Monday, February 28, 2011

The Sorolla Museum

Other than the beautiful weather we've had in Madrid and Alcala lately, this past week has been great. Since we've realized that we only have a limited number of days left in Madrid because of our next couple of intense weekend trips, we've taken more excursions into Madrid to get our Madrid Walks activities done. This week and weekend was jam-packed with museums galore since we had a free weekend to do with what we wanted. Our group decided to stay home since we're going to Lisbon, Portugal at the end of March and most of us need to save money for our after-program trips. Although it wasn't as exciting as going to a far off land, it was the best weekend we could have decided to stay in Madrid because of the intense amount of sun and all of the things we got done.
One of the museums we went to earlier in the week was the House of Sorolla in Madrid. Sorolla was a Spanish Impressionist painter that I fell in love with when I saw his works in the Prado, so naturally his house was mecca. His house is showcased as a museum, housing a ton of his art in several different rooms. Below are pictures of his house and the outside gardens that he designed, as well as some of my favorite portraits:

The awesome ceiling art he painted in his dining room

After we finished viewing the museum, Becca and I went outside to the beautiful gardens so that she could draw, and I, contemplate (yes, it happens). As I was laying on a bench Becca decided to draw me, though not in a "normal" way. Becca likes to do blind contour drawings, which is where she stares down her subject, never taking her eyes off of you and draws what she sees without looking at what she's drawing. I've seen her do this before but have never been privileged to her gaze of intensity, so I squirmed, and laughed, so much so that I've been honored with the title of "worst model ever".

Here she is staring me down,

and this is the portrait of me--I'd say it's spot on.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Trip #5- Toledo and El Escorial

Two weekends ago our group ventured to Toledo on Friday, and El Escorial on Saturday. Both cities are within an hour or so from Madrid, so instead of staying in a hotel overnight, we took two separate day trips that eased us into traveling again after a week of long hours and bus-riding madness to the south!

All of us (Erin, Ashley, Becca, ME!, Katy, and Michelle) with the Toledo skyline in the background.

These are the sweet escalators that are carved into the side of the mountain that you can ride to get to the top of the plaza. You better believe that I rode every one of them. As Jim Gaffigan says, "This is one of the good parts of life".

The Empire State Building of Toledo? No, just one of the pillars of Toledo's basilica.

Prior to going to Toledo, we were told that it had the best souvenir shopping, and I must say, I couldn't agree more! Let's see what Toledo has to offer:

Beautiful ceramic Lladro figurines,

varying war helmets,

and Hello Kitty leather sandals? Sure, why not! (Natalie, this pic is for you).

My friends are the best, especially when I tell them to move out of my artistic shot, and instead they pop a pose.

We all have our odd picture poses. Don't deny that your picture pose isn't like one of these.

And here it is from the front angle; however, you still can't see Michelle's. Let's see if we can get a better look...

...and there it is. Just like a pointer dog sniffing out the hunt.


Prior to touring El Escorial, we stopped at the Castillo de los Mendoza in the tiny town of Manzanares el Real. The castle is apparenly one of the best preserved castles in the Madrid area, and has been used in many movies, most notably El Cid.

This is a painting of the Last Supper from inside the castle--please take note that Judas is a redhead. This is the third redheaded Judas that I've seen, and I'm beginning to think that Catholics hate gingers. Just a suspicion.

Gingers will never be able to catch a break.

Do you like my future bed?

Unfortunately I don't have pics of El Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen) because I was feeling lazy and didn't want to bring my camera out of the bus, although I knew I would regret it, and I did, once I saw the beautiful basilica and area surrounding the chapel. I'm kicking myself now, but I did kife Michelle's camera and snapped a couple pics, but we still haven't had a picture exchange yet, so they'll come later.
Below are pics of El Escorial. I'm sorry there are only 2, but the guard staff at the palace make you check your camera at the door so there was no way I could sneak some pictures. AND it was horribly overcast, so even if I took some more pictures of the outside courtyards, they would have turned out horribly. However, here's some history of the palace:
  • El Escorial was the summer palace for Phillip II, built as an escape from the political pressures he felt while in Madrid
  • most of the Spanish monarchs and royals are buried here, including the Bourbons and Habsburgs
  • there are three open tombs for the current king of Spain, his mother, and his son
  • the designs for the palace were based on Solomon's temple
  • the library contains more than 40,000 original volumes of work and is considered to be the second greatest Catholic library after the Vatican
An outside courtyard in El Escorial

Week 8, OR, How I Get Called Pretty and Someone's Queen

February 20
I may have watched a couple episodes of this show today instead of writing my religion papers...

February 21
These are the two guys Becca and I buy produce from every Monday. After class we go to the Monday market in Alcala, and for the past couple of weeks we've bought yummy goodness from these hilarious Spaniards.

February 22
This is a pic of the Templo de Debod, the Egyptian temple in the middle of a park in Madrid. Odd that you'd find an Egyptian temple in the heart of Madrid, but there it is. In 1968 UNESCO needed to move the ancient temple from its home in Aswan due to modern construction, and since Spain was so helpful in saving other ancient Egyptian temples, UNESCO donated the temple to Spain.

February 23
Spain is full of gypsies who try to sell you things/steal your possessions. Luisa was attacked by one earlier in the program while we were waiting to meet up with our group, and I was "attacked" by one today while we were waiting at the train station. He came up to me and started talking to me, calling be "guapa" (pretty) and his "reina" (queen), and insisting that we take pictures with one another. Charming though he was, he's a little too short for me and just a little too creepy, especially when he thrust his ipod into my ears and made me listen to his gypsy music. Oh and don't worry--I made sure I knew where his hands were at all times.

February 24
Sorry if it's a little inappropriate, but I had to take a pic with this sign, especially when we stumbled upon it while taking a different route to reach our favorite mercado in Madrid--an innocent excursion suddenly turned into something dirty. The funny thing about this pic is not only the nature of it, but that my head was actually covering the "a" of the word "ahora", so instead of it saying "Chelsea Ahora" (Chelsea Now), it looks like it's calling me a "hora". Awesome.

February 25
Michelle and I after waking up from our naps.
The weather has been DIVINE this week, so much so that it seems like spring has sprung. After exploring the city and knocking off a couple museums and touristy sights, we crashed in Retiro Park and sunbathed and napped for an hour.

February 26
Just in case you didn't know, I'm in love with the Mercado de San Miguel. Not only can you find wonderful tapas and a variety of produce and seafood, they sell a plethora of desserts--remember my giant chocolate truffle? Since the weather has been a little hot this week, we've stopped at the mercado for the past three days to get their frozen yogurt. This frozen yogurt is so good that after splitting a giant bowl of it with someone for the the past 2 days, I finally wizened up and bought my own giant bowl of it for me myself and I. Craving=satisfied, especially when it's topped with melted Nutella and strawberries.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend Trip #4- Andalucia Part 3

Even though Granada is known primarily for La Alhambra, there are other unique aspects of the southern city. As we made our way down from La Alhambra into the heart of the city, we got to see the beautiful sunset and the city's luminescent skyline.

Whereas Consuegra is known for the windmills, Sevilla for its pottery, and Cordoba for La Mezquita, apparently Granada's claim to fame is its graffiti. I've seen a lot of graffiti here, but the artwork in Granada is the BEST that I've seen in all of Spain.

Probably the best graffiti portrait ever

I really like graffiti that explains its presence

Because Granada has had so many Arabic and Moorish influences over several centuries, it's only appropriate that there are lingering Moorish markets and spice markets scattered in the city. Other than seeing La Alhambra, the only things I wanted to find were the Moorish markets and spice markets. I wanted to see the pretty colors and be surrounded by the smells of incense and exotic spices, and after searching, we found both. Result!

A tea market that was around the corner from the spice market. The baskets of tea smelled SO good that I wanted to buy some just so that I could remember the smell of Granada when I returned home.

Federico Garcia Lorca
This is one of Spain's most famous poets and literary geniuses. One of the only good things that came out of taking Spanish 4/5 with Ms. McGee in high school was not only the telenovelas, but reading Lorca. After reading his play "La Casa de Bernarda Alba", as well as his poetry about the Spanish Civil War (like "La Cogida y la Muerte"), I was in love. His writing is full of such raw emotion and pain that ever since I read "Bernarda Alba", I've re-read it every year. Granada happens to be his birthplace, and if I had more time during the trip, I would have visited the Lorca museum.