Spain and France:
Nice, Monaco, Cannes,
Barcelona, Madrid and Granada.
Marty and I at the Cafe Zurich in Barcelona, Spain.
October 13, 1991
Marty, John, and myself traveled on the overnight train from Milan to
Nice. Marty and I were in a crowded couchette with unbelievably stagnant
air. Some man was snoring in our couchette so loudly in a deep baritone
that even the French whistled (the French do that when they are mad)
so that he would wake up and stop snoring. In the morning, I found out
that this "man" was a pleasant old lady! Just as we were getting comfortable
in the dark of the couchette Marty sqeaks out this tiny elongated fart.
The couchette was so small that I could reach out and touch all of the
other five persons in the car. Of course, everyone heard it in the dark
and silence and I was embarrased and more than a little peeved. I could
hear Marty over on his bunk laughing.
The Cote d'Azur is beautiful. It is a mellow
deep blue Mediterranean Sea bordered by dramatic cliffs with small communities
wedged in between. The sites and situations of the French Riviera clash
heavily with that of the rest of Paris - yet it is the same country and
language. It is so nice to finally be out of Italy and, thankfully, Milan
has two things in abundance which were scarce in Italy: cheap and convenient
accommodations and laundromats. It is also nice also to be in a culture
which I understand better and a language which I speak (plus ou moins).
For some reason, I understand the French here much better. I think they
speak slower. At any rate, things are much cleaner here. French society
is organized so much better than the Italian.
We are staying in a large, clean, and cheap
budget hotel that, in summer, supposedly resembles a fraternity house
with all the young American tourists. It is now a bit in the off season
and the hotel and the area in general is quiet. We will be staying in
Nice and taking day trips to Monaco and Cannes. Nice is the largest city
in the area and reminds me of California. When I first arrived here and
saw the bright sun shining I felt touched to the quick and felt the strong
pull of the beach as a native Southern Californian. The beaches here
are topless (except for the American women) and that is no bad thing.
Let me just say that I have seen some awesome sights. There were some
American female college students near us with their tops on and compared
to the French women they looked provincial, artificial, cramped, and
Marty was being sociable with an American
lady from Zurich and her mother. It seems that one can tell the natives
from the foreigners by whether they are wearing a top or not and with
the men whether they are wearing cloth shorts or speedos. In my opinion,
the completely natural and unaffected manner in which these beautiful
French women go topless on the beach is a powerful statement of feminine
beauty. In retrospect, women going topless on the blistering hot beach
at high noon seems completely natural where going naked does not. Even
the grandmas go topless and, while they are living examples of the effects
of long-term gravity on the body, it is no big deal. Marty stared so
incessantly at this one well-endowed lady that her husband took offense.
The Cote d'Azur is the tourist playground
for the international rich and the French in general. This has supposedly
spoiled a pristine environs with hotels and accommodations but the scene
is still great. There is an air of beach relaxation and informality and
eccentric material indulgence that belies the wealth of the inhabitants:
Harley Davidsons, strange jeeps, etc. - the playthings of the rich and
famous. It reminds me for all the world of Beverley Hills. The surf is
gentle and the beach is rocky. Everything is brighter here than at the
California beaches. The water is a deep blue and the hills are a light
Monaco is a (sort of) sovereign state. In
reality, it is an anachronism of cramped wealth and luxury. Checkov once
called it a "cramped watercloset." A few miles east on the coast from
Nice, Monaco exists in a crevice between two mountains that form a crowded
harbor. On one mountain sits the Royal Palace and on the other the famous
Casino and the expensive hotels.
The Palace has a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean
and it's governmental function is readily apparent. 18th century cannon
ring the hill/fortress and command the harbor. Ceremonial soldiers with
M-16 rifles stand at the entrance of the Palace and we even saw the formal
changing of the guard. There is much aristocratic grandeur to this location
with Prince Rainier, Princess Grace and Stephanie, etc. Princess Stephanie
is all over the French tabloids and seems the French counterpart to Princess
Diana as a sort of national symbolic royalty. In short, Monaco is the
creation of the "old" European money and society and the jet set lives
of the filthy rich.
We visited the Casino on the other hill and
I was a little offended by the ostentatiousness of the conspicuous consumption.
But still as much as at "The Vintage" in Palm Desert. We were not even
able to make it all the way into the gambling rooms because of the hefty
cover charges. I guess that is the way to keep all the riff-raff like
myself out. Still, I was able to see enough to recognize that it was
very different from Las Vegas. Everyone was very dressed up and it was
very quiet as if something formal and serious were happening. The wood
was very dark and gold leaf decorated the walls and ceiling. We spent
a total of about three hours in Monaco and saw about everything one would
want to see.
We went to the police station in Monaco where
Marty exchanged patches with the station officer. He has been doing this
all over Europe and it has been fun. The patch trading process is obviously
a well established one and we have had no problem communicating our intentions.
Indeed we have had a good reception and the California police patches
are a bonafide success over here. Furthermore, there is a police camaraderie
which provides for instant acknowledgement and acceptance. The local
cops just kind of yell to their buddies, "Cops from the States.", and
all the others shale their heads in understanding. I spoke with one cop
of approximately my own age in Monaco (in French) and looked him in the
eye and said with a grin, "Cops are cops." He smiled and replied, "The
same family." Unable to find a spare patch, a German cop in Munich left
the room, tore the patch off his own uniform, returned and gave us the
October 14, 1991
Today, we traveled from Nice to Marseilles
and tomorrow we leave France for Barcelona and Spain. We did laundry
in Nice (whew!) and hung out at the laundromat with an young American
couple from Boston University who were also doing laundry. It rained
hard yesterday and all they did was stay inside and drink wine. They
had just recently met up after a long separation and they stayed in all
day and listened to the rain and made love. And that certainly does not
sound like a bad way to kill a rainy day to me!
Marseilles is a big port city which is not
particularly attractive in any conventional ascetic way. There is a definite
reason why there are no other tourists here and Marty thinks that one
day is too long to stay here. I wanted to see the city because of Dumas
and the Count of Monte Cristo, as well as for the French mafia and the
crusty port types. Towards this end, I was more than satisfied. The city
is a potpourri of nationalities and the main street ("Cannebiere") evokes
images of sailors on leave, barbican districts similar to Plymouth, etc.
The North African area was the most interesting and one felt as if one
were in Algiers, with all the appropriate smells, sounds, and peoples.
The area is supposedly dangerous but I did not feel threatened. Marseilles
has a violent reputation, but I found it just kind of boring after dark.
There were a lot of strange types hanging around, though.
Tomorrow, we leave France and it saddens
me that we will not be back. I liked the language and being able to speak
it. I will especially miss the croissants and they just do not taste
the same outside of France. I will also miss the relaxed pace and sophisticated
manner of hanging out in cafes and talking for hours. Finally, I will
miss the beautiful French women.
I don't know why the women strike me as so
beautiful here compared to other countries. I think it has something
to do with just looking well put together fashion wise. Also, they generally
have the slender features and feminine facial features. The long legs,
thin hips, small breasts and unbelievable asses attract me greatly.
French social life is unique. They do not
generally party hard and do not drink to get drunk like the English speaking
peoples do. But on the other hand they are drinking wine all the time.
I do not remember meeting one French person at Oktoberfest, for example.
The French hang out in groups where everyone knows each other and hold "witty" conversation
for hours through an almost impenetrable cloud of cigarette smoke. Although
not rude, these groups are private and people do not go out of their
way to meet other people, as happens in English or Irish pubs. They look
at tourists and foreigners as "other." It seems that French social life
is a real insider's deal, with different rules. French women kiss anyone
with practiced indifference on the cheek but kissing on the lips is a
big giant deal.
All throughout Europe, men are supposedly
much more what Americans call "male prejudiced." All the way from construction
workers jeering at passing women (I saw this more than once) to business
executives making passes at female subordinates. It would seem "sexual
harassment" is standard operating procedure here. Americans try to make
sex relations in the office neuter and something to be suppressed as
dangerous and unprofessional, but I am told that in Europe people are
much more resigned to letting nature take it's course. The American women
friend of John Francis whom we had dinner with in Lugano had trouble
getting a job in Europe because she was married and everyone thought
she was unreliable because she was married and supposedly subject to
her husband's professional whims - moving, parties, etc. And all this
despite the fact that she had an excellent experience and references
and an MBA! I have also been assured that her senior position or responsibilities
will not stand in the way of a male executive making a play for her.
I don't know what to think myself. Such unprofessionalism is clearly
wrong but the Cold War atmosphere between the sexes back in the States
is equally, if not more, annoying. I would hate to have to make a choice
between the two. Most women in the States have a martyr syndrome and
look at you as cat looks at a dog, expecting you to pull a judo throw
on them or something. "You just want to fuck me, don't you!" Well
The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas sexual harassment
issue that is dominating the States as I write is a good example. The
issue is dynamite and emotionally divisive in the States, with justice,
prejudice, victim, etc., being bandied around by enraged persons. In
Europe, they are laughing incredulously and writing in the newspapers
that those prude Americans are at it again crucifying their public officials.
They say, "So he made a pass at her. So what - judges have sex, too." Americans
are so sure that they are right and so eager to do the right thing and
be the nice guy. We Americans think we are on the cutting edge of things
and are "progressively" moving towards a place where women and men will
be more equal and then more amicable. There is a lot of pure speculation
in that prediction. Perhaps the European way is better. Men and women
seem to get along much better here and is that not the bottom line? Back
in the States everyone is too busy doing ideological battle and nursing
their grievances like spoiled toddlers. I read the newspapers here in
reference to the Anita Hill affair and I cannot believe what I am reading!
It it puts me in a bad spell for at least the next hour or two and Marty
has to put up me yelling and tearing at my hair. It reminds me of the
Great Santini reading his newspaper in the morning and then looking skyward
and asking loudly, "God! God! Why did you put so many assholes in this
I think in some was regarding social interaction,
the French are right in looking down on Americans. Certainly, they have
elevated eating into an art form consisting of many courses of excellent
food and conversation which goes on for hours. In contrast, we Americans
are a fairly laconic and insular people who rarely spend much time outside
of the office or away from the home after work. The French are witty,
urbane, refined, clever, and seem to enjoy life and their fellow man
more than we do. However, they can lack candor and have the penchant
for style over substance. After eavesdropping on many a conversation
of young people in the cafes, I felt like they talked for so long and
ended up saying nothing. In my opinion, most people who talk non-stop
have nothing to say. The conversation may be effete and vapid but it
is most surely a vapidly clever one. Furthermore, the world-weary act
can get a little thin. The worst thing that could ever happen to a French
person is that they could look silly or awkward. I think they would prefer
to be cruel or vicious than ridiculous. I think the highest honor can
come to a person who can use satire and biting wit to insult and humiliate
an adversary in some pleasant and "civilized" salon. Remember the credo
of Voltaire, who embodied so many French ideals and lies buried beneath
the Pantheon with the other French national heroes: "I have asked God
for only one thing in my life and that is that he should make people
laugh at my enemies. And he did." Yet my experience is limited to Paris
and I am told that things change drastically when one exits the metropolis
and enters the countryside.
How strange that the French and Germans are
neighbors and still have so little in common. The French are loquacious
and smooth as silk in the rococo style. The Germans have a certain coarseness
and a determined and serious earnestness. It is even reflected in the
languages; French is smooth and flows along like a river while German
is guttural and heavy. It seems to me that the French are best when observing
and commenting on life where the Germans are peerless when trying to
define what is human and where meaning exists in life. Voltaire, Flaubert,
Stendahl, and Proust are all examples of the highly polished - nigh flawless
prose of France. And Martin Luther, Kant, Hegel, Nietzche, and Marx all
embody the German genius in speaking to the metaphysical. Still, Rousseau
and Sartre were French while Goethe and Heine were German, and they defy
October 18, 1991
We have been in Spain for three says and have been having an absolutely
great time. Spain (Barcelona, in particular) is extremely lively, and
we have been dancing the night away. Each night we have ended up getting
home around five in the morning sweaty, drunk, and exhausted. We sleep
all day and unfortunately have missed some of the sights. Marty speaks
Spanish fluently and this is an enormous boon to our efforts. Marty does
the speaking in Spain and I do the talking in France and between the
two of us we do not do all that badly.
The chill of Franco's rule ended in the mid-70's
and Spain's isolation from the rest of Europe went with him. Today, Spanish
society is exuberant, modern and forward looking. The nightlife is unbelievable
- starting at 8 P.M. or so and lasting literally until dawn. The "chic" do
not go out dancing before 1 A.M. and if you arrived at a dance club at
midnight you would be one of the first people in the place.
Spain is somewhat physically isolated from
the rest of Europe. It is a bit out of the way and when the train enters
from France it is necessary to switch trains because the tracks are of
a wider gauge in Spain than in the rest of Europe. But since the end
of Franco, Spain has more or less joined the world with democratic elections
and membership in the EC and NATO. The trains pretty much suck, the standard
of living is a little lower but things also cost less (which is nice)
and it is not bad. In the Geib family tradition, I have read much about
Spanish history in the time of the tragic Civil War (1936-1939) which
was my father's senior thesis at Harvard. So far, I have not seen one
sign from the war, monument or otherwise.
Marty and I like Barcelona so much we had
trouble leaving, staying a day longer than we had planned. The area is
semi-arid, and brown like Southern Italy and Southern California. There
are more than a few similarities to Italy: laundry hanging everywhere,
dark skinned peoples, gypsies, run down buildings, poverty. Although
it is said that Catholicism is strong, so far thankfully it is not so
much in evidence as in Italy. The Spanish youth, especially, seem to
be free from the deadening hand of traditionalism and superstition. Their
ebullient spirit reminds me of the youth of Ireland. Although, admittedly
I only visit the big cities it seems as if it is possible to obtain a
glimpse at the national mood. Spain is clearly on the periphery of Europe
and what it lacks in super-sophistication and high-gloss polish it more
than makes up for in energy.
Barcelona is clearly a city with a bright
future. Construction for the Olympics is underway everywhere, and the
world will turn it's attention towards Barcelona next summer for the
Olympic games. Barcelona is the premier city off Catalonia. Catalonia
has a distinct culture and language which was suppressed by Franco but
which now flourishes. Catalan seems to be a mixture of French and Spanish.
Barcelona has a little bit of an attitude; politically independent and "sophisticated" and
culturally thinking of themselves as more "refined" and "European" than
the rest of Spain. Barcelona was an anarchist/Republican haven during
the war and I enjoyed seeing the actual streets described by Orwell in
the Republican infighting in Homage to Catalonia. Barcelona is still
a little rebellious and there is an extremist element desirous of Catalonian
succession from Spain. Barcelona is supposedly politically "savvy," ie.
We are trying to move into the Spanish hours.
This means late, late nights supplemented by long siestas. Dinner at
10 P.M. followed by a drink at midnight and then dancing until dawn.
The discos rage all night with intensity and it is a enthusiastic crowd.
There are also some of the geekiest, hick-like guys. They totally remind
me of the "swinging Czechoslovakian brothers" on Saturday Night Live.
Not like I am a great dancer or anything but these guys are comically
spastic and crudely aggressive (like Italian men) to boot. The music
was uneven to a strange degree ranging from cutting edge dance music
to AC/DC and The Ramones (?!?). A lot of the dance music was eminently
It seems Spain emerged from the stupor of
Franco with enormous pent up energies. There is an element of this which
finds an expression in vice - pornography everywhere, prostitution, etc.
But I have been told that things are settling down. There is a rough
element to Spain and it seems that the streets here are a little more
dangerous than in the other parts of Europe. Barcelona, is a port city,
and there are some areas in the Gotti Barri area (the old section of
town) that are dark and dangerous. Marty observed an old man get mugged
Our first night here, Marty met a Spanish couple - Ramiro and Carmen
- in "The Cafe Zurich" on the Ramblas and we soon became fast friends.
We spent the next three nights partying together and were shown all the
local bars and clubs. Most interesting, we visited many hidden away wine
cellar style sangria bars with everyhting consisting of old, dark wood.
I was able to get a lot of first hand information about gypsies, the
Civil War, traditonal vs. modern struggle, Spanish language. Ramiro is
from Venezuela and while Carmen is a local they both work at the Hilton
Hotel in Barcelona. Carmen has lived in Los Angeles and speaks excellent
English while Ramiro is actively taking English classes. In fact, when
we first met him he had his English books with him and had just finished
class. Still, with Marty and them much of the conversation is in Spanish.
We are busy teaching Ramiro some of the more important English slang
words, in particular those concerned with making obscene drinking toasts.
Ramiro is a heavy metal music fan and is consequently learning English
via the polished English of Metallica.
We did not see many of the sites in Barcelona
because we slept almost all day. However, we did see the Montjuic area
where the Olympics will be held as well as the beautiful gardens and
castle located there. We lived and spent most of our time in the Ramblas
and Goti Barri area. The narrow old streets are enchanting and one gets
a feel for the history of Spain. There is also a lot of crime in the
area, even violent crime, and that is something that I have not really
felt in Europe yet. It reminds me of Los Angeles. We also saw an old
lady being tended to by paramedics after being mugged and falling down.
The Spanish women are absolutely beautiful
and fun to be with. They are not as dark as the Latin Americans but have
a sallow skin with often blond or even red hair. They resemble Italian
women but are slimmer in their features. I am completely captivated.
One night at a disco, I met a Spanish women who was the very definition
of Spanish beauty: brilliant black hair, pale skin, dramatic features.
Her English was extremely poor as is my Spanish so we spoke in French,
which sets the perfect mood for romantic conversation. She was a goddess
and we got along quite well both verbally and physically. We made a date
to meet again the next night but, alas, she never showed up.
One night we hung out with some American
girls and the difference between them and the Spanish girls we were with
later was both obvious and immense. After the Spanish, they seem so self-conscious,
and I had the same feeling as I did on the beaches of Southern France.
I was almost ashamed for them. American women are high maintenance.
For awhile, Marty and I were planning a trip
to Tangier, Morocco and Gibraltar. I was excited to go to a Muslim country
and to see a really different country and society. But, the ferry costs
and the time involved proved prohibitive.
It has turned out that, while fluent in Spanish,
Marty still has trouble understanding the dialect here in Spain. Still,
I am sure that Marty's Spanish gets us better service in restaurants
and pensions. Furthermore, Spanish people talk about us thinking that
the dumb Americans do not understand what they are talking about. Marty
caught some women at a pastry store discussing in our presence how they
liked my face or Marty's body, or vice versa, he was not sure. People
are most candid in these situations, I have noticed - rating your looks,
strange and colorful athletic shoes, Americaness, etc. I stand out here
with my relatively fair features and height and Marty, as a black man,
is a virtual novelty. Sometimes I am amused by people looking at Marty
and I like we were from Mars. Other times, it grates on me. Especially,
when someone is making a joke at your expense and you already feel out
of place. Giggly school girls can be especially humiliating.
When I first arrived in Europe I was defensive
about being American and I tried to keep a low profile and blend in as
much as I could. I now realize that is nigh impossible and now I act
less self-consciously and try to enjoy myself in a discreet manner. And
if someone has a problem with me simply because I am a tourist or an
American, well, they can go fuck themselves.
October 20, 1991
We have been in Madrid for two days and three
nights. Madrid is much more crowded than Barcelona. There is an element
of harshness to Madrid that is lacking in the more "European" Barcelona.
I also feel as if I am more truly in Spain now. Even with my limited
Spanish, I can understand the billboards and street signs better now
that the confusing Catalan is gone. The people are also more ebullient
and have darker skin more akin to what one would see in Mexico. Everywhere
there are throngs of people, cars - all assaulting the senses. Also,
the buildings are all somewhat older and decaying. Madrid has the feel
and size of the capital city of a nation where Barcelona does not. Madrid
has some boulevards with palaces, museums and parks which confers upon
it a grandeur similar to that of Paris. And this is Madrid at its best.
But Madrid reminds me more than a little of New York and there are some
truly shitty areas and violent crime and drugs. In my opinion, it is
the frenetic pace which gives Madrid it's cruel feel and I suspect that
Madrid would be an unforgiving place in which to live. Still, I feel
more now like I am in the dramatic Spain of Hemingway.
We witnessed a street demonstration against
drugs, abortion, crime, etc. There still seems to be a very conservative
element to this country. The political divisions of the Civil War also
seem to exist to some degree. The "Salamanca" area is still the most "facha" (fascist)
area. The Cafe Commercial (where we had a beer) was the old hangout of
Republican aviators and soldiers during the war which Hemingway used
to visit. During the dictatorship there used to be anti-Franco demonstrations
there and today it still has that leftist bent and is filled with the
progressive and artistic pseudo-intellectual crowd. At first glance,
the Spanish authors, painters and other artists in this cafe seemed just
as affected, pretentious and vain as they are in other countries. There
were many gorgeous women in this stylistic and avante garde crowd. I
fell in love at least a handful of times.
Madrid's nightlife is absolutely crazy. The
areas with bars are simply overun with partyers and the multitudes overflow
from the clubs out into the street. The average age of these people is
young, though, around 19 or 20 years of age, I guess. I think that is
because people start partying at an early age here and then also grow
out of that stage earlier. I met people my own age, but they went out
dancing and drinking infrequently and were more specialized in where
they went. Like in Barcelona, the party starts around 10 or 11 P.M. with
a beer in a bar followed a couple hours later by dancing until dawn and
then a snack before home and finally sleep. The scene is quirky and fun
if not as polished and slick as elsewhere. The Spanish get a solid "A" for
effort and finesse.
Marty and I had dinner with a pair of American
girls from Kentucky and Alabama respectively. The meal was an excellent
garlic chicken and the girls made good conversation. Spanish food is
tasty, if a bit salty, garlicky and fried. We ate directly across from
the Palace Real in a homely family run restaurant. Comic relief was provided
by a little girl who, in response to friendly waves or smiles, would
flip you the bird. I laughed so hard that I almost choked on a chicken
I thought that we had done about enough partying
for one trip in Barcelona and I did not dress up or anything; I figured
maybe two beers and goodnight. Wrong. We met another two American girls
at a bar and drank beer and conversed until 3 A.M. Next, we followed
a group of Spanish girls to some random tiny disco that was thankfully
devoid of Americans but still played almost exclusively American 50's
music. It was sort of amusing and quaint and I pulled out my best Fonzie
impression with my leather jacket and improvisational coolness. It seems "Grease" and
50's culture is very popular with the Spanish. This disco callously closed
at 5 A.M. and we piled into someone's tiny car with four other people
and drove to another disco, "Revolver," which was heavy metal in theme.
It is hard to believe but there were people in line and paying U.S. $10
cover charge to get into this place at 5:45 A.M!
I was thoroughly enjoying myself with this
American girl named Elizabeth who was studying in Madrid and hailed from
Conneticutt. We had a good talk and she confided in me some of her family
problems. We danced the whole night and it was only because of her that
I was able to gain entrance to this late night disco and we did not even
have to pay the cover charge (these kind of places always concerned with
keeping many available women in the place)! Everything was going my way:
fun dancing, cool hangouts in Madrid, a beautiful young women on my arm.
Yes, life could be worse! We danced and did other things until 7:30 A.M.
at which time we were both drenched with sweat and permeated with the
smell of cigarette smoke. Marty had been busy striking out bitterly with
another American and he sulking in the corner he prompted us to leave
and to give in to utter exhaustion. When we ascended from the disco upto
the street, it was past dawn and painfully bright outside. I walked Elizabeth
home, and Marty and I made it home by 8 A.M. and collapsed into our beds,
not to be seen again until 5 the next evening. I feel pleasantly fatigued
from the previous night's exertion and am thoroughly relaxed in my travels.
This is in direct contrast to my semi-desperate frantic traveling when
I first arrived in Europe. I was always nervous and stressed out and
Money is getting to be tight, but Spain is
relatively cheap and uncomplicated for the budget traveler. Blessedly,
accomodatiions are commonplace in the form of cheap pensions. The benefits
of not having to scrounge and search high and low for a place to stay
cannot be stressed enough. We have had excellent sit down meals in Spain
for about U.S. $10 a person. Although the Spanish trains usually suck,
with planning we have been able to take the modern "Talgo" trains. Couchettes
in Spain are either outrageously expensive or non-existent and therefore
our trip from Granada to Geneva (around a day and a half) with two brief
stops and no bed. It could get real ugly.
I enjoyed the famous "Prado" museum in Madrid.
I have since developed an interest in the life and art of Goya, whose
paintings feature so prominently in the Prado. It is an interesting transition
in his art from pleasant themes to the gloomy and dark themes of his
later works. I especially liked the "Execution of the Rioters" and "Saturn
Devouring His Son." Commissioned to paint an aristocrat's wife, Goya
ended up seducing her and painted two different portraits of her, one
naked and one clothed. Goya kept the first and delivered to the aristocrat
Seeing Picasso's "Guerrnica" was somewhat
anti-climactic. The piece of art has always been important to me and
has hung on my wall for over two years. But here in Madrid, it is more
of a political statement than anything else. Picasso wanted the painting
absent from Spain until democracy returned and it arrived from it's long
exile in New York in 1981 and now has a whole building to itself. The
piece is still so controversial that one has to pass through a metal
detector and bomb-proof glass surrounds the huge mural. The other rooms
in the building show early sketches of the work in progress.
For some reason, I enjoyed the Prado more
than other similar museums, such as the Louvre or British museum. Perhaps
because it was more modest and manageable.
There is a huge university in Madrid and
here in "University City" it is hard to walk one block without encountering
a group of students strolling amiably by arm in arm. There is a rediculously
large number of students who live in this area.
Marty has been shut down brutally in terms
of romantic liaisons and is sullenly nursing a bruised ego. His latest
attempt was with a teenage popcorn vendor positioned outside our pension
whom he was going to walk home with after her shift ended. He was not
gone ten minutes on this latest attempt before he was back in our room,
morosely announcing rejection. Now he wants to immediately speed all
the way to Zurich for the sole reason of following up his earlier contact
with that San Diegan woman we met briefly in Nice. I am thinking this
reeks of desperation and that never has one been willing to travel so
far on so little encouragement for the sake of female contact. Hopefully,
I can persuade him to go to Andalucia and not waste the little time we
have remaining here.
23 October, 1991
We have been in Granada for two days and
are preparing for the 30 hour train ride from Granada to Geneva. This
trip would be bad enough under normal conditions but I have a cold as
well! In three days, I will be back in Southern California. I keep reminding
myself of this fact during the long, long train rides and final flight
from Frankfurt to Los Angeles. I miss home.
Granada is in the south of Spain, near the
Mediterranean Sea. This area is referred to as Andalucia and has a separate
cultural identity. The area has a string Muslim influence from the long
years of Moorish rule. The area is poorer and the bull fights and flamenco
are important. The difference between Northern and Southern Spain is
a bit analogous to that of Italy. The landscape is arid and hilly and
reminds me of the American West. Indeed, a couple of western cowboy movies
have been filmed in Andalucia.
Granada was the last great city of the Moors
before Spain was totally Christianized. When the Catholics retook the
city in 1492 they burned almost everything Moorish to the ground. However,
today the "Alhambra" survives resplendent as a testament to the skill
and beauty of Moorish architecture and it is quite a treasure. Perched
on a hill above Granada, the Alhambra is a collection of battlements,
lush gardens and beautiful palaces. Most of it is traditional Muslim
architecture and is unique to me on this trip. The change is welcome
since I have seen so much traditional "western" architecture and so little
else. The whole structure is a kind of adobe red with ornate Arabic writing
carved into the buildings everywhere. The use of running water is especially
clever and consists of efficient little streams running down little gutters
in the railings and stairs. The gardens are huge, fecund, and perfectly
manicured. The whole structure is a masterpiece. We visited the Arab
quarter of the town on the hill opposite the Alhambra and although it
was outwardly Spanish, one could see the Muslim influence in terms of
the architecture and the layout of the streets. This will be as close
as I will get to any kind of Islamic culture as I will get on this trip.
To me, it was worth traveling so far south, even if I am sick as a dog.
It is good to get this far south in Spain,
Marty's bitching notwithstanding. The towns are smaller, and even to
me, the Spanish sounds, smells, and foods are different. There is definitely
more color to the people - with all the Jews, Moors, Gypsies, etc. We
got excellent accommodations for a very reasonable price and our hotel
even had a coke machine that would shout "Gracias!" at you after a purchase.