How sad to wake up on the last day with the heavy knowledge of departure! We dragged our feet walking down to breakfast, but picked up the pace a little bit after one last visit to Starbucks. Our final visit was to the Palacio Real, a huge palace where the king of Spain still resides occasionally but now mainly used to host guests and ceremonies. The tour only covered about 8 of the thousands of rooms, but was enough of a glance to give us an idea of the incredible splendor of the Spanish royal court. Each room had a differently designed chandelier, impressive wallpaper, carpeting, and woodwork, and lovely furniture. My favorite rooms were those lit by the grand glass chandeliers, leading me to believe that if the added electric lights bordering the rooms were turned off and the chandeliers lit, the palace would be magical – the rooms were designed, after all, to be lit from the interior.
The King of Spain doesn’t have any real duties. In the “On the Crown” section of the Constitution, he is explicitly relived from “all responsibilities”, and in any situation in which he “names” people to political positions, he literally does just that: announces their names by reading from the paper sent to him by the Senate or Congress, the houses which have actually chosen who will fill the positions. His charge is to maintain the palaces and represent Spain internationally. King Juan Carlos, the current leader, oversaw the Spanish transition to democracy in the 1970s after the death of Franco, and is generally liked by the people – in fact he is much more popular than President Zapatero – although a lot of the public are beginning to find the position of king rather useless and obsolete.
The metro’s speed and directions from some helpful madrileños permitted those of us who wanted to visit El Prado or El Thyssen to reach the museum district with a couple of hours left before we met to leave for the train station. I hadn’t yet been to the Museo del Thyssen, which had a special exhibit called “Lágrimas de Eros”. The exhibit had made the newspaper even in Zaragoza and was shown in the television news as well, so I really couldn’t miss it. I loved the exhibit and left with just enough time to catch the subway back to the hotel, where we descended to the metro once again but for the last time.
Faster than a speeding bullet, we arrived back in Zaragoza, just in time to start the weekend! However, my exciting plans to meet a friend who had gone to Salamanca with another group fizzled when we both missed each other’s calls because we’d fallen asleep right after dinner, exhausted from the wonderful mini-viajes.