I’m already missing breakfast in Spain but our first day back was so beautiful I think I’ll get over it. We made it back in time for Fall’s peak and still have not had a frost so we raided the garden and brought back tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale and some bok choy.
Our dentist had called while we were gone and we thought it must be the bill owed but when I returned the call the receptionist told me they had found my jack knife down in the seat.
We emptied our back packs and strapped them on again to walk up to Wegmans. In the process we saw most of our neighbors. We were happy to hear Jared’s cancer treatment is not getting the best of him. Jerry at the other end had a bad cold but he had a lot of wood for us, stuff a tree surgeon took down in his backyard while we were gone. The stray cat Rick and Monica took in had kittens so we stopped in to look. We learned both of them had tick bites while we were gone and Rick’s tested positive for Lyme. Phil and Nancy saw us coming back with our backpacks full and asked if we were walking home from Spain.
Rick and I played a couple of rounds of horseshoes before dark. Netflix had delivered Buñuel’s “The Phantom of Liberty” so we’ll take that for a spin tonight.
It was a nice night when we arrived in New York, pretty much the same temperature as Madrid but it felt different. There was a crazy man shouting at an invisible adversary as we waited for the subway. On the F we sat across from a Russian couple. We were reminded why we thought Portuguese sounded like Russian.
Duane had the table set when arrived in Brooklyn, some French wine and a hearty vegetable bean stew. Rochester’s Wegman’s had just opened their first store in New York and the press was making a big deal about that.
The day had gone on forever. Spain went off daylight savings during our last night so we added an hour there and gained five more crossing the Atlantic. We were telling Duane about Antonio Saura’s painting of his sister-in-common law, Geraldine Chaplin, when Peggi started nodding off.
We looked at Duane’s Robert Frank books in the morning. Found pictures of Delphine Seyrig and Alice Neel in Pull My Daisy. Still connecting the dots. Duane made some killer cereal from dried fruit, brown rice, almond milk and a mixture of exotic seeds.
Fall’s foliage was at peak as we rode north along the Hudson. Always a dreamy trip and opportunity to reflect.
20 Euros for a month’s cellular usage seems like a good deal. We swapped the AT&T chips in Peggi’s phone and my iPad for a Vodafone chip when we landed in Lisbon and we used them through Portugal and Spain with a few gigabytes to spare. Why does the same service cost so much in the States?
We stuck our credit card in two ATM machines while we were in Europe. Some of the funkier places only take cash so we need a few Euros. Everywhere else I used my watch to pay for everything from coffee, bus fair to hotel rooms. I held it up to vending machines. Apple Pay is excepted everywhere. Why is this not the case in the states?
I weigh 69 kilograms in Europe. Weights and measurements here are in metrics like the rest of the world. Would it be too hard for the US to get with the program?
High speed trains are clean, affordable and they run on time. They have good food and good coffee in the bar car. There are copies of the days paper there to share just like in every other café. This place is so civilized! Trump talked about fixing the crumbling US infrastructure. He’s full of shit. It was nice to be away from him for a while.
We told Margarita at Antonio Machón that we would report back after visiting the Museo de Arte Abstracto in Cuenca, a museum that features many of the artists she represents. It was her suggestion to take the train there and our report was glowing but Peggi had to do all the talking. We told Margarita that we had also seen some dramatic Antonio Saura work at the Reina Sofia where they had reconstructed a show from Spain’s Transition. That got her going.
She told us every step the Reina Sofia takes is political. Political with the bottom line in view. It was her opinion that the Transition is overrated. It was not a dramatic shift but one that built slowly while Franco was still in power. She says the Spanish people were not so repressed under Franco. Almodovar was dressing like a women, Saura was painting wicked portraits of Franco while he was alive. In fact, she argues, Franco’s death and the Transition made artists lazy.
One day after watching Antonio Mercero‘s movie of Franco being sent to his tomb in a telephone booth we watched Franco’s remains get exhumed from Valle de los Caidos on the tv in our hotel in Madrid.
It was a perfect day in Madrid. Blue skies and in the sixties. A perfect day for art shows. We started in the Fundacion Telefonica where we saw an exhibition on the history of online gaming, a much bigger world than imagined. And a virtual reality show devoted to artists. Our favorite room was the one devoted to Paul Delvaux’s painting, “L’appel.” We were inside the paintings, moving around the nude figures and getting ever closer the more we stared. The future is looking pretty good.
We took a break for our mid-day meal and walked to an exhibition of two architects’ work, one Spanish and one Italian, their 1950’s Mediterranean homes, our next domicile.
Yes, this is how we spend our time in Madrid. Una exposición tras otra. A lot of walking, looking and next to nothing for admission.
Our final stop was in the Círculo de Bellas Artes Building where we took in the Carlos Saura photo show. After Buñuel and Almodovar, Saura is the third most revered Spanish film director. Until today we only knew the work of his brother, Antonio. I posted one of his pieces a few days ago. Carlos may be more famous. He lived with Geraldine Chaplin for many years and worked with Buñuel. All roads lead to Buñuel!
We waited until the last minute to make train reservations for the ride to Madrid. Three trains leaving at a reasonable hour were all booked so we set the alarm for 5 AM and took the high speed down here. We had an early dinner at our favorite restaurant and wandered over to the Bellas Artes building to look for a list of art shows.
We were in the midst of a Luis Buñuel binge when we left the states so an item in one of the pamphlets we picked up called out to us. Ángel Exterminador was playing at La Fundacion Academia de Cine at 5 o’clock, one day only. It was thirteen minutes to five and the theater was exactly thirteen minutes away from where we were. Too may confluences. We arrived to two minutes early. We have a better than average walking pace these days. It was a huge screen and the theater was packed. We sat in the second row. With no English subtitles to distract our gaze it played like a visual masterpiece on top of its conceptual brilliance.
Heading out of Tui this morning we saw fresh, long loaves of bread hanging on people’s doorknobs. Another reminder that civilization has not advanced equally in all parts of the world. Tui has some history. The town was here in Christ’s time. The Romans gave it its name and built a wall around it. Because of its location on the river and on the border it was a place of continuous fighting in the Middle Ages. The medieval Cathedral of the Assumption was built in the highest spot in town in the twelfth century.
We can’t get away from Trump. He has infected the whole world. We were having our main meal this afternoon in Porriño and the tv was on in the dining room. They were playing the cartoon video showing Trump shooting up the fake media. We were kinda hoping he would just go away while we were here.
Before falling asleep we watched the second half of Portugal vs. Ukraine in the UEFA EURO Qualifiers. Ronaldo scored once in the second but it was not enough to defeat Ukraine.
We left the coast this morning and headed inland along the banks of the Rio Miño. Spain was just across the River all day and after twenty one miles we crossed at Valeça and entered Spain. We simply walked across the bridge. No one checked our papers or searched our backpacks.
The route from the coast to the Caminho Central has recently been improved so instead of winding through small towns we walked along the river for miles on what looked like porous concrete, a fairly comfortable surface. They called it the Ecopista. A German trio we passed thought it was boring.
We found it beautiful, something like the train ride down the Hudson. It was supposed to rain all day but never did. Instead it was grey with low hanging clouds. The wildflowers looked especially pretty. Chestnuts, still in their porcupine like protective shells, covered the sidewalk. We passed two women foraging for mushrooms and a couple of hunters maybe looking for rabbits. The fish were literally jumping although we never saw them. We just heard the big splash.
A local woman was walking the Ecopista with a small transistor radio in one hand, the antennae fully extended. Two couples were having a picnic under a makeshift tent. We stopped at a bar and sat outside next a big group gathered around the table next to ours where a foursome was playing cards.
How can Wisteria be in bloom in October? They have palm trees here and cactus and we’ve seen new rows of lettuce just coming up in people’s gardens. Galicia must have some sort of magical Celtic microclimate.
It felt like cheating when we rode the funicular to the top of the hill in Viana do Castelo. We are splurging and staying up here, just off the Camino, and will ride back down tomorrow to pick up our walk right where we left off, near Praça da República.
We stopped at a farmácia to pick up some Compeed for Peggi’s blisters and then a bottle of wine from a grocery store. Those two things go good together. We have found we like the wine from Portugal’s Douro region, the north. It’s dry and full bodied like Riojas in Spain.
We had cabbage soup, a regional specialty very similar to Caldo Gallego in Galicia which is just over the border above us, and grilled octopus. Hey, we’re right on the ocean. Tomorrow is another long walk, 26.8 kilometers and something they call “medium difficulty.” But that’s why we are here. If it was easy everybody would be doing it.
Café Majestic, looking like whatever the Portuguese version of art nouveau is, had a long line out front so we walked on by. Livraria Lello, said to be the the most beautiful bookshop in the the world cost 5.50 euros just to get, some sort of voucher to be fair, so we just looked in the door. In both Lisbon and Porto we found ourselves walking well out of the tourist areas where we found the most satisfaction. It was German Unification Day so a lot of Germans took extended weekends. And there nightmarishly large cruise ships just offshore in Lisbon. Porto is a lot more laid back and comfortable.
We found the coolest record shop, an “analógico” (analog) shop that appeared to be doing most of its business online. They could afford to have the most esoteric collection of art books, two on Buffalo’s Tony Conrad, artfully laid out in the small shop. Vinyl racks with Krautrock, Spiritual Jazz (Alice Coltrane, Don Cherry and Sun Ra) and ESG in the Disco section.
We must have stopped in five or so churches, everything from the over the top dusty Rococo church of Sao Francisco to an active parishes with parishioners in the pews. We found a articos religiosos store, Casa do Coracao de Jesus, and picked out twenty holy cards, four euros worth, all printed in Portugal. The shop owner gave Peggi a tiny silver statue of Santo Onofre, the patron saint of money. He instructed her to put it at the very bottom of her purse.
We took an fashioned train, our car had green curtains and the bathroom had a foot pedal to pump for water, from Lisbon to Porto. From here on our journey will be by foot but first we’ll kick back in Porto.
I started reading Sonya Livingston’s new book, The Virgin of Prince Street, on the train and found it to be the perfect companion for our pilgrimage. An early passage in the book finds the author talking to her husband, Jim Mott, after they attended a service at Jim’s family’s Presbyterian church. “I need a statue of a saint, I joked but we both understood that a statue was shorthand for many things – differences in religious backgrounds, for instance, as well as a certain willingness to deviate from logic where devotion is concerned. Let’s stop at Corpus Christi on the way home.”
And then about her hesitance to use the word “god.“ “The larger problem is that even as a child I never expected words to be even exchanges for the truth.” I was reading about her journey to Montreal to see Brother André’s embalmed heart when we zipped through a small town where they were doing a running of the bulls.
The fire juggler/unicyclist outside our hotel in Porto could not engage a crowd as well our friend, Rick. And the three guys with guitars doing Ghost Riders in the Sky, Ring of Fire and Country Road were nothing to write home about but it is nice to have street performers around.
Last night we found a Spanish restaurant In Lisboa and couldn’t resist. We ordered Tortilla Española, Pimientos Padron and Gambas al ajillo As a warm-up to our grand entry into Spain. Tonight we had soft sheep cheese with honey, Bacalao and an orange, watercress and onion salad along the Douro River. God is good.
We left JFK at 11pm, lost five hours, saw the sun come up and landed in Lisbon in time for a cup of coffee. We picked up SIM cards at Vodafone and clocked ten miles just walking around the city. It was a pretty spaced out first day.
Portuguese is just close enough to Spanish for Peggi to be able to catch the drift of the written word but when spoken it sounds like Russian.
Obrigado is the first word we learned. Thank you if you are a man, Obrigada if you’re a woman. Hello is “ola” and sounds the same as does in Spanish where the “h” is silent.
We avoid the NYS Thruway if can but we never realized that you save money with the E-ZPass until we rode out to Main Street Arts with Pete and Gloria. They told us they use it all the way down to Florida. We velcroed the clunky plastic thing to our windshield and waited for an opportunity to use it.
Last time we travelled by air we almost missed our connection waiting in a long customs line in the International terminal. And while we were nervously waiting we couldn’t help noticing that some people just waltzed through. Was it Nexus or Global Entry? We signed up for that too. It took us months to get approved and once we were, we made an appointment to pick up the pass at the Whirlpool Bridge Nexus office in Niagara Falls, just five minutes from my aunt and uncle’s house.
We left a day early and stayed overnight in Buffalo. Our first experience with the E-ZPass had us waiting in a line to use it while people in the cash line zipped right through.
The Albright Knox was between shows but that only allows their stellar permanent collection to shine. Choice Seymour Knox picks like Brancusi, Guston and Mark Rothko. We brought our walking shoes and had an IPA at the Big Ditch Brewery and then dinner on the patio at Tempo on Delaware.
We started the morning with a latte at the Rowhouse and then drove north to Niagara Falls where we stumbled on the Prophet Isaiah’s Second Coming House on Ontario Avenue. The door slowly opened as I was taking this picture and a man invited us in but I was still trying to figure what what we were looking at.
My aunt made brownies and we had those at the table while we told family stories. I mentioned we had seen the Second Coming House and my uncle told us he grew up just three blocks from the house.
We missed the opening of our nephew’s restaurant in Miami. It was in the middle of Jazz Fest and World Cup so we made tentative plans to visit in the Fall when the hurricane season is over. Today we firmed up those plans when Peggi’s sister called and suggested meeting there over Thanksgiving weekend.
We took the call while walking through the park. Peggi’s sister, who lives in LA, asked if we had any travel plans this summer. We were almost to the beach and the thought of going anywhere this time of year seemed really strange. In LA the weather is pretty much the same all year but the summer can get awfully hot so I guess that would be the time to go somewhere.
Our nephew and his girlfriend call their new restaurant Boia De, Italian for “Oh My.” We are really looking forward to dining there.
We were in the Madrid airport so long I forgot we were in Spain and then we had another cup of coffee. I’ve mentioned the coffee so often in the last months’ posts because it is more significant than you may realize. It is very rare to have anything close to this ritualized experience in the States.
We’re on the street, walking by shops, and looking in the open doors of cafés. We’re a little fussy. We like a café with food on the counter, Tortilla and exotic tapas under the rounded glass case. And the old man bars with holy cards by the cash register are always more interesting than the ones with a contemporary spin. We walk in and immediately say “Buenos Dias.” It is directed to the person behind the bar but also to the room as well. “Dos con leche” does the trick. You are waited on immediately. We like standing at the bar, occasionally sitting if we’ve been walking all day but we’d rather not sit at one of the small tables. You miss all the action.
These people aren’t underage kids, they are professionals. They load the coffee and slam the handle in the espresso machine with gusto. The coffee drips into both cups at once. Our favorite places serve it in a glass, sometimes too hot to handle. The cup or glass is placed on a small saucer along with a packet of sugar and a tiny spoon. We never use the sugar and I’m sure it winds up on the next guy’s plate. The arrangement is placed in front of you and then the hot foamy milk is poured into your cup. You say, “Gracias” and they say “de nada.”
We had no plans for our last full day in Madrid and those are the days that usually work out the best. We had not been to the Prado yet, something we’ve done every time we’ve been here, so that was on our short list. In fact the first time we came to Madrid we rented a car at the airport and drove straight to the Prado. They had a small parking lot out front on the Paseo del Prado which is gone now. We sat in the car until the Museo opened and we went right to the café for coffee. I remember being struck by people smoking inside the museum.
We walked along Recoletos and had coffee in the historic Gran Café Gijón, a long time favorite with Madrid’s literati. There was a Fundación exhibition space nearby with a substantial show called “Redescubriendo El Mediterraneo.” Van Gogh, Cezanne, Braque, Dali, Picasso and Matisse were all there. The loose theme rounded up artists who found ways to reinterpret classical themes in an idyllic setting. Arcadia. Bathers. Heaven on earth.
We went across the street to have a coffee in a glass surrounded café in the park and then wandered further down Recoletos and found yet another Fundación, a show of the great Spanish photographer, Humberto Rivas. We asked the guard at the gallery if he could recommend a restaurant and had dinner nearby. We strolled into Las Letras area and found a bar with the Real Madrid game on. They won but waited til the 82nd minute to put one in.
It is amazing how many good shows we have seen at the Círculo de Bellas Artes. We walked over there this morning, after coffee at the place around the corner, and we were thrilled to find a show about Andrei Tarkovsky’s movie, “El Espejo.” The film portrays a re-occurring dream the director had about growing up. An actress plays his mother and then his real mother appears in the movie. A portion of the film, in Spanish, touches on the horrors of the Franco era so the film is especially important here.
Film clips were projected on a big wall, clips were looped on monitors, sometimes with headphones, other times with the sound in the room and there were lots of extras. His notebooks were under glass cases with still photos, studies for the film. He worked with a photographer before shooting and the photos were displayed here along with contact prints from the movie, and many photos of the making. All exceptional. We must track down a copy of this film when we return.
“La madre lavó cabeza del niño inclinándose hacia él y con un gesto familiar para mi, empezó a estirar su cabello duro y húmedo. En aquel momento, de pronto me sentí tranquilo, y comprendí con claridad que mi madre es inmortal…”
— Andrei Tarkovsky, guión literario de Espejo
In a gallery upstairs, “ Psico Delia,” psychedelic posters from 1962-1972 from the private archive of Zdenek Primus, a Czech/Germán art historian and collector. And in the basement gallery, a delightful show by the architect, Lars Lerup.
And for an extra euro we rode the elevator to the top of the building for a 360 of the city. Madrid is spoiling us.
All Saints day was always a day off when we were growing up. A holy day of obligation, mass was a must. It is a big holiday in Spain. It was loud as hell outside our hotel room at four in the morning when the clubs let out. All the shops were closed today but there was a book fair in the Plaza Mayor. Lots of weighty material, literature, poetry and books on Machado, Lorca, Buñuel and the Spanish heroes, modern day saints, but all in Spanish.
We walked over to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo for a show of Ramón Gómez’s work. A Dada artist, he was forced to flee Franco’s Spain and spent the rest of his life in Argentina. The Museo reconstructed his apartment, reproduced his witty drawings and showed some of his crazy movies.
We asked the gallery workers if there were any festivities in connection with All Saints/All Souls days and they suggested we take a bus to Cementerio de la Ermita de San Isidro where people decorate the graves of their loved ones. Peggi asked how far it was if we walked and they said maybe an hour. She told them we just walked the Camino, we can do that.
The cemetery was alive with people, fresh flowers and candles. The grave stones were covered in crosses and crucifixes and the mausoleums are surrounded by statues. We stumbled onto the tomb of La Argentinita, the famous flamenco dancer, who was forced to leave Spain when Franco took over. In 1943 she presented the flamenco troupe El Café de Chinitas at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, with her own choreography, text by Lorca and scenery by Salvador Dalí.
One grave had a beautiful quote from Aurelio Muñoz Garcia on it. “Nacemos sin traer nada, morimos sin llevar nada, consciente de ello jamás ambicioné ser dueño de nada.” We are born with nothing, we die without taking anything with us, conscious of that, we never strive to be owner of anything.
After a perfect cup of café con leche at the Noche y Dia Café we took a 6:45 bus from Muxía back to Santiago. We had just enough time for a second cup there before boarding a train for Madrid. Traveling southeast, only an hour from Galicia’s lush microclimate, we passed through snow covered mountains along the northern Portugal border. They are big on alternative energy here so the mountain tops were strewn with windmills.
It feels uncomfortably strange not walking. Looking out the window from our train I kept spotting footpaths and wishing I was out there. I miss the smell of the Eucalyptus trees, the cracked open chestnut pods, the fig trees and the giant mushrooms. I miss the cow dung on the stone streets of those small towns and those long lonely stretches in the the mountains. We were lost a few times on the Camino and now I’m lost without it. Where is that next yellow arrow?
For three days now we’ve been walking along the Costa Da Morte, the Coast of Death. We are in Muxía, the end of the unofficial extension of the Camino de Santiago. The locals speak another language here but Spanish gets the job done. Once settled in a hotel we walked out to “Santuario da Virxe da Barca,” a version of the Virgin for fishermen. It was originally a pre-Christian Celtic shrine and sacred spot. If it is possible for a rock to be famous the one above is. The Celtic stones near the church are now said to be remains of the Virgin Mary’s stone boat.
This part of Spain was resistant to conversion to Christianity. It was the pilgrims flocking to Santiago that finally won most of them them over. It is called the Costa da Morte because there have been so many shipwrecks along its treacherous rocky shore. The people of the area still preserve pre-Christian ritual places and pass on the traditional beliefs. Giant pedras de abalar or “oscillating stones” are still sacred locations. There is a local legend that the wind creates wild nightmares.