The Road to Santiago.

September 18, 2004

Photo of Dudley standing by statue of Bacchus.
Bacchus or John Bellushi?


Aranjuez, a beautiful, small town 25 miles south of Madrid, is famous for two reasons. First, it's where the summer palace of the Spanish kings is located; and second, it's the strawberry capital of Spain. I highly recommend a visit there.

I first went there because I enjoyed the musical composition Concierto de Aranjuez by the blind composer, Joaquin Rodrigo. It’s a beautiful piece written especially for guitar. One musician told me once that he considers it the best piece of music ever written. I certainly agree. But, hey, I'm no musician.

Photo of Dudley with Antoniao, Clotilde, and friend.
Dudley with Antonio, Clotilde and friend

Now, I go there to see my friends, Antonio and Clotilde, and their son, Christian. (Clotilde is a guide in the museum/palace and speaks many languages.) It was a pleasure to see my friends again after two years. I learned that their son, a university student, had barely missed the terrorist bombings in the Madrid train station earlier this year. By lucky chance he had stayed home that day due to a faculty strike at the school and was not on his usual commuter train.

The trip by commuter train was fast and pleasant — easier (and cheaper, too) than going from Newburyport near my home to Boston.

We took a walk again in the Jardin de la Isla (Island Garden). This is a beautiful garden near the Palacio Real with about 20 fountains scattered among the chestnut, ash, and poplar trees, and hedges of boxwood. The garden’s on an artificial island in the Tajo river laid out in the 16th century.

My friend, Antonio, an Italian by birth, has become expert at explaining the history and meaning of the classic Greek and Roman statuary. I always look forward to a walk with him in the garden and to hear his descriptions of the statues. The fountain statue of Bacchus as an over-indulged playboy jumped out at me. It looked as if John Bellushi had posed for it. The fountain’s over 200 years old, so I don’t think so. You students of Greek and Roman mythology will remember that Bacchus was the god of wine, as well as vegetation and fertility. The Greeks honored him with festivals in the fall and winter coinciding with the ritual of opening casks of new wine. I salute him also because of the beneficial affects of wine!

After a wonderful lunch and visit in the "country," I headed back to Madrid.