Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A little bit of heaven in Madrid

A "mistifying" fan on a hot afternoon in Madrid.

Today was a tourist day - or rather an "explore the city" day since I am not officially on holiday here. It began with a visit to the underground station at Chamberi that is now a museum. It was closed in 1966 when the platform could not be extended - due to the curve of the track. We spend far too long trying to locate the entrance which turned out to be a modern glass structure on the street corner that I have seen many times before and not known what it was! How easy it is to wander around a city and not actually see things!

The station is worth a quick visit as it really is a time-capsule from another era. I loved the utilitarian look of the ticket office with its white ceramic tiles. The strange thing about this station is that the modern day trains still rush by behind glass barriers. The passengers are unaware of our presence on the dimly lit platforms.

The platforms are adorned with stunning, colourful tiles that make up advertisements for a range of products and services, the most notable being Gal which appears at the end of each platform. The typography for each advert is either cast into the tiles which suggests to me that the adverts would have been set into the walls of all the stations on the line or hand painted by real craftsmen. As a film enthusiast, I enjoyed the black and white films that were playing out on the opposite platform to a musical soundtrack. Every time a modern train passed by, the images of people and places from the 1900s were caught for seconds on their sides.

After tapas in a stylish restaurant called Santa Barbara, it was time for some more exploring. I headed off in the blazing sunshine to the Circulo de bellas artes where I found my idea of heaven. I sat in a whicker chair on the terrace by a fan that sprayed a fine mist of water on grateful customers. I sipped a milkshake for far too long and then enjoyed a leisurely diet coke (ironically served with peanuts) and managed to stay here for at least 90 minutes. What a great place to people watch! To update Facebook on my phone. To draft my CV. To write down all my phone numbers in a book in case I lose my mobile again. OK it is not the cheapest place for a drink but it was worth every euro!

I visited a couple of the photographic displays and really enjoyed the work of Patrick Faigenbaum, a German photographer who is known for his portraiture and particularly for his black and white tableaux of Italian aristocracy. I really loved his work and could see instantly that he was once a painter. I also enjoyed his still life images of fruit, especially that of lemons on a dark background.

There was a strange exhibition focusing on the production, consumption and recycling of products. The best bit was crunching around on the polystyrene packaging chips on the floor that swirled like snow.

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