More Back and Forth (And Squalus acanthias)

This weekend instead of Daniela coming down to Malaga, it was up to Madrid. Unfortunately Asun was really knocked out with the flu so I had to go by myself. The AVE still impresses me. What a pleasure to not have to deal with either airports or the car. Just relax and all of a sudden I'm in Madrid and just a short subway ride from the hotel and Daniela. Business first: we went to the market and got Daniela well stocked with food for the next several days. That was such a demanding task that after twenty minutes we felt rather fatigued and decided that some chocolate y churros would prove to be a good restorative. Indeed. (And such a delight to be in a noisy, crowded, unpretentious market bar on a Saturday morning. Life!) Leaving the bar Daniela commented that she really liked life in Spain because here she has almost all the things she likes from the States, plus lots of Spanish things that aren't available back in the US. I know exactly what she means.) After getting back from the market and an hour of studying for Daniela, we took the subway downtown and after meandering for a bit decided to go the Thyssen-Bornemiza museum. What a collection! It's hard to fathom two people accumulating such a treasure of European and North American painting, but there it is. Daniela made some wonderful observations on the differences between medieval and renaissance painting. It was a great lesson for her. (Today she has a test on the Middle Ages in her social studies class.) After an hour and a half we still had yet to venture towards the temporary exhibit (the vanguards during World War I), so we took a break and went to the museum restaurant for some food. Excellent! The good food (cous cous salad, cream of squash soup, and squid in its ink with noodles for both of us, then for the main course big shrimp "oriental style" for Daniela and cod for me) dulled our brains some so our tour through the ravages of Europe circa 1915 was brief. Well, the rest of the weekend was quite nice and included a visit to the Prado yesterday with Jenn and Jill, the latter a friend of Asun's, and former CPYB employee, and the former Jill's sister. (Jill was on her way to Geneva to visit her sister, who works for the WHO.) A very nice visit. Beautiful weather, too. On the train coming home last night: I'm in business class, relaxing in an oversized seat that is very comfortable and finishing Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. The train is speeding towards Malaga at 270 km. per hour. It's quiet. The attendants come around with drinks and snacks. It's all very professional, high tech, an environment in which it's hard to not find yourself thinking "this is what it's like to live in a prosperous, advanced society." And for those of us who knew train travel in Spain thirty years ago, you might find yourself thinking "wow!" Then the attendant (stewardess?) came around with a glossy cardboard menu, printed up to suggest that we were about to enjoy a luxurious, elegant meal. There were no choices to be made so it's not clear why they bother with the menu. In any case, the main dish was cazón, a so so fish that is a standard in the markets but which you rarely find on restaurant menus. A member of the shark family, and actually rather common along the North Atlantic coast. It doesn't enjoy a great reputation in Spain. And the translation: "spiny dogfish"! Talking about breaking a spell. Imagine being a tourist on that train. We're going to be served Dogfish? And spiny, to boot. But not to worry, it was dogfish fillet. In England they call it rock salmon. So I tip my hat to the translator, either in empathy for the awkward choice, lapse that none of us are immune to, or in admiration for having a wonderful sense of humor. And a nod to the AVE chef: the darn thing was actually pretty good. (In the photo, one of Zurbaran's Inmaculada's, in the Prado. Doesn't charm quite like Murillo's, but I find myself becoming ever more endeared to Zurbaran generally and I'd never be able to thank him enough for that Virgin Child Sleeping masterpiece!)

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