The week following our trip to Valencia was another one filled with field trips and a paseo to sites around Madrid, including the Archaeological Museum and Reina Sofía with Paco and the Botanical Gardens with Kike.
On Tuesday, Paco took us to the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, located on Calle Serrano, the famous shopping street, right behind the Plaza de Colón. Both the Colón and Serrano Metro stops are only two or three stops away from me on my Metro line which follows Calle Goya. Unfortunately the Metro was down because a passenger needed medical attention for some reason, but it was a beautiful day and only a 10-15 minute walk from my house. Paco really planned our visit to the museum well, because it had actually just officially opened the day we went, April 1, after being closed for 4 years due to renovations. The facility is now remodeled to be prettier, include more natural light, and include more technology, plus admission was completely free because it was opening day.
I don’t really love archaeological museums, but this one was pretty interesting, especially with the juxtaposition of the new displays and building with the very old artifacts. The two coolest things that we saw were the Lady of Elche and Lady of Baza, that date back to the 4th century BC, making them pre-Roman, created by the Iberians who used to inhabit the peninsula during that time period. We had learned about both of them during class, so it was nice to be able to see them in real life as well. It was also especially interesting to be seeing them just after we got back from our trip to Valencia and the Museu Faller, because the headdress and coils on the side of Lady of Elche’s head looks a lot like the traditional dress of the falleras — something that archaeologists don’t quite understand but think can’t be a simple coincidence.
The next day was quite rainy, but Kike decided to hold his paseo anyway, because we’re running out of weekends and he couldn’t afford for us to wait until a sunny day. We met at the Plaza de Murillo at the southern entrance to the Prado Museum, as well as the entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens, our destination for that day’s paseo. It began to downpour just as we got to the meeting point, and even though I had my umbrella it didn’t really help much. After Kike arrived and the rain let up a little bit he decided we should still go through with the trip, but luckily the tour guide had us visit the greenhouses (invernaderos) first so we’d be out of the rain. We learned the difference between a public park like Retiro and a botanical garden is that the latter exist for research and thus intentionally include many different varieties of plants from different climates to study them. It was cool to see how many different types of plants they had saved in the garden, but we were definitely happy when we were able to go home and dry off.
Our busy week continued on Thursday with a visit to the Reina Sofía, the 20th century art museum, with Paco. I had already been there with some friends, but it definitely helps to go there again with a tour guide like Paco so we can learn more. Again, the highlight was Guernica by Pablo Picasso, so we learned more about the different aspects of the painting, possible meanings, and more historical background about its production and inspiration. We also saw some more paintings by Salvador Dalí and were again impressed by how many details he includes in his paintings that can be interpreted in different ways and how the paintings themselves even look different and reveal hidden elements when you look at them from a different angle or perspective.
On Thursday I also was able to try torrija, a traditional Spanish dessert during Lent and Semana Santa (Holy Week). It’s basically their version of French toast, and it was really good. The lady at our local panadería, or bakery, convinced us to get it when we went in to get napolitanas, which are basically the Spanish version of pain au chocolat. They’re incredibly cheap here and we usually get 3 for €1,50 there. We love them though, so naturally we get the torrija and our usual 3 napolitanas too.
Though it had been a long week with me finishing up my Spanish book for literature and preparing for two presentations, plus all of those visits, I didn’t have time to rest yet. I’d be getting up early the next morning to catch a 9:20 flight to Porto, Portugal, with some friends the next day, Friday.