get married, and have religious holidays. We thought it was kind of weird – a very basic introduction, but figured maybe the Christian kings did such a good job wiping out the Jews in Spain that nobody knows anything about their culture. There were a few artifacts, including some interesting gravestone. The women’s gallery was another room of the museum that talked about daily like, but as Mike pointed out, there was no information about Jewish women. The building was cool but the museum was a disappointment.
After the museum, we hiked down to a bridge across the river to get a view of the walls. We then headed back to catch our train. In the afternoon, it was warmer, and we were all better until we had to run, almost literally, to make the train. We were on the far side of town, and got to Bisagra Gate, the main gate leading into the walled city, 20 minutes before our train was leaving. We were going to try to take a bus or taxi, but the people at the tourist info center suggested we could walk it in 10 minutes. So we booked it, arriving at the train 4 minutes before it was scheduled to leave, tired and sweaty. Not a great end to the day. Mike by that time was feeling very sick. We came home and took naps and rested. Now I’m typing the blog – tomorrow is supposed to be our Prado day, but maybe will be a day of rest, laundry, and preparing for Egypt.