Saturday, November 25, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

So last night we went to see the 6:35 show of Casino Royale at our favorite first run theater in Madrid, the Yelmo Cineplex Ideal. Even though online transactions are famously inefficient and unreliable in Spain, we decided to buy our tickets via internet because it was opening night. With some trepidation we made our way to the theater to pick up our tickets and were pleased to find that the process had worked. While we waited for them to let us in, we took a romantic twilight walk around the Plaza Mayor.

At about 6:25 we walked back to the Cine Ideal and grabbed our seats. A went to buy some popcorn to go with the Rolos we had smuggled in. And as the opening advertisements were screening, guess who came in and sat in front of us? You won't believe it, faithful readers, but it was none other than Pedro Almodóvar. You know, the superstar Spanish director. (One of the advertisements before the movie was for Antonio Banderas's new film, and we couldn't help but look at the side of Pedro's head and wonder what he must have been thinking about his former star who was now making his directorial debut.)

So we saw Casino Royale through the filter of Almodóvar's spikey hair and we loved every minute of it. The film, that is. It's really good. Director Martin Campbell has infused the Bond series with a new seriousness and authenticity that was lacking before, even though he does not forgo the occasional joke about the Bond persona. And Daniel Craig is so handsome!

We were also satisfied to know that Pedro employs the same strategy that we do when it comes to using the bathroom during a movie. He waits until the sappy love stuff comes on. So when Bond is comforting Vesper in the shower and sucking on her fingers, Pedro bee-lined it to the loo. We would have done the same if we weren't totally dehydrated from all the popcorn we had eaten. Seriously, I believe we are both still thirsty.

The world's greatest living film director, Pedro Almodóvar. This is roughly how he appeared to us at the Cine Ideal, only he was wearing jeans and a black jacket.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Scenes from a Madrid Tour

J came to town for a visit this weekend. After a horrible descent into budget airline hell, she finally arrived 4 hours late. Ryan Air was the culprit, along with some of that pesky Venetian fog. Thus, we did not see her until Saturday morning.

J was our first visitor. In the following blog, you will see just how much fun we have here at amagomundi, especially when we have nice guests.

On Saturday morning A met J and they walked around town and took lots of pictures. (They were to meet S later for lunch.)

J mailed some postcards, and A helped.

Everyone was happy after mailing those postcards. It was a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

We all met up at Cafe Oliver (c/Almirante 12) for lunch. We like the atmosphere of this restaurant near Chueca. Above, we have a photo of the fine piece of duck with potatoes that S enjoyed. Confit de pato, baby. A had the solomillo and J had a delicious bit of steak tartare. Cafe Oliver has a house red is definitely worth drinking.

On Sunday we met J at 10:30 to go to the Rastro, Madrid's huge swap meet.

We never seem to buy anything, but we enjoy going anyway. We like to look at the stuff. Last time we bought clothespins. This time we bought nothing.

We looked at some antique furniture and art.

Then we decided to make our way to the Plaza Mayor. The Rastro is way too crowded by 11. We suggest that you go early, like 9:30. Above, we have a plaza somewhere between La Latina and Plaza Mayor.

A satisfying trompe l'oiel (above). Only one side of the building has real windows.

We took more photos and kept walking. Madrid is very nice at this time of year.

J and S. I wish we remembered what this plaza was called. It is very nice. We had fun with J.

This is a little garden we stumbled upon. It is in the middle of the Madrid de los Austrias.

It's a regular urban locus amoenus.

Still walking around the portion of Madrid that was built up when the Austrian kings ruled Spain.

Calle de Cuchilleros, on the southwest corner of the Plaza Mayor. S's parents have a watercolor reproduction of this bit of Madrid.

Interesting Plaza Mayor factoid (above and below): On Sundays old man philatelists gather to trade stamps and talk about philatelia. You can find them at the northeast corner of the plaza. Bring your stamps.

After walking to the Rastro and then trading stamps at the Plaza Mayor, we suggest that you get yourself to the nearest churreria forthwith for churros and chocolate. Only we Spaniards could invent such a delicious combination of fried dough and molten milk chocolate. It is a meal in itself, and well worth whatever physical side effects you may ultimately suffer. When we were younger, we used to enjoy churros y chocolate on the morning after a drinking binge. Now we like churros y chocolate after a morning spent shopping with our girlfriends. Ah, the pleasures of ageing.

After a brief break at our apartment, where we looked at photos of our house in Indiana (which we miss, believe it or not), we went to Arola Madrid for lunch. It is the new restaurant in the new wing of the Reina Sofia Museum. Unfortunately, we got there too late to sit in the restaurant area, but we were able to order sandwiches and patatas bravas at the bar. S had a nice glass of wine, while the ladies enjoyed bottled water. We also had croquetas. It was a very fried dough kind of day.

On Monday morning, A met J to go back to the Reina Sofia Museum to see the art. They had a very nice time together. We all did. Ain't life grand?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good Graffiti

So, the conservative municipal government of Madrid is beginning to ramp up for next month's electoral campaign. All over town these posters have been appearing in Metro stops and bus stations. The alcalde is pimping his construction projects that have been going on just about everywhere simultaneously in Madrid. These posters clearly seek to address his critics, who have complained about the cutting down of trees, increased traffic and pollution resulting from his projects. Thus these posters include photographs of Madrid as it appeared in the early part of the twentieth-century, with a heading that reads, "What would happen if nothing ever happened?" His point, we suppose, is that there must be new construction or the city would become stuck in the past. Here are two examples:

The area around Las Ventas, the Madrid plaza de toros, circa 1900s. And below, Gran Via at the beginning of the 20th century.

As you can see, one of our neighbors put sub-headings under the mayor's catch phrase as it appeared in our Metro station. On the first poster, the anonymous interlocutor responds, "Well, maybe we wouldn't be talking about climate change, for example." And on the second poster our unknown friend writes, "There would be less pollution and fewer cases of cancer, for example."

Not that we at amagomundi are against progress. Nor are we against the beautification of Madrid. But we do appreciate clever graffiti, especially when it responds so well to self-serving political advertising in the city's public transportation system.

The cost of this advertising campaign (television, radio, internet, newspapers and magazines) would be around 900,000 euros, although it has only cost the Ayuntamiento 140,000.

Celebration of Death and Pork

El pepito famoso. These photos are fresh, so get up there and smell the screen. Don't that smell good?

We celebrated the 31st anniversary of Francisco Franco's death by making some of the best sandwiches ever. These sandwiches are called "pepitos" to those of us who know them. They are made with a slice of pork loin that has been lovingly marinated in garlic, salt, bay leaves and paprika. Then you take that nice piece of pork loin (known as "lomo" in these here parts) and you sautee it in the very same pan that you used to sautee some green peppers. When everything is cooked, you put a slice of pepper and a slice of lomo in a piece of freshly baked ciabatta (or, as we say in Spain, chapata). Don't bother with condiments. They will only slow you down. Now sit right down and eat three pepitos as quickly as you can.

If you are lucky, you will eat all three pepitos before the other person you live with asks for a bite. We did not have that kind of luck today. Someone here ate her pepito and then got several bites of my pepito number three. But it was worth it. She loves me, after all.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fish Display

No pictures today, folks. But we wanted to tell you about this great fish display we saw today while we were walking from the bus stop to the Metro station after a nice afternoon spent in Majadahonda. Imagine, if you will, that it is raining. You are sharing your umbrella with your lady (or man, depending on your preferences and on who is narrating this episode). The umbrella was purchased at the local Euro Bazaar for 4 euros on a past rainy day much like this one. It's plaid with silver piping, and it opens automatically when you push a plastic button very hard. Very nice. Elegant. So you are walking along trying to keep dry, thinking about those terrific beans and chorizo you ate for lunch with your aunt and your cousins, and you round a corner in the Arguelles district of Madrid and there it is. The finest fish display of them all. Three tremendous hake, arranged artistically beneath a sea of fresh ice cubes. They all appear to be smiling at you. Inviting you to come in and have a beer, warm up and have some hake for dinner. It is a tempting offer, even though you are still full from lunch. These hake are chewing nonchalantly on parsley sprigs and lemons. Oh, what fine fish they are. And dang it if we didn't have our camera.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Film Review: An Inconvenient Truth

Amagomundi endorses An Inconvenient Truth for best documentary of the year.

Faithful readers, you've got to see this movie. It will change your life. And, well, it had better change your life. Your life probably depends on it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Venice Day Four

We had a full half day before leaving Venice, so we went to the Accademia art museum.

We liked the 14th and 15th century paintings.

After our museum trip, we headed to La Zucca to meet J. On our way across the bridge we saw a big boat.

La Zucca was also recommended by our friends M and E. They know who they are.

We began with an avocado salad that felicitously emphasized the avocado. That is a delicious mustard sauce in there, along with some olives and raw carrots.

S had rabbit with baby onions. It was succulent and delicious. Amagomundi endorses rabbit consumption wholeheartedly.

A and J shared a varied vegetarian dish. That is rice in the middle, and it is surrounded by (going clockwise) carrots, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes and spinach. It was very good. Almost as good as the salad J had (which quite unfortunately transcended digital photography). We washed it all down with prosecco. And a macchiato for dessert.

We went by the apartment to pick up our luggage and then we headed for the airport.

The vaporetto was packed. So was the bus to the airport.

A had plenty of time to read the newspaper at Venice's Marco Polo airport.

And for all you faithful readers out there, here is your final Italian fish display. Stay tuned for Barcelona fish displays coming in December! Find them, as always, at Amagomundi, LP.

A posthumous shout out to our boy, Jack Palance. You made Shane what it was.

Friday, November 10, 2006

El presidente canta una nueva canción

Bush (arriba) canta una canción nueva y dice que va a tender una mano a los demócratas para redefinir la estrategia en Irak. Estados Unidos inauguró ayer una era de cohabitación política tras la victoria electoral de los demócratas, tanto en la Cámara de Representantes como en el Senado. Republicanos y demócratas escenificaron su compromiso de trabajar juntos con una comida a la que asistió el propio George W. Bush con su guitarra y la próxima presidenta de la Cámara, Nancy Pelosi, así como otras figuras destacadas del Congreso y de la Administración. *

Rumsfield finished and Bush defeated? Until they appear in front of the International Criminal Tribunal what is finished and defeated is the International Criminal Tribunal. *

* Adapted with the implicit permission of El pais and the cartoonist Romeu.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Elections in the US

A proudly unyielding president was put on notice that the voters want change, especially on the war in Iraq.

Whatever this election accomplished, it did nothing to end the rancor and distrust that define current American politics. But as the campaign went on (and on) there was one issue on which people from both parties appeared to be finding common ground: Donald Rumsfeld (above) has to go. *

*Blogged with the implicit permission of the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Venice Day Three

Italians use these to put the smack down.

Freddy's momma (above).

Accademia bridge. It is very difficult to get a clear shot with all those people walking over all the time. Sheesh.

A in front of the Save Venice building.

A & S on the Accademia bridge with the Save Venice building in the background.

A and J in front of J's pad.

J's street.
J's apartment.

Uh, San Marco?

Check out the photographer's fine looking boots!