Thursday, May 31, 2012

Seville - The Cathedral

        The town of Seville is one of three must see towns in the southern state/province of Andalusia.  all have beautiful castles and cathedrals.  Seville's cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.   I love how cities promote their tourist attractions:  Our cathedral is the LARGEST cathedral in the WORLD...that was built my left handed midgets.  Or... our cathedral is the largest EVER built in the world that faces west and that has a post office across the street.
What's really amazing is that it works.  We'll be sitting at outdoor cafe and listening to the conversation at the table next to us:
Abner:  Sooo... where are you off to today?
Elmer:  We're thinking of taking the day trip up to Palookaville to see the cathedral.
Abner:  Oh, we've read about it!!  It sounds amazing!
Elmer:  Yeah, it's the largest ever built by left handed midgets!
Abner:  Wee people.
Elmer:  Yes, I am going to the restroom before we get on the bus!

But... Seville's cathedral is very impressive.  Check it out:

We climbed the 300 steps to the top and found that there are several truths about the olden days:
a)  there was no air-conditioning
b) the people were considerably shorter and thinner
c) an elevator salesperson would have made a killing
d) I have no desire to live back then

Thoughts that came to mind:

a) Wow!  I hope they are well hung
b) I hope they don't ring
c) Do the neighbors share the enthusiasm of hearing those bells every hour on the hour
d)  Perhaps the Church could make a few extra bucks by putting in a Verizon antenna ...

 the vibration from the bells must shake the foundation of the tower, if not the entire church.  How come it has not crumbled the tower... I know!!!
It's a friggin' miracle!!

The views from the top of the bell tower are awesome.  Seville has 703,000 people and an unusually large amount of deaf people...not sure why... but they all live near the cathedral...
One way that they cathedral builders helped account for the vibrations from the bells were to use a building technique called, "Flying buttresses".  No that is not a Stevenism.  It's a real term.  It's those arms you see attached to the sides of the walls.  The "FB's", as we architects call them, simply brace the walls and keep them from falling out and down... which is a bad thing if you are an architect... or the gardener working in the church garden.

      Two views of the bullring of Seville.  Supposedly the biggest in Spain and the most popular.  Unfortunately for us and fortunately for the bulls, we missed the bull fighting season.  Seriously, they have a bull fighting season?? What, they wear jerseys?  Have pep rallies, tail gate parties??  Here's a bull fighting joke for you... compliments of David:
Man goes into a restaurant in Seville and asks for the specialty of the house.
Waiter: Si senor. Today there was a bull fight and we proudly serve our "Cajones del dia"
Man: Hmmm.... that sounds interesting.  What exactly are "Cajones del did?"
Waiter:  Ahh senor... Today it is the testicles of he who fought so gallantly today in the bullring.
Man:  We'll... I guess... if it is your specialty... bring me the cajones del did!
So the man eats the cajones and loves them so much he brings his friends to the restaurant the next day.
Waiter:   Welcome back, seƱor. What will you have today?
Man:  Those cajones were so good, bring us an order of cajones!
Waiter: Si, senor.   and he goes to the kitchen and returns with cajones much bigger than the day before.
Man:  Are you sure these are cajones? The ones I had yesterday were so much smaller??
Waiter:  Si Senor.  But today the bull lost!  Yesterday it was the matador who lost!

This is the river that so many explorers set sail from when they left for the New World.  It's a river in Seville that once was deep and wide enough to sail from Seville to the ocean.  Unfortunately, for Seville, which is 200 miles from the sea, it spelled the economic doom for Seville for centuries to come.  The city didn't die, it just didn't flourish, which means they didn't have lots of modern buildings.  Fortunately, for Seville, they have a great tourism department and they learned to market,"Don't miss Seville - unchanged over the centuries by progress!" 

and speaking of explorers.. That's Columbus who is in that tomb.  Apparently, he was teeny tiny, or they folded him like and accordion. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Avila - the Walled City

When you hear people talk about, "times were so simple back then..." they must be talking about Y1000, because can you imagine protecting a city by building a wall around it?  That's what those Romans did in 1100.  Yes, those same Aqueduct building, Christians torturing, crazy helmeted fools...the Romans
      The town of Avila, Spain, has the best preserved Roman walls in all of Spain if not the world...and the best part is, you can walk about 1/4 of a mile on top of them.  Makes you feel like grabbing a crossbow and taking out a few pedestrians below.... oops...that's the Roman in me.
"I'm sorry your honor but I please innocent by reason of genetic engineering... You see... I'm a Roman!"

From Segovia, we took a two hour bus ride.
Excellent bus.
  Some of them have WiFi.  Those that don't "give me" an opportunity to read, "The Sun Also Rises", by Hemingway, on my Kindle!  I can read about four chapters and then it's good night Irene... no offense Ernesto!

Upon arriving in Avila - BOOM -
 there's the walled in city.  
You can't miss it!

Uhhhhh.... Zack, you can put the map away now.  
We found the wall... in fact... we're on the wall!

and what's the best way to end a perfect day of wall walking... 
 with Paella and sangria... and some more sangria... and some more sangria...
Whew... all that wall walking is making me a bit dizzy!  

Oh Those Romans!!

Oh Those Romans!!

So what do Romans have to do with Segovia?  Well... like in most of Western Europe, they were in Segovia, Spain.  Personally, I am glad they were, but I'm not so sure of the Segovians of 2,000 years ago.  I'm very tired right now and won't write much but wanted to share one of the most awesome sights this side of solar flares - The Aqueduct of Segovia.
     Here's the scenario - Roman... when they weren't killing people, were building amazing things... like aqueducts.  Basically an aqueduct is a glorified water pipe.

The Segovians had no water so the Romans built an aqueduct to pipe the water that was 9 miles away in the mountains to the city and eventually to the Alcazar ... Ahhh... what's an alcazar?  An Alcazar is an Arab castle.  This Alcazar was originally a Roman castle, then the Arabs took it over (now you know how the rest of the world feels, Mr. Roman conqueror!).
Why not just move the city to the water?  I do not know all the details.  I just know that my Roman ancestors, aside from making chariot bombs, and arranging for people to "sleep with the fishes", could build things with the best of them.  For some reason, they thought it was easier to cut 20,000 stones, build 118 arches and gradually slope it for nine miles, than it was to say to the Segovians, "MOVE!"
    The aqueduct is about 100 feet at the highest and even impressed Zack!

   Check out these photos.

Just think:  No really... just think.  (sorry)
People walk right by this every day and I'm sure at some point, take it for granted.  Not me.  I'd touch that sucker every day.  No concrete. No mortar.  No Elmers.  No super glue!  Pretty darn impressive.

What is so cool is that like any good plumbing job, there has to be a slope from the top of one end of the pipe to the bottom of the other end of the "pipe" so that gravity does the work. To the naked, or even clothed eye, the aqueduct looks level, but it is actually sloping.  At some point it goes  underground.

Segovia, (did I mention that I love that city)  puts these brass   <<<<  markers in the ground to signify that the aqueduct is buried underground beneath the markers.  There are 24 such markers through out the city streets.  Zack and I had a bet that the first person to spot one would pay the other one whole Euro.  He agreed (fool!!)  I showed him the picture on my phone. 

My favorite picture of the summer!

Zachary going Jason Bourne on me!  Notice how there is no mortar between the stones.  They're just cut to order and are wedged in such a way as to hold each other in place.  Oh those talented Romans!

This is the top of the trough which is on top of the aqueduct.  The pipe itself.  I wonder if one of those Romans, upon completing this masterpiece of architecture said:
Claudius - "Hmmmmm....perhaps we should have made it a little bigger?
Antony - Bah!  You think too much.  In a few years it'll all be replaced by PVC.
Claudius - Good point.  Come on.  Let's go get six pack of vino.

It looks like the knight is saying, "Okay, so the cannon didn't fire.  What you're going to have to do is look down the barrel and..."

Lesson #224 - Never trust anyone that has to be oiled in order to walk.

Before leaving Segovia, I want to show you the bad, the  good, and the best.

The bad.   If this doesn't make me want to be a vegetarian nothing will.  It's a specialty of the area called, "cochinillos as ado"   which I believe  translates to,  "tortured and inappropriately displayed pig".  I know.  I know.  I eat beef and pork.  BUT!!   It's not like they were tortured.  They just take a metal rod to the head bone and BAM!  they're done!

The good.  White bean stew.  Of course, you could make the argument that hundreds of innocent beans were killed to make the stew.  Can you imagine the horror they experienced as they were indiscriminately plucked from their peaceful existence and thrown into a pot of scalding water??  Life sucks, man.  Life really sucks!  I'm starting to think that man can't live unless he's killing something!  

and the BEST.
No commentary necessary...  
...okay maybe just this:  How in the world could you leave them to go to work in the morning?!?!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Segovia- I Luva Ya!

Segovia is...definitely in the top 10 places I've ever been!  Whattttt?? Hey... Segovia is...the bomba!
Three quick reasons I say that:
        1. The Cathedral and the Alcazar
        2. The old town streets
        3. The Aqueduct
Of course where a person is, is always enhanced by who they are with and the weather.  Both are excellent.

The cathedral-   This is not a postcard!  It's the real deal.  Quaint town of 55,000 at 3,000 feet with real  mountains in the background.  It "only" took 240 years to build the cathedral.

That means that the architect and his entire firm were not only dead, but dust, before the project was completed.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

How crazy long is 240 years?   That's 12 generations!  See those nice pointed spires - that's Gothic!  Unfortunately, for the architect, by the time the cathedral was being completed, Gothic was losersville and Renaissance was in.    soooo.... hence the dome instead of a very pointed cap!
Didn't think I'd notice did you!!  The old,"oops, dome/spire switcheroo!"
I'm not sure why Remax has a balloon floating around.  Foreclosure??

While walking around the cathedral, I stumbled across an old record of how the decision to use a dome instead of a spire was made and luckily for you, I had it translated.  It is a conversation recorded between         the Pope in 1740,
and the original architect's Great Grandson, (A12)
 (A12)  was the architect in charge of finishing the cathedral.  Here's that holy conversation in it's abbreviated form.

 Pope:  So how's that cathedral thingy coming along?
A12:  Not bad. Not bad.
Pope:  Uh...are you aware that the pointy look is.... out?
A12:  I'm an architect. Of course I am...but that "pointy look" is Gothic and it's been around for 100's of years.
Pope:  So has sin, but we don't advocate keep committing the same sins, do we?
A12:  What are you getting at?
Pope:  I want a dome!
A12:  A dome?!?!?!   That's ridiculous!  You don't put a "dome" on a Gothic cathedral.
Pope:  I'm not!
A12:  Whew!  For a minute there...
Pope:  YOU ARE!
A12:  Oh come on!   I've got some great flying buttresses and a pinnacle thingy, and ...
Pope:  Nooooo.....just fly your little pagan buttress over there and give me a dome!
A12:  Is there anything I can say that will change your mind?
Pope:  Yes!   Say 10 million Hail Marys and 20 trillion Our Fathers
A12:  You'll have to give me a good reason before I put a dome on a Gothic cathedral!
Pope:  I'll commend your soul to eternal damnation if you don't!
A12:  I'm a pagan, remember!
Pope:  You won't get paid if you don't!
A12:   I'll get started on that dome first thing in the morning!
Pope:  It's a miracle!

It's not really that big inside.  The lady is just very very short.

Then again...Yes it is!
It reminded me of when I tried to hug a redwood.
I like to hug...mostly people, but in a pinch, a Gothic pillar will suffice.

Actually, few people know this, but Segovia experienced a 7.3 earthquake while we were in the cathedral.
Luckily, I've been doing my 10 pushups a day, and was able to keep the pillar from falling.

The craziest thing happened when we were in the cathedral.  A bolt of lightening came down, zapped him in the eyes and knocked him off his donkey (ass) and when he stood up I said:
me:      Zack...are you alright?
Zack:  Yes..never better...and the name is Saul
me:      Saul?
Zack:'s Paul
me:       Paul?
Zack:    Yes... wait... another update... my name is
me:       Really?
Zack:    Yes...I'm now a Christian rapper
me:        Cool!


I learned something about modern day monks.
ZERO sense of humor!
ZERO sense of fun!

All Zack and I were doing was playing a game of Marco Polo, without the water...and... you should have seen this little fella run after Zack.  Almost caught him but it looked like he tripped over his robe...or maybe it was his cane!

I'm not sure what order of monks work at the cathedral, but they certainly aren't the kind of monks who took a vow of silence!!
I don't know how to curse in Spanish, but if I was a betting person, I'd bet that what he was yelling would be pretty close to cursing.

The area behind Zack is one of the many chapels inside the cathedral.  They were bought by wealthy families and it could only be used by them...(except for BINGO on the 3rd Tuesdays of the month.)  
The priest would even personalize the prayers in the Mass with the wealthy family's name.  I asked a priest about it and he said, "Well... ya gotta understanda.  Nobody had a car, so they couldn't sell a preferred parking space."  Oh... I see.  Thank you for clarifying that!
It really bothered me that money could get you such a privilege, your very own chapel... but then I started thinking of Cardinal Bidwell and how he sell different seats in his his cathedral.  It's all starting to make sense now!!

So enough holy gossip.
 Here's another reason
I love Segovia.  Maps here are a useless.
 (Okay I really hate that part of Segovia),
 but once you're here, you know the
general direction of your destination, and  you always end up where you want to go.
Think of it as exercise.

The cobblestone streets, the lack of graffiti, (don't start me with that "ohhhh, it's a form of art (**%%!)

Love this city!  Next time I have to go on the lam, I'm coming here!
Oops...guess not!

I'm not really sure what Zack's doing.
Choices are:

a) inhaled too much incense at cathedral;

b) has a Pope complex and is blessing you.  (Dat's a gooda boy!!);

c) preparing for liftoff

Segovia and surrounding area are famous for their beans!  
See, don't you just love this city more and more!?!
They taste just like butter beans and they cook them with ham, which Spain is famous for, and badda-bing, you have the most delicious stew to eat in an outdoor cafe on a chilly night!

Wow!  I didn't expect to write so much about the cathedral.  I totally forgot about writing about the Alcazar and the Aqueduct.  Oh well.  Tomorrow's a travel day.  If all goes well, we'll be spending the night in Cordoba!  Even the name, "Cordoba" brings fire to my eyes.  Can't tell you now, but will later.
It's 1.5 hours from Segovia to Madrid, then about 5 hours to Cordoba.  We'll be zonked when we get there so probably no writing for awhile.
    On a personal note, I've got to lose weight.  215 lbs!!  (How much is that in Euros?)  Can't really run because of knee and hernia.  Can't really diet, because I love FOOD.  What to do?  I will probably have to start eating oranges for breakfast instead of croissants, croissants filled with custard, and croissants filled with chocolate.  It's just that I know how it feels to be left out and when I see three different kinds of croissants sitting on a tray, I think, "How would I feel if someone picked the other ones and I was the only one left?"  Do you ever feel like that?  Is it just me?  Is it just me that hears the song of the croissant?  Say it ain't so!!
...who wants to eat on orange with a cafe con leche?  Why that's just...just...sacrilegious!!  And besides,
after three croissants, I'm just not hungry enough to eat an orange!

Gotta run... Zack's practicing his rap!  Check out the lyrics:
      Yeah!  Yeah!  (hard pounding beat)
      Gonna have to eat some leaven
      If I plan to go to heaven...
      Yeah!  Yeah!  (add bobble head effect)
     Gotta see my man on the throne
     Tell him, "Hey, I'm home, home, home.
     Yeah!  Yeah!!

Yessiree.. He's my ticket to a financially free retirement!!

I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't mention this article to Zack!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Madrid is Awesome!
The turkeys have landed!!  Zack and I are in Europe, Madrid to be exact!  
I now realize two mistakes I made on my last visit to Madrid 31 years ago: 
            1. I came in August and it was 142 night!  Dry too, as if that matters.  Now I'm here in May and the weather couldn't be more beautiful.  Sitting outside in outdoor cafes, sipping sangria and watching the world go by.  
            2.  I was in a rush and tried to see Madrid in one day...or was it one afternoon!  Slow down, Steve
This time is going to be different:

We've taken the time to walk through the beautiful green parks


We've taken the time to see the amazing street performers in the city squares!  Like this guy in gold leaf.  A Goldfinger wannabe! Very cool.  The pigeons really liked him too!


Madrid is in the middle of a terrible financial crisis.  The government has to find a way to deal with 40% unemployment and so it's cutting everything - including education.  There were 1000's of people protesting in the square and in the park.  Mucho mucho police tambien (also).

One guy, who I believe is a teacher, didn't want his face in a picture, so he put on these incredibly big sun doubt made by the Hindenburg Sunglass Co.  He has a string of hams, I guess to signify, "too much pork in government" and at the top the sign says, "More education and less corruption."  Wow!  And I thought I was alone in that sentiment!

This was the beginning of the excuse me, protest march.  This was right outside of the Prado and was over  a mile long.  They were wearing kelly green t-shirts and many had green derbies.  It resembled more of a St. Patrick's Day parade than a protest.

There were hundreds of police.  Made me think of the old song:
 There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there / Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn / Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds / Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat / A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs / Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep / Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid / You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down
(For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield)
       But really...they're teachers!!  I think a couple of overweight cops, donuts in hand, sipping on a coffee would have been enough force.  I can't imagine my third grade teacher running through the streets with a molotov cocktail shouting, "Burn Baby Burn!!"   (Actually, I can't even imagine her running, or for that matter, walking fast!)

Speaking of terror on the streets:
 here's another street performer, or street stander, a guy dressed like a monster.  
He stayed frozen for 30 minutes on one foot!  
 I was so impressed 
 that I gave him a quarter!  

The Cathedral is beautiful, big and has an incredible view!  

The building in Madrid are incredible works of art.

The Royal Family lives a few miles away, however the Palace Real is still used by the king in special occasion, such as weddings, visiting dignitaries, inquisitions... .. (okay, not the Inquisition).  It has over 2000 rooms and was built by a Frenchman who, though he became the king of Spain.  He never got over his love of being French (Shock!!) so he built the Palace in a very Versailles style.   
Editor's thought - Can you imagine living in THAT palace and telling people that they were going to lose their jobs??!!

We woke up at 3o'clock this morning as if it were 3 PM and fought to fall back asleep, finally giving up and getting up at 5AM.  We walked the dead, but remarkably clean streets of Madrid.  The guidebooks say that Madrid is a city for night owls and that it is!   We did find a delicious way to stay awake...get juiced on cafe con leche and Churros y chocolate -  Their churros have no cinnamon and no sugar, which is fine because they give you a mug of hot chocolate pudding/sauce to dip them in.  One of my all time favorite memories of this trip will be Zack and I sitting in a little "character filled" bar dipping our churros and sipping on a hot cafe con leche.  (editor's flashback: Michoacan, Mexico- 1983 - writing poetry & sipping hot cafe con leches in hole-in-the-wall cafes everyday from 3:00 - 3:45 while waiting for the monsoon rains to stop.)
WARNING:  The following is an OPINION      Read on at your own risk!!
The Rite of Passage that we call ART APPRECIATION
  3:00 pm  5/22/2012  
        This morning Zack and I went to the world famous Thyssen Museum.  (Have you heard of it?)  Wow!  I'm going to be as positive as I can about the museum.
1. Beautiful walls - faded orange pastel
2. The AC worked magnificently
3 & 4. The bathrooms were handicap accessible AND very clean (that counts as two)
5 & 6.  All the guards uniforms appeared to be freshly ironed and they were well groomed.  (again two)
7. I liked seeing two of Fredrick Remington's and one Van Gogh
8. The walk to the museum was gorgeous
9. They take Visa  
10. They take American Express
    I did like seeing two Fredrick Remingtons and one Van Gogh
    I did like that they have pictures from the 16th century, and that the collection of paintings gave me insight into the values and mores of the era, however... judging by the sad faces of the women in the paintings of the 16th century it must have been the most depressing century of all time.  
      I wonder if I'm alone in my thoughts on the art that I saw today:
abstract art-  of course there are exceptions, and I'm sure I'm missing something.   We looked at one picture of a few straight lines on a monotone canvas...(trust me - the color isn't important)
           Me:  Really?  He got paid for that?
          Zack:  Oh come on Dad...he probably did that without a ruler.
Someday I really want to introduce Zack to the works of Andy Warhol:         
          Me:  Over here son, I want to introduce you to an Andy Warhol masterpiece...
          Zack:  It looks like a can of Campbell's Tomato soup.
          Me:  Yes, amazing isn't it??!!  
          Not to pick on the 16th century, but Jennie Craig would have made a killing! (Oh Steve!  Don't you know that plump was in?)  Okay, I am going to pick on the 16th century.  After seeing the male anatomy in the statues I think I have an inkling as to why the women in the paintings were so depressed. 
        I will grant you that knowledge of the artist, the era he painted, as well as having a knowledge of the events happening in the painting will certainly make a painting more "enjoyable".   There were no such signs at the Thessyn.  I am sure that if I was traveling with an art teacher, the art work would have been more meaningful and thus more likely to have been appreciated.  
        But my biggest issue with calling the majority of these painting "masterpieces" is that the figures in the paintings looked as if they were painted by a 1st year  Dunn-Edwards paint mixer.  
        Did that shock you?!?!  When you get up off the floor, I'll explain my four biggest concerns, but first I believe that all of the paintings have great historical value because they have withstood the test of time, earthquakes, floods, etc.    

BUT... you wouldn't look at the art found in 10,000 year old caves and say, that is a "beautiful drawing!"  You would be amazed, however, but it would be because they are so old!   Seriously, they're stick figures!  Come with me to kindergarten and I'll give you about 2 trillion dollars worth of art.    

4 big concerns:
                  1.body parts that are over or undersized - 
 Yes, I understand that Exaggeration is a technique that artists have long used to poke fun at the rich and powerful of their time, as well as an attempt to demean someone who drew the ire of the artists,  but that doesn't explain the many unintended distortions.  Feet were too big.  Noses were unintentionally distorted. Every part of both sexes were drawn disproportionately.   Oh and my favorite: boobies growing out of a woman's head??   Note to self: don't do heroin and paint!
                 2. paintings are too dark - did they not make Venetian Reds or Naples Yellows or whites back then.  Just browns and blacks??
                 3. perverted paintings: - One painting showed a guy, I know it was a guy because his disproportionately wee little personal belongings were hanging out for God and the free world to see, holding a big disproportionately fat naked baby upside down about 8 feet above the ground. 
I wanted to try and keep an "art is in the eyes of the beholder" attitude with Zack so... 
         Me - Wow!  Look at that picture.   Interesting... What do you think this work of art is trying to say? (it probably came out something like, "What's that pervert doing with that baby?")
       Zack - I think it's a 16th century gravity test.
                 4.  it is so unfair to deserving painters - I think about the incredible painters in the world who will die and never be recognized.  They must go bananas as they look at these paintings and say, "Really?  Why not mine?"    There was a live art demonstration at the Prado today.  A woman was painting a still-life of flowers in one of the 7,000 rooms  that had still-life flower paintings.  And guess what....Yep, every bit as good as the masterpieces.  
    Here's the kicker:  In the next few days, Zack will experience the following conversation several times:
           stranger: So where have you been?
           Zack:  Madrid
           stranger:  Oh Madrid!
           Zack:  Yes, great night life!  Incredible city parks!
           stranger: Oh and the art museums!!!!
          Zack:  ohhhhhh those art museums!!
          stranger:   Didn't you just love the Prado and Thyssen?
          Zack:  Oh those museums!
         Blah Blah Blah!  Call me a cretin if you must, but you  weren't in the Thyssen for 18 hours and you didn't crawl up 53 flights of steps only to have a 12' naked statue flashing you as you reached the top of  the steps!!!
Okay, here's a positive note...We're going to the even bigger Prado Museum tonight!  No, that's not the positive note...  it's free after 6:00 and they close at 8:00!  
5-22-2012  9:00 PM    UPDATE:
       Great news!  The Prado experience was Mucho Mucho better.  Part of the reason was that we had realistic expectations and secondly, they had signs telling a bit about the paintings.  We enjoyed the museum but I stand by my earlier rant:  Too many of those guys had marketing skills that far exceeded their painting skills.  
It must be a Rite of Passage - we all tell little lies so that no one thinks poorly of us.  We sit in meetings, have people tell us things we know aren't true, and let things go without voicing our protests.  We call that adulthood.   As for me, I appreciate that those teachers and students hit the streets today and put their feet where their beliefs are.  I admire anyone who can take the arrows for doing what's unpopular...even if it's something that I disagree with.  You want a pee in a jar and stick a crucifix in it???   Fine, just don't call it art and expect me to pay for it.  
Would I recommend you go to the two museums?  Absolutely!  
You simply must go see the masterpieces!   They're incredible!