My decision to walk whenever and wherever I can on this trip is not a financial one. What I’m spending on my international data plan, chewing up minutes following GPS around town might equal what I’d be spending on uber. It’s not a health-driven one either. At the pace I saunter, it hardly qualifies as exercise. I walk because I can, and I love the liberating feeling of closing the door behind me and just taking off.
As it happened, my Madrid apartment was in easy walking distance to the Prado museum and a bookstore cum winebar, where I hoped to begin and end my quest for Jan Morris’s Spain. Of course, with that winebar, I may wind up forgetting why I’d come to the store in the first place, and might need uber for the trek back home.
The Prado was about a thirty-minute walk. To avoid the phenomenon an architect once explained to me as museum fatigue (becoming leg weary as a result of not seeing an end in sight inside a museum. I get that way after about 30 minutes in the Louvre), I was limiting myself to three artists I wanted to see: Goya, Bosch and El Greco.
I like Goya’s black paintings. When I came upon Saturn devouring his son, I thought: what an interesting wall decoration for a child’s nursery. I’ve seen pictures of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights many times, but seeing it live is a special treat. I can’t get enough of his depiction of Hell. Though no longer a practicing Catholic, seventeen years of Catholic schooling is hard to shed, and I find Bosch helps me get a feel for where I’m likely to wind up. El Greco failed to move me similarly to his two other cohorts, and my thirty minutes was almost up anyway. I would be visiting his hometown of Toledo the next day, so he was still worth a quick passby.
Later in the week, I walked to the bookstore/wine bar, Tipos Infames (Despicable Types?). Books and wine. Add a flat screen with a basebal game on mute, and you couldn’t get me out of there.
Another thirty-minute walk through some photogenic plazas and vibrant pedestrian malls, and I arrived at Tipos, immediately ordering a glass of red. It’s a smallish shop in the neighborhood, corner bookstore tradition. I thought maybe too small to house Jan Morris, but when I asked, the clerk handed me a copy of her Trieste. I already had that one, and had planned on reading it before my visit there sometime in April. He did not have a copy of Spain, so the quest must continue. As long as the bookstores have wine bars, it will be a cheerful quest to be sure.
Wash day was a cheerful experience as well. I wrestled whether what I'd bought was washing machine pods or the dishwasher kind. Whichever they were, my machine did not accept pods. After the first load was washed in clear water, I squeezed out the liquid on the second go round, and that seemed to work. Since my clothes came out smelling like clean clothes instead of clean dishes, I concluded I had picked the correct detergent.
And while I was out bookshopping (all right, drinking) my wash had dried completely by the time I arrived (on my own power) back home. It was a miniscule act of self-reliance, I know, but it just reaffirmed for me that I was doing exactly what I should be doing, exactly where I should be doing it.