Dinner last night was not a huge success. Suffice it to say that it was enough, and tastier than it looked, and not too expensive. Also of note, I discovered that the way to not pay for water is to ask for “un vaso de agua” and not just “agua.” This is good, because $3 bottles of water were eating up funds pretty fast.
I did not sleep though breakfast this morning. I may have slept through one alarm, since when I woke up, they were both going off, but maybe we somehow managed to get the timing really tight on the alarms. I don’t know. At any rate, we were somehow (amazingly) off by 10:00 this morning, the estimated ETD (I’m really impressed by the scheduling on this trip so far. Not only do we leave when we say we will, we arrive when we say we will, too). Today’s stops included the palace/monastery/crypt of El Escorial, the town of Segovia, its aquaduct, and a castle, and our hotel in Madrid.
I don’t have any pictures of this. We were warned going in that security was really tight, and that backpacks would have to be searched, and bottles of water might not be permitted . . . I decided not to bring my camera, figuring that other people would take pictures and that my camera, with its rubber band, may look sketchy enough to not be permitted inside. It’s just as well. While the outside was Very Impressive, it’s the sort of impressive that doesn’t photograph well unless you’re a good 200 meters away, and they didn’t let anyone take pictures inside. So I’ll just link you to Google Images instead.
I really liked it. I’d never actually seen a palace before, given that we don’t have them in the US or in any of the places I’ve visited. And, wow. I mean, really, any place where the guide starts the tour with, “And we’re going to begin with the most boring part of the tour first – the King’s chambers,” has something going for it (though actually, I liked the king’s chambers better than the monks’ area.
Anyway, the history in a nutshell: Felipe II had four wives (who died, rather than being divorced or beheaded), some kids, and an empire that spanned just about half the world. In his old age, he built an enourmous complex where he could live his life in a somewhat monkish style, where God had a palace and monks lived like kings, with a nice bit of garden and a whole section to bury dead royalty.
I took the occasion to practice more of my new art collection hobby – costume-era spotting. I saw lots of petticoat breeches, that funny I-have-a-dead-pigeon-in-my-shirt-over-my-belt-and-it’s-making-things-hang-funny style for men, and a number of Elizabethan women’s outfits. The religious paintings were in a different style that I think was slightly earlier (they made me think of the I-am-pregnant-look of the merchant’s wife in green, for the one person who may possibly know what I’m talking about). Then there were a lot of tombs and marble boxes and Baroque gold trim because Felipe II never actually finished the tomb part, and it didn’t get done until Felipe IV. The monk part had more light and a lot of paintings (El Greco, other famous names here, early surrealists, a painting of the last supper with glass goblets . . .), most of which I didn’t particularly appreciate (religious paintings tend to bore me. I’m not sure why. I like other paintings just fine). And then we saw (heard) a whisper chamber. I’ve read of such things, but never actually encountered one. This one, you would talk into opposite corners of a large room, and be heard by the person in the other corner. Apparently it was built to give confession to people who had illnesses you didn’t want to catch.
And then we saw the library. It was a bit odd; all of the books had the pages facing out. They did have reasons for it (namely, the first librarian wanted a same-color scheme, it’s easier to number/label the books that way, and they keep better. Also, they had gold leaf on the edges of the pages), but it was unusual. The library was a storehouse for (among other things) forbidden books during the inquisition. I also saw copies of Las Cantigas de Santa Maria and the chess book by Alfonso X el Sabio (the wise). We looked at these in my Spanish class two semesters ago; I never actually expected to see the books.
The room is closing. Goodnight.