We beat the Dakar Rally to Nazca

Special Baggage has made an extraordinary effort and has managed to get to the Nazca Lines ahead of the participants in the Dakar Rally, who are not due here until next month. Well, to be fair, we just drove from Lima, but the drive did, at times, feel like a rally, with sandstorm included.
When thinking about a title to this post, I also thought of "an X-File in Peru". A certain degree of mystery still surrounds the lines and why the Nazca people made them around 1500 years ago. The archaeologist Maria Reiche, who spent most of her life living here and studying the lines, proposed that the lines were somekind of astronomical observatory; other scientists believe they have a religious significance and yet others believe that they are landing strips for extraterrestial visitors. Whatever, you decide to believe, the experience is worthwhile despite the long and dusty trip. Being in the middle of the grey Nazca desert, images of science fiction movies come to mind and the terrain reminds me of the pictures of Mars or the Moon. A footnote: We decided not to take one of the light aircrafts that offer flights over the Nazca Lines because there have been a number of accidents. 


Lunch in Lima with a Nobel Prize in Literature

Well...not quite. Although it would have been great to share a table and conversation with Mario Vargas Llosa, the closer I came was to have lunch at a new restaurant called La Pescadería , which is located in the district of Barranco where Vargas Llosa has his home. The name of the restaurant literally means "the fishmongers" and not only can you eat there but also buy fish from a small shop at the entrance. The menu is obviously mainly fish and is quite varied. After lunch, what better way to walk off those extra kilos, than a stroll around Barranco where you can walk on the "bridge of the sighs" made famous by the folk singer Chabuca Granda, who is remembered by a statue next to it, and take in the impressive views of the Pacific.
(Since writing this post, the restaurant La Pescaderia changed owners and closed in Barranco.)


Art triangle in Madrid

Like in the Bermuda Triangle, once you enter the Madrid Art Triangle you also disappear. The difference is that in the latter you dissapear into art and beauty. There are three unmissable museums in Madrid:
The Prado Museum. First opened to the public in 1819 it is one of the world museums that every art lover must visit. It has the world´s largest collection of Spanish painting, including some of the best known works of Velázquez, El Greco, Goya and Sorolla. Besides this, the museum has an equally impressive collection of Italian painting ranging from the 14th to the 18th Century, and Flemish painting mainly from the 15th to the 17th Century. Works by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Tintoretto, Bosch and so many others. Follow in the footsteps of Manet, Picasso and Dalí and lose yourselves in this great museum.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina SofíaA relatively new museum, opened in 1990, it houses a good collection of modern art from the 1900´s to the present. The museum is home to Picasso´s Guernica. This  large painting has come to symbolise not only the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, but of any war.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Another newish museum, opened in 1992, it houses an eclectic collection of painting that spans from the 13th to the 20th Century, with some very good works by Klee, Cézanne, Chagall, Rubens and Durero, amongst others.
The triangle could be converted into a square if we include Caixa Forum. Close to the Reina Sofia Museum it is part of a bank foundation and a gallery rather than a museum where sometimes you can find quite good art exhibitions. It is currently staging an exhibition of more than 100 works by Delacroix.

In sum, be careful not to succumb to Stendhal's syndrome, named after the famous author suffered spells of dizziness when visiting the church of Santa Croce in Florence and seeing so much beauty.

(Pics of paintings taken from the webs of the Prado Museum and Reina Sofia Museum)
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