Helen Findlay

My adventures in Middle Europe and The Colonies. This blog contains my own views and opinions and does not represent those of my employers, or any other organisation with which I am involved. Remember, just because it isn't Singletrackworld, doesn't mean it isn't shite !

Monday, November 27, 2006

Toledo and the Museo del Prado

Uneventful drive up to Toledo (didn’t even have to cross-dress to get permission*) some might even say boring. Found the campsite fairly easy using a tactic of driving around the outskirts of the city until I encountered some helpful signs. I have to say though, its no fun trying to navigate with nobody to take it out on if you make a wrong turn.

Headed out on the road bike for a couple of hours to get the lay of the land. Flat, with a vicious and freezing wind. Took me 90 minutes to get to Pueblos de Montalban and about 30 minutes to get back. Don’t imagine it would be much fun being a roadie around here.

Next task - getting the tent up. But first a small cycling tour of the Ferreterias of Toledo, as I had managed not to pack the ten-pegs. Oh how I laughed. Oh how the woman in the campsite shop laughed, then helpfully wrote down the right words for me and marked some shops on the map. I got 4 pegs each in 3 different shops, there seems to be some kind of conspiracy to keep stock levels low. Was good move anyway, campsites in Spain are stony and hard, the pegs I had were a bit insubstantial for the job. The over-engineered steel things I have now would keep the Space Shuttle pegged down.

Toledo is a well cool place, like way medieval. A bit like Venice in the layout, lots of small confusing streets, with a Moorish influence to a lot of the architecture and design. Not as touristy as Venice thankfully, and well populated with people who actually live there. Spent a day walking around, and walked home along the circular route on the other side of the gorge/river, to get the classic Toledo view as featured in the works of El Greco.

Also like Venice, a lot of Toledo was closed for winter, but got to see the El Grecos as they had moved the highlights to another museum during repairs to the building. Quick buzz around the Sephardic museum then across town again for the Alcazar, which I think means Castle. This was also closed for repairs which I was disappointed about as it was occupied by the Nationalists or the Republicans or the Fascists (how many sides were there in the Spanish Civil War ?) in 1936, in a siege that lasted for two months and to quote the Rough Guide “ they barricaded themselves in with a large group that included 600 women and children and up to 100 left-wing hostages. The latter were never seen again” in other words they ate them. I wanted to see the museum set up by Franco (Fascist ruler of Spain until the mid 1970s) with all the propaganda as it sounded dead interesting but was closed for winter boohoo.

Thursday was a quick trip to Madrid and back. Only took 30 minutes on the fast train, very fast indeed. Good solid 6 hours in the Museo Del Prado checking out (in no particular order - OK that’s a lie in a sequence dictated by the guide book, I mean in no order of preference) the Fra Angelico, Van Eycks, Van Dycks, Boshes, Brughels, Durers, Titians, Rembrandts, Rubens, Cranachs, El Grecos, Velazquez, a couple of Botticellis, even a Gainsborough and of course the endless Goyas. Good old Philip II, his occupation of the best bits of Europe during the Renaissance, and his good taste in art. And the fact that Spain hasn’t been invaded and looted since the 11th century and didn’t have a Protestant Reformation (the Inquisition quite sensibly burned people and not paintings). Fantastic museum, love it, although if I was being critical I would say that there are far too many Goyas, every time the man sneezed it was stuck in a frame and hung up, and they could make more of the Tintorettos which they don’t seem to rate, but these are minor quibbles.

Not quite sure why I like religious art so much, was raised an Atheist by my dad (a Protestant Atheist I realised when I moved to Scotland) will have a think about that one.

Did a bit of shopping then, need some new trainers for running, but could only find the kind of shops that sell sports gear to people that don’t actually do any sport, ever. Got pretty close in a massive department store, they had some Salomons with pictures of people running off-road on the tags but not my size. Only thing for it then was to retire to a bar and drink some wine, in the style of the Madrilenos.

Next day got up at the first crack of 10am (its tiring walking about art galleries all day) went for a run on the walking path alongside the river Tajo, then headed for home.

I have a question that I have been pondering. People often approach me, and not just in Camposol, and start speaking English before I have said a word. This happened in the queue at the Prado, Spanish guy started chatting to me in English straight away. I asked him how he knew and he laughed, then got held up at the x-ray machine and bag search so I never got an answer. I have decided it must be a process of elimination. I have blue eyes and am not dark enough to be Spanish or stylish enough to be Italian. My clothes don’t reek of the 80s so I’m clearly not German, and my attitude isn’t pah ! enough to be French. I’m 5 nothing tall so you can rule out Holland or any of the Skando countries. In terms of people that come to Spain in large numbers that only leaves the Belgians. And as every Belgian I have ever met speaks English I think that must be what it is, they think I am Belgian, which makes English a good bet. Its obvious really….

That’s enough from me, this is getting too long as usual. Have decided I will come back to the UK on the Santander-Plymouth ferry on the first sailing in spring 12th March. If I book now it isn’t that expensive, and will end up cheaper than the cost of diesel, hotels/camping and road tolls to get across France, and takes 24 hours many of which I can spend sleeping. Having driven all the way once with company I don’t fancy doing it alone, and its an excuse to head up to the Basque country for a few days. Sounds like a good plan to me. Maybe I’ll try and talk Martyn Salt into putting on the first NPS race in Plymouth in 2007, save me a trip later in the year. (As if.)

Hasta luego !

(* you will only get that reference if you watched MASH, an American comedy from the 70s and 80s. It isn’t very funny but I felt obliged to work it in somewhere.)