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Friday 29 August

Yesterday, I returned to the Prado and I was so so happy that I paid for a 2 visit ticket… after much quibbling to put out the required 20 euros (ECD 71). I could not visit the Prado in one session, not even with regular breaks for coffee and so on… Actually I cannot visit any large art gallery or museum in one session, because I suffer from Stendhal’s syndrome, an annoying psychosomatic response to my viewing great works of art, requiring me to suddenly sit down in place, because I feel the art falling on top of me. I kid you not.

Prado tickets and info

Prado tickets and info

But yesterday was good. I had gone for a walkabout central Madrid, taking lots of photos and muttering to myself that this or that, would look good in St George’s. In my mind by the time I am finished with my version of our capital, it will be elegant, efficient and the place to be. Then I went to the Prado, telling myself to breathe slowly and deeply and I’ll be fine – and it was, until I went back into El Greco exhibit, and the art began to reach out from the walls. Time to go, I thought, but I was determined to get my money’s worth. Several turns and twists later, I feel like that chap in the Minotaur’s maze, without string, when I turn and see it. La Gioconda, the Prado’s Mona Lisa. No photos were allowed, so here is the link to their site so you can see the image. https://www.museodelprado.es/en/exhibitions/exhibitions/at-the-museum/instalacion-temporal-de-la-gioconda-copia/la-gioconda-del-museo-nacional-del-prado/

I stood in front of that painting for the longest while, observing and absorbing this fresh version of its sister painting at the Louvre. Satisfied, I went into another room and saw the Venus on the half shell and other paintings I had only ever seen in books or online. Thank heavens I came back for a second visit. It was worth it. My close examinations of the paintings have triggered a desire to start working as soon as I get to my studio, applying classical techniques to contemporary work.

Puerta del Sol at night

Puerta del Sol at night

Leaving the Prado I went out for a last night walk, and ended up in the Puerta del Sol, where there were lots and lots of people, easily a couple of thousand persons enjoying the balmy 29C temperature, and listening to the musical bands, and the many other performances in the large plaza. It was magical.

San Miguel market - oh that the St George's market could look like this!

San Miguel market – oh that the St George’s market could look like this!

This morning I went to see the Mercado de San Miguel, the market. It is a gorgeous structure that underwent some lean times, and nearly closed until a private company bought it and turned it into a place for speciality foods and a place where locals and tourists can buy ready to eat foods, or fresh meat and fish. I hope my photos do it justice. I used my last 4 euros to buy a sea urchin tapas, ie a seaegg that was also filled with a cheese and catfish mix. Delicious. I managed to take the photo before I ate it.

Sea urchin tapas - with catfish and cheese filling

Sea urchin tapas – with catfish and cheese filling

There were quite a few intriguing places hidden away at the end of alleyways, but that will take me a month to discover, so I stuck to the main road, and found lovely spots that would fit very nicely at home, adjusted for local context, of course. There is a wooden toy store, called Geppeto (as in Pinnochio), and another that uses real flowers, leaves and butterflies to make jewellery. There is even a museum of ham, where people sample local hams and pork products with local cheese, bread and beer. I could not get in, too many people.

My last stop was the cathedral, to light a candle for the success of my trip. Best 1 euro I spent. To get into the cathedral, you must ‘donate’ one euro per person. Then you can pray, or take photos, or walk around with your mouth open. I did all of the above. I really need to speak to our bishop about letting me paint the cathedral… The Madrid cathedral sees hundreds of tourists a day… hundreds! And they have a museum shop as well. Do the math.

A colourful and stimulating cathedral interior

A colourful and stimulating cathedral interior

This is the last blog of my Europe art camp trip. I am overnighting with my cousin in London tonight, counting down the hours until I land in Grenada, tomorrow. Thank you for travelling along with me.