Saturday 7 March 2009: simplish and elegantesque
I wonder if any artisans of yore - when asked to manufacture something truly hideously tasteless for a monarch's hoard - ever declined, preferring to maintain their dignity and some artistic integrity (though probably also gaining a spot of torture and a little light death) to being paid for shaming themselves and their art? A former colleague once prevaricated to avoid having to paint another colleague's dead dog, presumably for extremely valid reasons of taste and discretion. Sadly there were evidently fewer people with such qualms back when the decorations for the Palacio Real.
Ceramics have evidently been torn between the simple elegance of functionality such as a simple white toilet bowl and the sort of utterly unnecessary nauseating decorative fripperity of the Doulton figurine for hundreds of years. Inside the palace the horrifying tastelessness ranges from the mildly over-enthusiastic fancification of some of the apothecary jars in the apothecary to the non-bathroom-room whose walls are entirely covered in gaudily-coloured glossy ceramic tiles. Luckily the very nature of the room meant that the wall could easily be wiped clean if anyone was driven to be sick over them. Unfortunately the several rooms covered with silk wallpaper featuring ill-thought-out designs of birds and flowers might quite easily be ruined by the tears of those whose despair overcame them upon seeing what so many silkworms had been worked to exhaustion to provide for. Another room was covered in little panels of painted wood of so many different varieties of design that they resembled the cacophonous effect of a wall covered in a collection of different beermats.
The main entrance staircase in the middle of the building was reasonably cleanly-executed with lots of bare stone and only a few over-gilded pillars or over-wrought banisters. Unfortunately someone had got it into their head to attempt to attempt some Michaelangelic Sistine-chapel-style ceiling-painting; maybe it worked a couple of hundred years ago when people were looking up from their on-average-a-couple-of-inches-shorter heights but the proportions were well off and the figures strangely foreshortened like a trompe l'oeil observed at from the wrong place.
The viewable bits only took up about a sixth of the volume of the entire palace including the obscenely large display of armoury. Whilst a large number of suits-of-armour through-the-ages is all very instructive it would be far more instructive if there were companion exhibits demonstrating damage-to-armour-from-contemporary-weaponry through-the-ages; sheet metal might glint nicely in the sun but it would take a good centimetre or so of steel to resist a goodly puncturing by the nasty end of a halberd driven at the sort of speed of which even a horse encumbered by a metallic skirt and ridden by an iron-clad weapon-bedecked caballero would be capable.
The large cathedral-churchy thing directly to the south of the palace was almost restrained in comparison. There were a few people wandering in, doing the north-south-west-east thing and then actually sitting down with their actual head rested on their actually clasped actual hands but it was mostly populated by tourists trying to take pictures without clicking too loudly or standing in the way of the staff who were bustling about with large candles and bits of cloth. There was a nice big organ half-way up the north wall but it wasn't being used. There were also supposed to be some crypts but they appeared to be shut by the time we started looking for them unless they were inside the doorway round the corner which was blocked by a large wedding party.
This evening's foods were provided by Artemisia, listed in the Rough Guide as one of the few veggie places and already walked-past a couple of times. Unfortunately we arrived half an hour before it opened and had to wander round the block a few times (unfortunately going past the Scientologist building more than once) before they let us in. We were sticking to veggie restaurants in case it proved impossible for Nicky to find anything meatless and for me to find anything fishless but it had a few token chickeny dishes on the menu, handy for vegetarians travelling with people who insist on eating meat. They instantly detected which sort of foreign we were and gave us appropriate menus though I'd have preferred the original Spanish menu in order to work out what was what when it arrived and add some things to the dish-translation store. Though we didn't ask for it we were given a plate containing a few slices/splodges of some kind of green paste/jelly/cake substance/objects with a vaguely-recognisable but generally-unknown taste, possibly containing something cheesish and maybe a bit of spinach. No idea what it was but it went nice on bread. One thing puzzling us on the menu was Saitan which we thought might have been some form of proprietary meat-substitute-matter but we didn't find out what it was until tomorrow.