Dad's Memories

- 27 August 98 - 27 August 98

"Bidets to Bullfights"

c - Arthur J. Langdon -1970

013i -- Toulouse to Barcelona to Madrid - "Flamenco Dancers" -- 013i

We flew from Toulouse to Barcelona, then on to Madrid where we checked into the fabulous Plaza Hotel feeling tired and real beat up from the long trip. After a shower and a breather, we signed up for a tour of the royal palace and the museum and found a higher percentage of Americans with us than in any of the other countries we had bin in. It seems that Spain has only recently recognized that the tourist trade can be a profitable business to be in - and they really go all out to pamper the prospects. An immediate observation of Spain's early entry into the field of tourist windfall was that not too many of the natives we came in contact with were able to communicate in English. Our tour guide to the palace and museum was a charming gentleman whose command of Spahish and English resulted is something approximating blurred braille being made audible.

The royal palace in Madrid is really not an imposing structure. It is spacious and had more than two hundred rooms, in a building which appears to be an early application of the use of cement with a large enclosure - possibly intended for the review of troops, etc. The palace tour included most all of that was there, with the exception of the living quarters. After seeing what was permitted, there then remained - what could those living quarters possibly be like?

Each room that we passed through had a completely carpeted floor, each in a different motif, the walls were hung with tapestries of appropriate design to the area where it was hung. The floors would be of mosaic tiles with fewer tapestries and a large number of statues were placed around the room. In almost every case, the ceilings were adorned with murals of great beauty, the general theme seemed to be people floating on clouds looking down on the world they had left.

In each upper corner of the room was some sort of architecture in the nature of either man or woman or child or beast. Since it was extrememly difficult to appreciate the delicate design and workmanship on the high ceilinged rooms, to properly appreciate the artistic efforts and results of the artisans who created them - without eminent danger of dislocating some vertibrea in the neck, I think it is possible that these works were most appreciated by women of the times since they could only be comfortably observed by one in a supine position.

The museum in Madrid is large, well cared for, and to properly evaluate the treasures it contains would take at least a week. Paintings by Goya and other famous Spanish artists are hung in carefully selected areas to bring out their best effect. Our two hour visit was a bare introduction to the collection fo objects of art gathered from the ages. But, even such a short visit was a refreshing and educational experience.

In the evening, we made a night club tour - knowing that the "piece de resistance" would be flamenco dancing. Of all art forms in dance, the one I have least been able to appreciate is flamenco dancing. May I say in starting that the girls in these shows exposed less skin than girls in most other shows covered up. It was flamenco - and only that. After seeing the show, in fact - two of them, I had a dream that could explain the origin of the dance.

In spain they have some very evil trees - so these are sought out, cut down, and machined into boards to form a dance floor approximately twenty feet square. Then, you seek out some nice pure young men who are against evil, have small waists, and strong legs. You outfit these young men in pants that are one size to small, give them comfortable boots, and send then to a blacksmith shop to be properly shod. Then, it is necessary to assemble two guitar players, about six females with calloused hands and good lungs, and one or two men with real calloused hands and supurb lungs. The nice clean cut boys in tight pants with narrow waists and well shod feet are then taught the variations of two quarter time with special emphasis on triplets and how to fit into two quarter time - thirteen, fifteen, and seventeen beats which are generally used as a climax to indicate to the guitar players and the ones with the calloused hands, who beat the rhythm, when to knock off, yell "Ole", and cool their hands off.

OK - so the guitarists start to strum, the hands begin to clap, and the nice clean cut boys with narrow waists and well shod boots go out on the dance floor and kick hell out of it for about ten minutes with only brief rests about every sixty four bars for the accompanying gang to yell "Ole" and cool their hands off. Very impressive - but the evil in the wood sems to be more potent than the efforts of the nice clean cut boys can handle - for as soon as one is finished, another one comes on to try to finish the task.

Madrid, after the other cities we spent a little time in, reminded me of some of the big unwieldy conglomerate companies which have formed themselves back in the states - with some old and well understood divisions mixed in with the newer and less understood aquisitions. It does not have the grace and charm of the well preserved old cities because of the haphazard intersection of the new construction.

Index - Uncle Art & Aunt Clara's trip to Europe - 1970, "Bidets to Bullfights"

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