August 1, 2006
We return to Brooklyn tomorrow where it will be ungodly hot. One weather website predicted it would be 104 degrees (that’s about 40C for you Europeans) but would feel like 112 with the humidity (44.4). Another more optimistic site guesses it will only reach 102 and advises "please remember to water your plants". So we will arrive tired and drenched in sweat. It’s hot here too ("too hot to go swimming" Jenn just announced) but there is zero humidity so it doesn’t feel miserable and nights are beautifully cool.
Did I mention we are back in Madrid. We’ve been eating ham and paella (see below) and catching up on a few last sights.
Hmm... favorites from this trip:
We've seen hundreds of paintings in Spanish musuems, lots of masterpieces. But the ones that stick with me are never the "greats". La virgen del arbol secco by Petrus Christus c 1450 will linger. It’s an intimate canvas full of mystery. The image on the web doesn’t do it justice. The painting hangs in the Thyssen-Bornemisza, an eclectic museum showcasing the collection of the Baron Hans Heinrich Tyssen-Borenmisza and his children. As an aside the Baron's name is a prime example of why I object to hyphenated surnames-they are a mouthful.
The fisherman in Galician villages hang tiny models of their boats in the rafters of the churches. I only visited one of these churches but there are scores. Photo project anyone? Imagine a long exposure on a large format plate done in the morning light as a few of the boats bob in the breeze and the old women pray for the safe return of their men.
The Spanish and Portuguese governments have converted castles and country estates across the respective countries into grand hotels. In Spain the hotels are called paradores, in Portugal pousadas. If you search around the net (and with local travel agents) you can find deals that make these hotels, relatively speaking, affordable. 7 nights for 400 euro, 5 nights for 300 euro etc. You get cards a bit like euro-rail passes. We stayed in a few of these hotels and were impressed each time. Another plus, they tend to be kid friendly while not being obnoxiously kid-centric.
The Spanish province of Extremadura always inspires seeming both familiar (reminds me of the American west or of northern Mexico) and impossibly ancient but I always find myself zipping trough trying to make it back to Madrid for a flight. The eastern edge of Portugal is similarly appealing. If you've ever driven the road from Burnet to Marble Falls in the Texas Hill Country you'll feel right at home.
The subway system in Madrid is clean, modern and efficient. Even the windows of the cars are clear and scratch free, odd but welcome in a city so oppressed by graffiti.
I've probably already mentioned Portuguese beaches too much. We really loved them (and I say this as a non beach person). Do you know the film Mr. Hulot's Holiday by Jacques Tati? It's a bit like that.
That is all for now.