Well, I have been in Madrid over a week now, and the pace of life is fast and furious most days as we approach the performance dates. A week seems like forever, at the speed things are moving, but the following thoughts were written before the whirlwind began, on July 15, 2011. It just took me a while to get them posted. So here are my thoughts when I had just arrived, before I started to feel like I live here.
On my first full day in Madrid, I’m having what I like to call a lifestyle day. Madrid is perfectly suited to such a day…from everything I read, it is the way of life here. But let me explain what I mean.
Whenever I return to a foreign city for a second time, there is always a slight dilemma. Most likely on the first visit, I pushed myself and did all of the “Level 1” tourist activities – I will have visited the important museums, and seen the important sites. So, when I return, well, what is
there to do? I’ve faced this conundrum with Berlin and Paris and New York and London. Now I get to add Madrid to that list.
So, generally, my second-visit goals are: first, to visit any interesting sights that I didn’t get around to seeing the first trip, and second, to experience what I can of life in that place. Thus, today, I began by visiting the Convento de las Descalzas Reales (The Convent of the
Barefoot Royals), which I knew had some amazing art to see, and then I took a self-guided walking tour of literary Madrid. Tonight, I’m planning on a visit to a flamenco show.
I saw the most amazing tapestries at the Convent, by one of my favorite artists, Peter Paul Rubens. I was appalled at the convent, because my protestant heritage was offended at such a structure maintained for the 12 nuns who still live there,and for the mistreatment of so many great works kept for the most part from the public eye – you can only visit this convent according to a very strict schedule that coincides with times when the nuns are not praying.
And both my protestant and feminist hackles went up when I read how there had been an explosion of convents in the 16th and 17th centuries in Madrid (many of them now destroyed after the Napoleonic Wars, the Bourbon restoration and the Spanish Civil War), because during those years so many women did not want to marry and their only choice for even a mildly free existence was to enter the convent. Yes, most of the items in the Descalzas Reales were from someone’s dowry brought when the entered the Church.
But, I digress. I call a day like today a lifestyle day because, well, despite a few activities, I spent most of the day walking around the city, watching the life, and well, sitting in cafes. Had some good coffee, did a little shopping, ate a great Spanish omelette (called tortillas, here,
and they are flat, not folded), and walked the streets where Lopa da Vega and Cervantes created their magical works. But the real salient feature of a lifestyle day is, well, for me, it is relatively without agenda. Yea, that’s me, just soaking it all in – and wondering why I’m here — here, not Here, if you get my meaning. I always wonder why I am someplace when I don’t have an agenda, because, well, agenda is life, correct? Or at least that is what we as 21st century Americans almost always think.
As I look around me, I see that is not the case here. But I haven’t been here long enough yet to slow the pace of my walk and become comfortable with no agenda. I’ll have one soon enough, but not tonight. Tonight, I think I’ll just continue to enjoy the show.