About that cup of coffee... just the smell would return some strength to my stretched-to-the-breaking-point, taught, internal string I mentioned earlier. Hot, bitter, black, caffinated goodness. There is a running dialogue between some friends and I that coffee is basically the nectar of the gods.
Upon finding a novel while hiking, Bill Bryson (in his book "A walk in the woods") was delighted and sublimely gratified saying, "if there is one thing the (Appalachian Train) teaches, it is low-level ecstasy -- something we could all do with more of in our lives." I always try to enjoy the little things in life myself, not always with success. When travelling with a backpack, it is exponentially easier to enjoy such things. When before these moments are taken in with a quick good feeling and a smile or missed all together, you now grasp them with an embrace like a bear hug... I mean you run up to it like you are finishing a marathon, collapse at the line and almost break into tears you are so full of joy.
We found ourselves, out of the drizzling rain, at a coffee shop, ordered the largest grande cup of coffee, and sunk into beautifully cushy lounge chairs on the second floor. I mean, I ran ran up to that finish line and collapsed into that chair. Having a cup of coffee and sitting in that soft armchair was indescribable, just an overload of the comfort senses. How can you reach this level of ecstasy during the daily grind? Not sure if you can.
On top of our extreem enjoyment, we met a man from Seattle also enjoying a cup of coffee (starbucks, how ironic). We had no plan or intention other than to do some serious marinating in those chairs for a long period of time (it had already been a chunk of time). However, unknown to us at the time, we were about to begin an enjoyable long day.
Joel, our new english speaking friend (if you speak english in a foreign land, you are automatically befriended), is a world traveller and free lance writer who was laid over in Madrid on his way to India. We were contemplating things to do for the next twelve hours until our train left for Bilbao and decided to see a museum that Joel had visited some years back.
The Museo del Prado, among the thousands of art pieces, has a room containing the "Garden of Earthly Delights" painted by Bosch and several works by Patinir that are just as impressive. I stood and took in Bosch´s work for more than 20 minutes in awe of the complexity and imagination it must have taken to create such a painting. The Flemmish painters room alone was worth the admission. I could have been there for several more hours if I didn´t finally give in to the physical demands from the knees down and the rumbling in my stomach.
Our trio proceeded to chat about everything from photography and art to politics to travel while we sought a place to have a late lunch. After lunch we decided to visit the M.C. Escher special exibit which happened to be in town. By metro and foot, my feet still more or less in shambles and legs on the verge of cramping, we found the exibit.
Escher has been a favorite artist of mine for a while, his trendy works used to hang in poster form on my old apartment walls. Seeing the progression of his work in its entirety was mind boggling. You stare at them utterly amazed. Each one a perfect presentation of lines and contrast, most of them in simple black and white. It is beyond comprehesion how someone could create art like he does. As he progressed with his form, his works play tricks on your mind. You stare as long as you can while he holds you captive making you walk a wire between elation and losing your mind. You just cannot make the leap to understanding but are fascinated.
Some art is considered by art critics to be great. I can appreciate this and most art in some way. Between the Flemmish room in Prado and the Escher exibit, I was completely captivated and in awe. I forgot for a few gracious moments how little sleep I was running on... how my boots had not been off my feet in the better part of two days... how I still had to get back on the train that night... I have no words to describe how amazing those art works for me, they enticed my imagination and mind.
Madrid was a great stop. Starting out as a wreck, pulling the pieces together (the mind is a powerfull thing... thanks also to the coffee), meeting a new friend that shares the wanderlust, enjoying interesting conversation, seeing two art exibits that now top my list, and getting on the next train to Bilbao-- all in less than a day. Some days are just better than others.