The rain decided to give us a miss today. Well, to be absolutely honest, we did get a few spits and spots late in the afternoon but nothing that really warrants much comment.
Yesterday we booked onto an English tour of Lope de Vega’s house. You can’t just roam around it, you have to be part of a tour group and in order to get on one, you have to ring up and book. Our tour was for 10:30am this morning.
The other thing we booked last night was for dinner and flamenco dancing.
The tour of the house was fantastic.
He was quite an amazing guy. He wrote a ridiculous amount of plays, novels, poems and devotional works. He also loved women, both figuratively and literally. He had quite a few loves of his life.
In 1610 he moved into this house in Madrid. Madrid had not long been the capitol of Spain, (King Philip II moving his court from Toledo in 1561) so it wasn’t as big and thriving as it is now. According to our guide, it was not much more than a village.
Anyway, Vega lived in this house until his death in 1635. He spent a lot of time entertaining fellow writers who also moved into the area. He’d regularly chat and argue with Cervantes who claimed Vega was the greatest writer in the universe.
In 1614, Vega’s current wife died and he was so devastated that he took holy orders and became a priest. Among other things, this meant he had to build a chapel on the first floor of his house – it had to be the first room you entered in the house of a priest. He also was supposed to be celibate but, like a lot of Catholic priests, he didn’t see the point. This sort of behaviour earned him quite a few slaps on the wrist.
We discovered quite a few things about being Spanish in the 17th century including the fact that people didn’t sleep lying down. This was seen as bad for your health so people would sleep sitting up. This explains why the beds seem to be very short.
We also discovered that only men sat in chairs while women lazed around on cushions laid out on a small platform. The floor of the women’s lounging room was covered in sand. Our informative guide didn’t know why there was sand on the floor. She also didn’t know what was on the men’s floor but Vega mentioned sand in one of his poems.
We had a jolly good wander all over the house, including the room that didn’t exist as far as the authorities were concerned. These rooms were quite popular in Madrid at around this time because the king decided that everyone with room would have to provide accommodation for someone of the court. Free of charge…of course.
As you can imagine, most people in Madrid were not too keen on that so they created secret places that, from the outside of the building, just didn’t exist. For instance, from the outside, Vega’s house has two floors and yet, we went up to the third floor to visit the secret room where his good friend and adventurer Captain ‘someone-or-other’ stayed whenever he was in town.
Interestingly, when I tried to tip our guide on the way out she refused it saying she wasn’t allowed to take tips. Mirinda thinks this is because of the corruption that is endemic in Spanish politics. If this is the case, I can see why you’d start with poor, lowly museum guides.
From the museum, we wandered down to the Calle de Prado and decided to hop on the hop on, hop off bus since we still had valid tickets. We wound up sitting on it for an entire round journey of 80 minutes.
The thing was that we managed to get the only decent seats downstairs and we didn’t want to lose them. Had we left the bus, they would have been snapped up and we’d never have the opportunity again. So we stayed in them until we’d been right round Madrid…for the second time.
Eventually, numb bummed and sleepy, we left the bus at the Parque del Retiro. This is the massive park not far from our hotel where all of Madrid goes on a bright, sunny Sunday. Like today.
First up we settled into seats in an outdoor cafe for some coffee, beer and pizza (not in the same glass) and, eventually, a glass of water.
Mirinda gets quite annoyed when she asks for a glass of water and it doesn’t arrive. Her annoyance was pretty obvious at this cafe.
We then had a very pleasant wander around the park, stopping for a bit by various things, like the boating lake…
…and the glass house which is presently closed to the public while some artist installs an installation.
Still, everything looked lovely and we had a very pleasant walk around before heading back to the hotel for a bit of a rest ahead of tonight’s castanets and foot stamping.
And what an amazing night we had, courtesy of the taverna of Mister Pinkleton.
First up, the taverna itself. It’s down a flight of stairs that enters into an audience space filled with small tables and dotty chairs. To the back is the bar and, I assume, the kitchen. Across the front is a big, black stage with four chairs (dotty and stripy) and microphones.
We were shown to our table and given menus. We were to pick three dishes each (ala tapas) and order a drink. Mirinda managed to get the biggest vodka and orange I’ve ever seen. We didn’t think the waitress was going to stop pouring. Mirinda, eventually said ‘woah!’ and the woman giggled and stopped pouring.
The food turned up as needed and was delicious though a little more than strictly necessary. Also there was an awful lot of carbohydrates and next to no vegetables. It all tasted lovely but I’ll be eating nothing but veg for the rest of the week.
Secondly, the performers. This place is not really for non-Spanish tourists. To begin with, it’s all in Spanish.
It’s like in Britain when you have performers in a pub. These guys perform while the audience eats and drinks. It’s all very real Sunday night entertainment. And they were fabulous. I was a bit disappointed that the woman only danced once but the young guy more than made up for her. He was extraordinary. One thing’s for sure, he doesn’t have gout! I’d not be able to do what he did tonight. Well, apart from the fact that I can’t dance flamenco either.
Truly, it was an amazing night and one you could only really get in Spain.
During the walk back to the hotel, Mirinda conceded that she did like Madrid…a bit.