Category Archives: dinner

Art art art, part two


Today we met Barbara, our Toledo guide, for the Prado tour, three hours of amazing art, Barbara’s knowledgeable insights and lots of standing. Tiring but so worth it!

Bosch’s triptych ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ started us off with a powerful, detailed religious painting famously  filled with crazy details, especially of the Hell that awaits the wicked.  I was particularly struck by its bubblegum pink Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1480-1505, oil on panel, 220 x 390 cm (Prado)details, which don’t really show up in this tiny image, but you get the drift.

From here, Barbara took us chronologically through the collection. Roger van der Weiden’s Deposition of Jesus is the best painting I’ve ever seen that I knew nothing about (not that that’s unusual, I am still a novice when it comes to art).Image result for roger van der weiden death of jesusLarge figures, faces each individualized, richly colored clothing, and a human sense of scale. It’s truly stunning in person.

We saw lots of Rubens, who I must remember is Flemish. I asked Barbara how to know a Rubens (especially for those of us think of Renoir when we hear his name) and she said to look for lots of color and a dynamic design with lots of movement. Got it!  Here’s an example:Image result for rubens prado madrid

The real highlight for me was the Velazquez collection, now that I’ve read The Vanishing Velazquez. The small painting of a wall in Italy was as wonderful as the author had promised, very reminiscent in its stillness and gem-like quality of Vermeer’s The Little Street.  It really has to be seen in person.Image result for velazquez view of the garden of the villa medici I also admired the man with outflung arm.   Is he an actor?Image result for velazquez portraits pradoLas Meninas is a puzzle picture – who are these people and what are they doing? – more than an emotional one.  Image result for las meninasCumming describes it beautifully in her book, and it’s one to go back to over and over.

That room is also filled with portraits of Habsburgs with their unfortunate chins.Image result for velazquez portraits prado

At the end of the tour, we bade farewell to Barbara, who told Alison about a Fra Angelico exhibit coming to the Prado next year – will we come back? – and we had lunch in the cafeteria before going back to revisit Senor V. We found The Surrender at Breda

Image result for velazquez surrender at breda

plus the so-called “buffoons” or dwarves in all their humanity.Image result for velazquez buffoons

Despite our museum fatigue, we headed for the Reina Sofia museum around the corner and its modern art. We started dutifully with the Surrealists and then went straight to Guernica, whose scale is not conveyed with this thumbnail image.

Image result for guernica painting

There’s a big buildup to the painting, which I had last seen in New York when I was a teenager, diaplaying Dora Maas’s photos of the work in progress and plenty of political and artistic runups to the art. Guernica (Ger NEEK a) was one of the first mass casualties of civilians, carried out by Hitler with Franco’s assent, a truly horrendous act. I’m so glad to have seen it again and must find a good book on the Spanish Civil War to understand the whole thing better.

We were truly exhausted by this point, so we had a drink and went back to our old favorite tapas place, La Abuela, for shrimp, followed by a second trip to Toni’s. I meant to order mussels but ended up with anchovies, which luckily were quite good. On the way home we ran into a protest in the street about sex trafficking. This in addition to a protest in the Puerto related to the disinterring of Franco from the valley of heroes to Madrid, and another one by young people in matching T-shirts to do with prisoners. Democracy is alive and well here!

[Note: Because the Prado prohibits all photos in all parts of the building, including the gift shop, these images are not mine but probably better than I would have managed.]

A walk and a cathedral

On Saturday morning we woke much refreshed to breakfast up on the third floor (lots of stairs in this place), stairsporridge and coffee and poached eggs.  It was a beautiful day despite the prediction of rain, so we decided to walk up Calton Hill.   Sun, breezes, and lots of gorgeous clouds accompanied us along Princes Street, past the Scott monument scottand then up the steps to the top of the hill.  An unfinished replica of the Parthenon graces the top.  Known as Edinburgh’s Disgrace, it is just one of a number of structures on the hill.  scott monumentMonuments to Nelson, Burns and other worthies are there, too, but you really climb up here for the views.  On one side, great views of Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, sun and shadow.  arthur's seatThen looking counterclockwise, the Firth of Forth with views across the water, firth of forthlooking down on the Georgian buildings of the New Town, where we’re staying, and eventually the skyline of Edinburgh’s Old Town from the Castle down to Holyrood.

Back down the hill we took a detour to the Old Calton Burying Ground.  David Hume is here in an impressive little temple, but we were also struck by the monument honoring Scottish-American soldiers in our Civil War.lincoln

We stopped by Waverly Station to pick up our pre-booked tickets to Aberdeen, enjoying this Scott quote posted on a wall, waverleythen walked up and up the stairs to the High Street, aiming for St. Giles Cathedral.  1200px-St_Giles_Cathedral_-_01We had been here on our last trip, but now I was armed with the Dunnett Society guide, showing exactly where that climactic scene involving Lymond and Jerrott took place.  No matter that the altar has since been moved and that the entrances are changed, it was still fascinating to envision the scene.  (So much so that I apparently took no pictures.)

We revisited the Thistle Chapel with its charming wood carvings.  See the angel playing the bagpipes?  thistle chapel

We also noted the chapel donated by the Confraternity of the Holy Blood in Bruges.  We of course have SEEN the holy blood there.  But there was no vial in Edinburgh, so we asked the guide for information.  Well!  She told us with great animation about St. Giles, a Greek who ended up in a monastery in Provence where he spent much of his time in the forest with his companion, a deer.  One day hunters came after the deer and St. Giles took the arrow instead (making him the patron saint of “cripples,” says Wikipedia).  That’s where the Scottish crusaders found him (or found out about him) and brought the knowledge back to Edinburgh.  His arm with a diamond finger ring was donated to the cathedral in the 15th century but was presumably destroyed during the Reformation.  (How the holy blood figured in all this we never did find out.)  Humbled, we walked over to the stained glass window of Scottish saints and paid homage to St. Giles and his deer.st giles

After a bit of mild shopping, we continued down the Royal Mile to the John Knox House, the oldest house in the city with some bits dating to the fifteenth century.  Interesting because he and Mary, Queen of Scots, were at odds about religion, but not terribly interesting really.  (Though we did see a painted ceiling and little did we know that it would become a recurring theme.)  Thanks to someone else for this image, showing the original ceiling and a colorful copy on display. John-Knox-0708 

From here, on the advice of the JK staff, we walked to Blackwell’s to find something to read.  For me, two from my TBR list:  Juliet Nicolson’s “A House full of Daughters” and Joanne Harris’s “Different Class.”  A restorative cup of tea (amazing how restorative it is in the UK when I rarely drink tea at home) and a ginger biscuit before heading home.

We were weary enough to get a taxi back and, after a rest, we went to Bon Vivant on Thistle Street for dinner.  VERY noisy but delicious food, not too much. I had cod with chorizo, red pepper, potato and kale, after a light pea soup topped with creme fraiche, marjoram and crab, and AO had lamb, I think.  Followed by a glass of Prosecco and lemon curd (not as good as the rest).  Yum.bon vivant