Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Almost visiting a monastery

After two unsuccessful attempts I think I am going to give up on the Monastery de las Descalzas Reales, or as I like to call it, the Museum of Decalcified Nobles. Ok, first I went by on Monday and that is the day they are closed. No big deal. So I tried again yesterday. They are open 10 to 2 and 4 to 6:30. I was at the Thyssen in the morning so I swing by around 4:30 to find a bunch of French students milling around outside. When I asked the official if it was possible to enter she said, "come back at 5:15." Ok, sure, they are a monastery, they don't have to make a buck. They don't even have to let anyone in, ever. But it was sufficiently annoying that I don't think I will bother trying a third time. Here are a couple of shots of the exterior:

This is the sign with the hours. The little sign on the right says "The Empress Maria of Austria lived here and died here in 1603."

Maria of Austria was quite an interesting person. She was the patron of the composer Tomas Luis de Victoria in this very place, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II (with whom she had sixteen children), daughter of Charles V and twice regent of Spain when Philip (that is Philip II) was busy elsewhere.

While I am discussing minor obstacles, I was prevented from taking photos in the Prado, but took this one, of a tabletop made from semi-precious stones, before I was aware. It dates from the 17th century:

One place I had a look for was Union Musical Española, both a music shop and a publisher of a lot of the Spanish guitar repertoire. Alas, those days are long gone. While they used to be a significant part of the musical culture of Spain, these days it looks as if they are just another minor music store like you would find in any strip mall. Here is where they used to be (note the missing "s" in "music":

That location is now closed and they have moved here:

I asked the clerk where the scores were and he directed me to a tiny rack of methods for amateurs. Very depressing... Later I noticed that they have a few small outlets like this around town: a few amateur level guitars, electronic keyboards, some violins, etc.

On a brighter note, the tapas bars are really great:

On that little plate are a slice of bread with blue cheese and another one with a tomato underneath and on top anchovies prepared two ways: with oil and with vinegar. Very yummy. Oddly enough, they call them, not tapas, but canapes. In Montreal, we would probably call them "amuse-gueule". They do others with roast pork and smoked salmon. Really excellent fast food! Here is a closer photo of the plate:

Later today I am going to visit the Reina Sophia, possibly swing by the Prado again and have lunch at a German restaurant. In the meantime, let me leave you with some music. This is the Homenaje for guitar, by Manuel de Falla, written as a tribute to Claude Debussy and published in a special edition of La Revue Musicale. The player is Sanja Plohl and it was recorded in Madrid in January 2013:

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