Brussels - Espana!

Hi friends and family,

The next day, after one last visit to the mill, where on the way Don had to fight against sliding off the icy roads, we drove into Brussels and managed to return the van to the correct train station. Stayed overnight in Brussels. Blue sky, but quite cold. It was raining and snowing intermittently and the cobbled and stone-paved streets were slick with ice. I hydroplaned a few times, but managed not to fall, mostly by taking little mincing steps.

Brussels main square.

Went to the BOZAR (where Don and I once had a piece exhibited - Thank you, Randy, who curated us into the show) and saw a Wim Delvoye show. Liked some of his architectural pieces a lot, like the Gothic church below. The stained glass windows are images of body parts, mostly intestines, I think.

Large Gothic cathedral, modelled in vectors.

The BOZAR also had a Cranach exhibition. We didn't see the whole thing. Too religious and dreary, but there were a couple sketchy portraits which were breathtaking.

Almost embarrassed to admit that we once again took a Ryanair flight to Madrid. Don was a little annoyed to be subjected to their drill sergeant-like service, but it was a matter of saving about $500 for a 2 hour flight. Or we could have taken the train for about a thousand dollars. The snow had started as we left Brussels, Charleroi Airport. The plane was delayed as they had to de-ice the wings. (Now we hear they've run out of de-icing fluid. Hopefully, they're getting more.) A flight to Istanbul had been canceled and flights from London were pretty much at a standstill. After landing in mild Spain, we heard that many flights from Northern Europe were cancelled. We got out by the skin of our teeth, it seems.

Now we're in Spain.

Land of tapas.

We arrived at our beautiful, roomy apartment in central Madrid a bit on the late side. We were hungry and I suggested going out. "Are you kidding," said Don, "it's 11:30." I told him, "This is Spain. They eat late here." We went to a tapas bar where we could barely get in the door, it was so crowded. And plenty of people arrived after us. Fabulous food: tiny, salted padrone peppers, fried calamari rings, olives, grilled shrimp. All delish. We left around 1:00 in the morning and the place was still packed - standing room only. We forgot to bring our camera, so these pics were taken the next day.

Also the next day, we went to a great tapas bar/restaurant, Vina P, and got into a conversation with the people at the next table, who insisted we try some of their delicious fish (Merluz, or the less melodious name in English "Hake"). One of their friends, maybe their agent, took a photo of us, unfortunately with blurry results. But they turned out to be famous comedians, who have a tv show in Spain, Los Morancos. Pretty funny cross dressing skits. Their agent probably thought we would be thrilled to have our picture taken with them, but we didn't have a clue who they were until our waiter told us as we were leaving. Just seemed like nice fellows. Los Morancos are on either side of Don and me.

Don pointed out later that one of Los Morancos, the one who was spoon feeding us, had reached across the table and speared his friend's fish, not his own. Probably part of the comedy act. His friend didn't seem to mind. Check out the link below the photo.

Blurry photo of Don and Era with Los Morancos.

Here is a link to a UTube video with a skit all of us women are familiar with, the waiting line for the bathroom:

After dinner, a Spanish guidebook said, it is usual to go to from 1 to 3 bars for after dinner drinks. These people are party animals, extremely social. Animated conversation everywhere.

View of the Temple of Debod, given to the people of Spain in 1968 by the Egyptian government in gratitude to Spain for its assistance in saving the temples of Abu Simbel when the Aswan Dam was built.

In case you were wondering where exactly Era took her less than wise jump, Don has eagerly helped you all to picture the exact place at the back of the reconstructed Temple of Debod in a Madrid park, Parque del Oeste.

(From Don: "I still walk very fast. Era manages to keep up, even with her shorter stride. Only once she asked me to slow down. Apparently, it's good therapy. Her knee is doing better.")

Shortly after this incident, a much more unfortunate incident occurred. We were just finishing up a meal at a Madrid restaurant when a young woman missed her footing at the top of a very steep, long and narrow stairway and tumbled all the way down to the bottom and around the corner to the basement toilets below. We were horrified and almost paralyzed. She started moaning, so she was thankfully still alive. Also thankfully, there was a doctor eating at the restaurant who quickly came to her aid. We stopped by the restaurant two times to inquire about the young lady. The first time we were told she was taken away by ambulance, and the second time we were told that she was okay. Extremely bruised, I'm sure, but she will be fine.

Staying true to my motto of never passing a toilet by without using it, I had shortly before gone down these same steps and they had reminded me of our own former long, narrow, steep and winding stairs (which many of you have probably heard me reference "as if you are traveling down an animal's gullet"), which have now been torn out of our house and will be replaced with something much more beautiful and much safer.

Love and Happy Holidays!

Era and Don