My final days in Madrid were spent in the studio, figuring out how to pack up and ship my artwork back home, and completing visits to the Prado and Reina Sofia museums as well as the Palacio Real and the Catedral de la Almudena.
When I studied abroad at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas-ICADE ten years ago, I took an art history class that was held most of the time in the Prado, so I feel strong nostalgia not only for the artwork inside but also for the rooms and building itself. The Prado has a shocking amount of masterpieces for the size of the collection. It's always interesting to me how even when I've seen the pieces in person as well as via reproduction, I'm still hit every time I go with how some artists really suffer in reproduction while others are assisted by it. A guard stopped me fairly early on and pointed out that on my guide it says in a tiny icon on the back that no photos are allowed, so unfortunately you won't get to see any of my own photos of Bosch's salon, or Velazquez's Bufones series, but I actually wasn't warned at the very beginning so I can share a couple images with you!
The Reina Sofia allows photos in all its exhibitions except the "Pity and Terror - The Path to Guernica" Picasso retrospective. Though I respect its historical and artistic significance, I don't really emotionally connect with Picasso as much as other artists and pieces in the Reina Sofia anyway - I am, for instance, somehow always surprised by the engrossing, varied details and the meticulous brushwork of Dalí. There were also a large number of temporary exhibitions featuring a range of artists including several contemporary ones.
No photos were allowed in the interior of the palace, but the Palacio Real is a really interesting space - on the one hand, the wallpapers, stucco decorations, and much of the decor is over-the-top and stands up to modernity just fine; on the other, some parts have suffered more than others. The ballroom/dining hall floor has seen better days, and some of the furniture seemed worn and small - in fact, so did a few of the rooms. Overall, though, the effect is pretty regal particularly when focusing on the Salon Gasparini or the Throne Room.
The Catedral de la Almudena is right next door to the Palacio Real, and though the interior of the cathedral is nice, my favorite part (where no photos are allowed to preserve the holy atmosphere) is the Capilla del Santísimo which is inlaid in mosaic tile by artist and Father Marko Ivan Rupnik.
My flights back home were great - though American Airlines had in their infinite wisdom chosen to use a plane with no personalized in-flight entertainment on the cross-Atlantic trip over, they did use a super teched-out plane on the return voyage. The windows tinted and untinted electronically, and the personal monitors in the seat backs had the most complex navigational information system I've seen as well as a surfeit of television and movie selections. I unfortunately didn't manage to get an aisle seat, though, which my knees really felt, but I did get asked to move from my middle seat to a window seat across the plane and happily complied so I could at least not be penned in on both sides by people. Plus my new seat neighbor was a nice guy. I was fairly worried the whole day as my connection in Dallas Fort Worth was only two hours, which is cutting it really close, but fortunately everything - passport control, baggage claim, customs, security - went smoothly and decently quickly and I made my next flight on time. That plane also had personalized in-flight entertainment, weirdly enough, as it's quite atypical on such short domestic trips. American Airlines, I do not understand you. Please to have personalized in-flight entertainment on all the longest trips first and then if you can on the rest it would be a nice perk.
I landed, my luggage came out in order, and my amazing colleague Susan came and picked me up! I am home!