The little Citroen delivered back to Barcelona, the deductible long gone to nicks and scrapes. The AVE bullet train to Madrid. We've been looking forward to riding the new Euro hi-speed trains. 300kph. Fastest I've ever gone on the surface. Barcelona to Madrid in less than 3 hours.

La Plateria Bar Museo, Madrid Sept 2009

Home base is this plateria / wine bar near our hotel. Last days of holiday are devoted to the art museums: the Prado, the Reina Sophia, the Thyssen and the Caixa forum.

Monday October 12th. Columbus day, a big deal holiday in Spain it turns out - Fiesta Nacional. We watch on TV at a cafe formal ceremonies in Plaza de Lima and much military might on display. Tanks and firepower in formation in parade, fighter jets overhead, exhaust in the colours of the Spanish flag.

A hang glider descends thru the tall downtown buildings unleashing a huge Spanish flag, lands on the dot among the rows of troops. The flag is folded into a box with precise ceremony. 2 women, 2 men cadets advance the flag, marching sideways forward. 2 soldiers kneeling fold the flag into the box then take a precise, ceremonial march to a flag pole where it's raised slowly while the anthem plays. We walk along the Paseo del Prado to the Reina Sophia Museum on our way to complete the pilgimage to Picasso's Guernica as fighter jets 3 at a time thunder low overhead followed by helicopters, a transport carrier with 2 smaller jets connected by fuel lines, bright orange planes in formation, tri-colour exhaust.

Comment to francesbula.com March 21 2010
The critical mass of art museums, the Caixa Forum, pedestrian promenades, grand scale public space, more intimate squares with cafes and restaurants, horticultural gardens, useless but grand roundabouts with giant fountains celebrating royalty and empire, densely packed bars and clubs and shops and hotels and apartments that's Madrid's "cultural precinct". Unique and offers only limited lessons for Vancouver, I think. It is the proud statement of the modern Spanish state not an art and culture theme park. The power of Picasso's Guernica in the Reina Sophia -- Picasso wouldn't allow it to be shown in Franco's Spain and he himself refused to return to Spain as long as Franco was alive and the old bastard outlived him by a couple of years. (In the opening scene of Julian Schnabel's film Basquiat Basquiat as a child sees it with his mother in New York at MOMA) Point being that the power of the art and what it means to modern Spain is almost visceral. Velasquez, Goya, el Greco, at the Prado... and the treasures at the Reina Sophia and the Thyssen. It's probably fair to ask if the VAG's up to the task of anchoring any version of a "cultural precinct"... or if we should even ask that of it. 

Madrid's are very busy institutions and an important element seems to be free admission during certain hours or days. Lines as far as the eye can see. Sidewalks are shoulder to shoulder. When we were there a huge street demonstration was happening on Paseo del Prado. The national Police Union had gathered thousands of members for a raucous noisy march toward the Royal Palace in support of contract negotiations. Whistles, fire crackers, chants. Down the middle of the unbelievably lively dynamic "cultural precinct".


Catalan Cash Box. Also the name of the huge bank that funds the Caixa Forum. The one in Madrid was of interest: like a hybrid of a gallery and a college and a trade show. If I have this right the original building was a wool mill or something like that, raised and added to with rusted exterior that interior light shines thru patterns cut in it at night. Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. Plaza in front kind of cold but much pedestrian traffic. Dramatic hanging garden quite fine. It's across from the huge horticultural garden and surrounded by the Prado and Thyssen and Sophia Reina on Paseo del Prado. Free admission and shows and lectures changing all the time.

When I was there one floor devoted to Palladio with exquisite detailed models and much history and background. Dark rooms all very serious and prim. Up a floor and the lighting is near blinding, everything white, an expanse of displays with Apple monitors, colourful graphics hanging above, much mulitmedia and sound and it's all the firm and the projects of Richard Rogers Architects. Each section with brillaint models -- ever since one's train sets as a kid ya love architectural models, eh. I loved this presentation and context of these huge projects. We flew to our connector flight home from the Rogers designed Barajas Airport in Madrid.