Spain, Part One

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And we’re back.As most of you know, Deb and I were in Spain for 12 days mainly to attend the Granada Comic Convention otherwise known as the Salon del Comic de Granada. For the last 15 years, the guests have included a mix of Americans and I was lucky to be invited this time around.For the first time, the con partnered with the University of Granada for an academic program that saw several of us talk to students who signed up. I was invited to speak on the American comics market as a part of this.But first, we went to Madrid. Edu Alpuente, agent, con organizer and all-around swell guy, invited us to stay with him for a few days so we could see the city before flying south. So, after a red eye on the 3rd, we arrived the morning of the 4th and were whisked by Metro into the city and his home. After getting things settled, he took us from the outskirts into the city to begin wandering about.He took us to Plaza del Sol to begin seeing the city and we wandered from block to block, taking it all in. After lunch, we went and saw the King’s palace and the cathedral. Both places were quite fascinating to see and hear about.Afterwards, we returned to the apartment where we met his patient wife Monica and their 3.75 year old daughter Valeria. Monica is a marvelous host and made us feel most welcome while Valeria claimed she was too shy to use the English she was learning so quietly and enthusiastically babbled to us in Spanish, not caring at all that we barely understood her.Our second day had us sleep late thanks to jet lag and general exhaustion. Once we were alert, Edu took us to the shopping and theater district to look around, a different perspective on the city. We also visited a comics shop which was clean, neat, welcoming and very well stocked. Soon after we took a Metro to a different part of town where we met Carlos Diez, former Heavy Metal artist. Carlos is apparently an in-demand painter with models and actors calling and asking to pose for him, the lucky guy. He took us to the city’s largest shopping mall for lunch and it looks like the typical American megamall with the typical (Clare’s) and the atypical (a tattoo parlor).After lunch, we went to his school where I spoke to his students, something I’ll address tomorrow. Once the session ended, later than expected, we all went back to Edu’s home where we were joined by Carlos’ wife, Monica, and their son. All six adults chatted with the Alpuentes translating all the way, and we feasted.By this point, we had pretty quickly adapted to the eating schedule of the country: lunch around 2 and dinner no earlier than 8 but both meals are so filling you never need an in-between snack.On Saturday, the Alpuente family were given time to themselves while Deb and I made a solo venture into the rainy city. We wanted to be pure tourists so took the Metro to the Atocha Train Station, which we were told was pretty impressive. While chilly and underheated, it had some typical train station touches but there were also some nifty architectural touches on the exterior that made it worth a look.From there, we strolled over to the Prado, bought tickets, and went to look at some pretty impressive art. We saw many familiar masters and many new to us. Much was made over Goya but frankly, I was underwhelmed. I was surprised to note that the pieces I most enjoyed did not exist as reproductions as postcards, posters or magnets. So much for taste.We braved the drizzle and wandered the city until we were hungry and found a local eatery. The waiter’s English was as good as my Spanish so the owner helped us and for whatever reason, seemed very amused by us. The food, though, was particularly good and enjoyable.From there, we headed in search of El Corte Ingles, a chain department store that had been recommended. We found a few of them and browsed for a bit but headed out after short tours. Instead, we decided we needed to samples their version of hot chocolate, which is usually served with churros. Well, let me tell you, this stuff was rich and thick and chocolatey and could be quite addicting.We got back to the apartment just after 7 and reunited with the family. Apparently, we were invited to the Diez’s home, where Carlos has completed a sketch for me and we were invited to stay for dinner. So once more we feasted and I toured Carlos’ spacious attic studio, talking shop (through Edu of course).Our final day in Madrid was spent in the apartment, packing for Granada, and playing with Valeria.  Around 4 we headed for the airport and Granada.Tomorrow: Talking to the Students

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