Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mom's Visit, Part 2: Madrid/Segovia/La Granja

     Back in Madrid after a great weekend in Extremadura, Katie and I began to show my mom our favorite things to do here, as well as things we had rarely or never done. I took Mom to Casa de Campo, an enormous park in Madrid. We had the good fortune of beautiful weather all week, and the wildflowers were in bloom.

(Casa de Campo)

     One evening we stopped by Plaza Mayor, the famous plaza near the center of the city, and then walked past the Royal Palace nearby.

(Plaza Mayor)

(Detail of the Royal Palace, Visigoth kings flanking the arms of Spain. Moon.)

     The next day, we all went inside the palace for the first time— but not before seeing some elderly Spaniards having a rest in the shade. 

(Elders in the shade with the Royal Palace behind)

     The 18th century Royal Palace is enormous. It has over 3,000 rooms, of which around 50 are visible to the public. These visible rooms include the old pharmacy, your usual extravagant bedrooms, a dining room, a lot of expensive dinnerware, a chapel, a matching Stradivarius string quintet (the only one in the world), and paintings by famous Spanish artists. It was impressive and I'm glad I saw it after all this time. 

     One day when I was at school, Katie took mom to one of our favorite museums in Madrid, the Museo Sorolla. The museum is the house where the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla and his family lived, and all of the paintings are his. It is a beautiful place and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Madrid for more than a day. 

(Inside the Museo Sorolla)

     Later, I played a few songs at a sort-of political event. The husband of the woman with whom we went to Extremadura has a solar energy company, and his company was signing an agreement with a Spanish 'green' party called Equo. The entertainment they had booked for the evening had to cancel, so I was asked the same day if I could play a few songs after the business was wrapped up. I did. 

(Playing at a political rally?)

     We also made sure Mom visited Retiro park several times. It is the Central Park of Madrid, and is my favorite green space. The trees there had finally started to fill out and the park was great for lounging. 

(A corner of Retiro)

     We made trips to the Prado and Reina Sofia museums as well, of course. My mom's favorite parts of the Prado were the usually less appreciated ancient sculptures and Dauphin's treasure, both of which are found downstairs, far from the crowds. Dauphin's treasure is kept inside an enormous vault, its incredibly thick door letting you know something valuable is inside. The Grand Dauphin Louis was the son of Louis XIV. He was also the father of Philip V, the first Spanish Bourbon king (1700-1724), and his treasure was transported to Spain upon his death. It's mostly comprised of pots, jars, and containers for liquids, though it is far from your ordinary tupperware. These are constructed of jaspers, jade, lapis lazuli, turquoise, onyx, rock crystal, etc. Both the sculptures and the treasure are worth checking out if you make it to the Prado, and are a good break from all of the ultra-famous paintings. 
     The week was filled with great food, as we took Mom to all of our favorite eateries. She had both traditional Spanish food and our favorite 'foreign' food, such as tacos, pizza, and Ecuadorian food. There was also our favorite café, where we had my specially made tea (black tea with milk, honey, cinnamon, chocolate...not so much tea as liquid dessert) and homemade cheesecake with blackberry preserves. One day I'll write on all of our favorite restaurants around town. 
     Our last big trip was to Segovia, which I had gone to in the Fall and enjoyed. Both Katie and Mom wanted to see the Roman aqueduct and surrounding area. What I hadn't done on my first trip was visit the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, just a short bus ride from Segovia, and which was formally the summer residence of Spanish kings, dating back to Philip V. First, we visited Segovia's enormous cathedral, and then walked out of the city walls to see the Church of La Vera Cruz, constructed by the Knight's Templar in the 13th century. When I had tried to visit last time, it was closed, but this time we found it open and went in. It was simple, sparse, and well-built. 

(La Iglesia de la Vera Cruz)

(Inside the church)

     Afterward, we walked up a hill for a view of the castle, then down and around and back up to the city for some lunch. 

(The girls, the castle)

(Lunch in Segovia)

     After lunch we caught the bus to La Granja. This palace is supposed to have awesome gardens, and we thought that they might be in bloom since Madrid had flowered. However, we did not account for the difference in elevation, and found the gardens still very sparse. The trees in front of the palace, however, were worth the trip alone. There was an enormous giant sequoia, 115ft tall and planted in 1877. 

(Trees, the palace— the giant sequoia to obstructed to the right, detail below)

(Giant Sequoia) 

(A view from behind the palace)

     After walking around the gardens and the small town, we took the bus back to Segovia to spend some quality time at the aqueduct before leaving for Madrid. 

     After nine days, Mom unfortunately had to go back home. We had the best time ever with her! She brought the good weather with her and took it back when she left. Madrid didn't see another good week for a month, and it's just now getting nice again. We hope she comes back soon (and brings Dad and Ben along too)!

1 comment:

  1. Which one was your mom? :)
    Sounds like a fun time. I haven't been to Museo Sorolla - so if I ever get back to Spain, will have to check it out... I'm sure she loved even visiting the house - let alone the artwork.