Monday, August 22, 2011

It ain't over yet

Nine plus hours to Atlanta, immigration, customs, layover and another 3-hour flight to Denver...

After a very bumpy flight from Atlanta and a long, circuitous approach to DIA, we landed in Denver at around 5PM (1AM our time).  Beginning to feel a bit fatigued by now.  Luckily we were used to late hours in Spain but not quite this late.

First stop while waiting for the shuttle?  Ice cream of course!

He's awake, awaiting ice cream.
Now he's asleep.  
Nothing like a little ice cream to perk you up!
Even my Descenso hat made it home intact.  Much to the boys' chagrin!  They hate that thing and are horribly embarrassed when I wear it!  Yes!

Waiting outside for the shuttle was brutal but beautiful.

We finally got home to Catalpa Way at around 8PM (4AM our time!).  Louis and Oliver went straight to bed and right back to sleep, after sleeping the entire drive to Boulder.  The rest of us forced ourselves to stay up until 9:30 or so.  The return to Mountain Time was pretty painless after that.  It was certainly easier than when we arrived in Barcelona two months and a lifetime's experiences ago.

The trip is over but this won't likely be my last post.  Since we have returned home there have been major protests at Puerta del Sol regarding the Pope's visit to Madrid.  On one hand it would have been interesting to see the protests firsthand but then again, maybe not, as some were fraught by injuries to and arrests of the protesters.  The long and short of the protest was the use of public funds to prepare for the Pope's visit...particularly following cuts made in the spring.  Good to see a fight for separation of church and state in a Catholic country.  And interesting that our visit was book-ended by major public protests.

I have some random thoughts on our trip that I would like to put down in words.  This, only after I can mull them over for a bit.

As they say in Northern Spain, 'sta luego.

Home to our apartment

But there is no lack of things to see and watch on the walk back to Hostal Madrid.

Amazingly complex marionette.

Are these guys playing some instruments we've never heard of?  Dismantled pianos perhaps, or dismantled harpsichords?

The sad truth has arrived.  We have to go back to the apartment, finish packing and get to bed.  Our flight is at 10:10 AM.  We have figured out how to piece together travel by Cercanías and then the metro to get to the airport north of Madrid.

We only lost three things on our way home to Colorado.  My Swiss army knife, which I failed to remember to remove from my carry-on, one precious bottle of water (we've spent a veritable mint on bottled water over the last two months!), and one apple (confiscated in Atlanta).  Oddly, the apple I bought in Spain came from Chile!

Oliver was selected for the extra special, super duper security check in Madrid.  I accompanied him down the airport concourse where they patted him down with embarrassing detail and emptied the entire contents of his backpack.  Whew, I was sure relieved to know I wasn't traveling with a pre-teen terrorist.  Oh well, the US would have done no less.  Really, Louis was once selected as a toddler.  All the while I was silently willing him to poop in his diaper during the pat down.  Well, I missed the opportunity to blog about that years ago....were there even blogs back then?

Last Supper

(In Madrid)  Appropriately following our visit to El Diablo.
Again, we opted to re-visit a place we had been to in June.  We went back to a Cuban restaurant, Cuando Salí de Cuba, on a small street (we in the US would call it an alley) not too far from Puerta del Sol and our apartment. 

When we were there in June we struck up a conversation with the waitress, from Cuba.  We told her of our plans for the summer.  She was really interested to hear what we were up to.  And she was very reassuring to me, telling me that even as a native Spanish speaker, she had trouble understanding the Spanish spoken to her in Spain when she first arrived some 3 years ago.
We were pleased to find her working when we returned.  She was very excited to see us and hear all about our adventures in the north. 
Notice the pictures of Hemingway on the wall of the restaurant.  We would go back again for sure! Good food and amazingly friendly staff.

El Ángel Caído

Closing in...finally.

One of the world's few statues of the devil.  And we finally found it.

Detail of the statue's base. 

Love how the pigeons perch on the monsters' heads and drink from the fountains.

Spencer gives in to the powers of the devil at an adjacent cafe.

Devil worshippers.  Actually, a gathering place for skaters and the like because the traffic circle is closed to traffic.

There's lots to see along our last walk through the park to the metro station...back to Puerta del Sol we go...

El Estanque (lake) and Monument to Alfonso XII

Caixa Forum, Take 2

The Caixa Forum and adjacent vertical garden are sooo cool.  I was curious to see how the garden was faring in the dry, intense heat and sun of a Madrid August.  It was thriving and with only a few slightly brown areas.  I could still feel cool air coming off the garden wall.

Duck faces.

Keep in mind the pattern of the top part of the Caixa Forum.
The Haiti exhibit was interesting (and well air-conditioned).  We decided to go upstairs to the cafeteria for drinks.  This was a really cool room at the top of the building, as seen in the photo above.

Check out the upper walls/windows of the Caixa Forum as seen from the inside!  And those light fixtures are made of rubber!  Really, this building is just too fun!
An apt place for having fun...
Okay, now what we've all been waiting for.  Our final search.  Really, I have no idea how this could have been so hard.

Museo del Prado and Botanic Gardens, Madrid

When we were in Madrid in June we made the grave mistake of deciding not to go to the famous Museo del Prado on Sunday (thinking it would be too crowded) and waiting until Monday instead.  Only on Sunday night did we find out that most museums are closed on Monday.  A fact we should have remembered.  That's when we ended up going to the Museo Reina Sofía, one of the few museums open on Mondays.
Lucky for us we got a second chance coming back through Madrid.  Therefore, our main goal (along with finding mi amigo, El Diablo, the fallen angel!) was to visit the Prado.
Needless, August and Oliver were less than thrilled but resigned to visiting another art museum.  Louis was all set to get an audio tour unit.  Instead, we hired a tour guide who approached us in the museum and got a very informative, interesting, and kid-friendly one-hour tour of the museum highlights.  We also sought out a couple of pieces on our own after the tour.  It was a neat and tidy, efficient visit.  I know someday I can come back and tour it more thoroughly if I want to.

Entering the Prado

Huge, cool doors on the new portion of the Prado

Sites in the neighborhood of the Prado.

Off to lunch and to find that pesky devil.  Where the hell is he anyway, we kept asking!

Lunching next to the Museo Reina Sofía.  The same place we ate at in June.  We hoped to, but didn't get to, see the same waiter we had in June who had played fútbol for Barcelona.
After doing some research, Spencer thought we would find the statue of the fallen angel in the botanic gardens, across from the Parque del Buen Retiro.  We walked over there with a couple of stops along the way.

"Si los medios mienten las paredes hablan."  (If the medias lie, the walls talk.)
During our entire stay in Spain I asked about and looked for used clothing stores or vendors.  I wanted to find Spanish ties to use in making my Tie One On wine gift bags made from neckties.   I was unable to find any stores but did find a vendor at the mercado in Ribadesella.  They never had any ties.

Finally, on our last day in Spain I came upon two street vendors who had ties at very reasonable prices.  I bought a few, as the boys chuckled nearby.

I even found one from the Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider, Teléfonico.  A one-of-a-kind tie for me with satellites and satillite dishes depicted on it.

Back to our quest...the devil...this is really becoming quite the obsession and quite frustrating too.

The Botanic garden was fun and Louis got to participate in a self-led who-dunnit mystery hunt in the gardens.  All the while we kept our eyes our for the fallen angel.

Finding a clue by figuring out answers to seed-dispersal questions.

Oliver and Louis work together on another clue.

The fallen angel?  No, my namesake, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), as my middle name is Linnea.  He was a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who laid the foundation for the system of binomial nomenclature.  In other words, describing every living thing with a Latin genus and species.  He is known as the father of modern taxonomy and on of the fathers of modern ecology.  

After seeing many other statues of famous botanists in the gardens I began to wonder if they would have one of Carl Linnaeus.  It was pretty cool for me when I found him.

A beautiful green, handicapped friend.

Grapes in the garden.

One of the few wild mammals we saw in Spain.  True!  This squirrel looked quite different from the ones in Colorado.

No we never found the devil in the garden.  I rechecked our maps of Madrid and discovered that they had the statue located in two different places.  I see our problem in finding the statue.  I asked a garden worker who told us it was in the Parque del Buen Retiro.  Okay, this is no longer a joke, this is a serious quest! 

It is hot, hot, hot in Madrid in August.  So, instead of going across the street to the Parque we decided to go see a photo exhibit of the Haiti earthquake at the Caixa Forum.  We saw ads for it walking around in the morning and it seemed a good place to cool off.  The Forum and neighboring vertical garden are certainly not places one can easily tire of visiting.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Madrid Revisited

Again, it was so great to come up out of the Puerta del Sol station and walk straight to our hotel.  We were unable to get the same apartment we rented in June so we were wondering what our new digs would be like.  We were surprised and pleased to find our new room not a room at all, but yet another funky apartment with two rooms, two baths, kitchen and daybed in the living room.  We were in the building next door to our previous apartment so we didn't get to ride the old elevator the boys liked so much.  Our building had an equally interesting, what we guessed as 50's era elevator.  Not as aesthetically pleasing in an antique way but still funky and fun to operate!

Here are a few stills of the funky, eclectic mix of decorations in our apartment.  My favorite, which actually kind of creeped out the boys, was the large hall mirror.

Picture on hall mirror

What era is this mirror from, anyway?!

An attempt to capture the charm of our funky elevator!

We got settled and headed out to revisit Madrid.  We walked around a bit and went for dinner at the restaurant where we had met Hector and Ana last June.  We didn't realize that along with seeing new sights in Madrid, we would find ourselves wanting to re-visit familiar places.

Dinner in Madrid, take 2.
Mercado de San Miguel, as seen from our table.

Nearly a full moon.  Beautiful
After dinner the boys went around the corner to get ice cream.  Again, a repeat performance.  I wandered into the Mercado de San Miguel, which I missed the first time in Madrid.  It was filled with tapas bars, fish stands, pastry stalls and an ice cream bar.  I got a mini cone of violet-flavored ice cream.  Yummy and very interesting to the palate.  We all wondered if we could find a recipe to make it at home.

We walked around a bit more and headed home for a (relatively) early day of sightseeing Wednesday.

A fun group singing American pop songs.  They had a huge crowd and we saw them in the same place the next night.