“to hang in the dark of some parliamentary hall”

6/25/10   –   00:54

Today was spent largely in the western portion of town by the Palacio Real and environs. I woke up pretty late, around 10:00, and went to go get some food for breakfast at the Corte Ingles supermarket. I found these croissants filled with chocolate and hazelnuts [aka nutella] that were pretty much perfect and also cheap. I also got apple flavored soda, which tastes like candy, and is up there on my favorites list along with maracuya and lemon fanta.

Anyway, the Royal Palace is no longer the residence of the Spanish royal family, but what else is the Spanish government going to do with this lavishly furnished building than turn it into a monument and tourist spot? They did a good job preserving everything almost exactly how it was, though. It has three main exhibitions. There’s the palace itself with the living quarters, the royal armory, and then the royal pharmacy. They also had a special exhibition about the crown’s interest in ancient and classical archaeology which I dropped into.

I first went to the pharmacy, though. It was pretty cool considering they had all the original jars and tools used to make these medicines that probably didn’t work too well. If there’s one thing that I find interesting, it’s pre-20th century pharmacology. [On a similar but unrelated note, if there’s one thing that freaks me out more than anything it’s 1940s and 50s medicine. When they were trying out all those new crazy things in psychology. Bleugh.] But yes. It was more of an alchemy shop than anything because they had all these stills and plant presses and strangely shaped bottles to boil things in. Eep.

Next up was the armory. They had all these suits of armor set up for horses and people in all different styles. Downstairs was more of a weapons showcase and the most interesting in it, I thought, was a pair of rifles that were probably about 3 yards long. I really don’t understand how practical or possible using those was. Maybe they were decorative? Idk. One more thing, all of the armor in there was tiny. I can see it now. A battlefield full of 5 foot tall men clad in extravagant mail duking it out for the fate of Europe. Hah.

The archaeological exhibit had a bunch of old coins, sculptures, and woodcuts detailing Spain’s centuries-old involvement in archaeological pursuits. I do enjoy lithographs, though. Mostly because of Married to the Sea. I always try to think of funny things they could be saying or amusing captions. I rarely succeed, lol. Walking through the palace was a good time. I spent a bit of time imagining how it might have been with the court actually in there and they did such a good job with the place that it wasn’t too difficult. Especially when I looked out on the courtyard in the front of the palace facing la catedrál de Nuestra Santa de la Almudena [which I went into later on]. The courtyard is quite possibly the size of a football field and a half, and it’s largely empty except for some gilded lamp posts. I imagined horse-drawn carriages coming in with men in top hats emptying out and…. yeah. I just realized that all my imaginings came from The Illusionist. Dammit.

When I came out of the restroom, I saw a water fountain, which was a very big event. I was told that there was an article in the Sevilla newspaper stating that a study was taken coming to the conclusion that there are 16 public water fountains in Sevilla. I am conducting my own study and by extrapolation, I have come to the conclusion that Madrid has approximately 2. This was one of them. And it even had the little water bottle refill nozzle that some of the fountains have at UF! Too bad I didn’t have my water bottle. Grrr. In short, water fountains are precious. Count your blessings, people.

I went down the street a ways towards the Plaza de España which was not as grand as the Plaza de España in Sevilla, but was still nice enough to take pictures of. I won’t show you a picture of the fountains, but rather, a picture of the Asian tourists surrounding them. All of the women like to wear these fingerless gloves which I suppose are meant to keep them from getting hand tans, but I think it defeats the purpose if the tips of your fingers are exposed. I remember having the same sort of tan after marching season because the clarinets had to wear gloves with the finger tips cut off. Trust me. That tan is not attractive. I guess they’ll find out the same soon enough. Poor souls.

Now for some rambling. If you didn’t know, Spain is in an economic crisis right now and the unemployment level has reached to about 20%. This means that one in every five people in the country is in need of a job. This gives rise to things like:

– The man outside my window who played the same two songs on his recorder for about FIVE HOURS this afternoon.

– The dozens of hawkers who gather in Puerta del Sol screaming “Compro oro! Compro oro!” I didn’t realize there were enough people with extra gold lying around to keep these shops afloat and pay the salaries of the hawkers.

– One man dressed in a monkey suit riding a deer with wheels, and another dressed as Predator soliciting change in the plaza.

– The more innovative people take advantage of Madrid’s pulsing nightlife to set up shops on street corners near bars and clubs at around 4 or 5 in the morning so they can sell nice warm bocadillos and gum and water to people. This is a capital idea. If there were fewer 24 hour places, I could totally do that in America for a quick buck.

I felt like a bum today so I didn’t go to the Thyssen-Bornemiszen [?] museum and instead I took a nice long siesta and watched some more of the office. I asked Che [no. not the revolutionary. She’s one of my roommates in the hostel] if she wanted to go out to dinner with me at 100 montaditos and she said that she’d like to. Che is from South Africa and she’s studying flamenco in Spain for a couple of months during her mid-year break. She’s a year younger than me and also the first South African person I’ve ever met. It does not help that what I know about South Africa comes from a couple of lines in my AP World textbook, The Gods Must be Crazy, and the Disney movie The Color of Friendship. She’s entertaining and she showed me some South African bands that I should listen to.

But yes. I leave for Barcelona tomorrow at around 10:30 so wish me luck trying to get a reservation an hour before the train leaves. I’ll have more for you tomorrow. :D


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