Magnificent Madrid

25 12 2015

Excellent news, everyone: I’ve decided to move to Spain!

Ok, fine, that’s not actually going to happen, but my imagination has been going wild since I stepped foot in this fabulous place. A girl can dream!

Traveling was a bit of hell to make it here. We caught a red-eye flight to NYC from Seattle and there was little sleep to be found for either of us. Planes are insanely cramped these days! Even laying over on J didn’t work. With a really long layover, we had time to launch a quick excursion into New York City.

We grabbed the train and hit the streets of Manhatten. Madison Square Gardens, Times Square, 5th Avenue, we walked as much as we could in our short time frame. It’s funny how much was familiar from TV and movies. We ate a pretzel and hot dog from a street vendor in Central Park, walked along the base of the Empire State Building, and rested on the steps of the huge library. I could just sit and watch the people walk by. I lost count of languages I heard, thought a saw a drug deal, and almost laughed a hundred times at people going by. Just awesome.

(I have some awesome pictures that I would love to share but can’t figure out how to get them into a blog post on my stupid tableg. Lo siento mi amigos.)

We took the train back to JFK and finally got on the plane for Spain. Equally cramped, our hopes for sleep were dashed once more. We did get food and beverages and movies but I would have traded it all for a little leg room. We somehow were lucky enough to also have a screaming baby behind us…again. Wonderful.

Then, about 6 hours later, I slid the little window open and caught a glimpse of coastline. Portugal maybe? The sunrise began painting the horizon beautiful pinks and oranges and it all slipped away. We were almost to Spain, for Pete’s sake! We landed and zoomed through the airport. Customs was a breeze, getting our luggage was a breeze, hailing a taxi was a breeze. I love this country!

The taxi dropped us off in front of the AirB&B  where we were staying. I had tried to pay attention as we zoomed through the city, but I was mostly charmed by the narrow cobblestone streets and fabulous architecture of our neighborhood. Flowers spilled out of pots from  the balconies above, the wooden doors marked the discreet enterances, and first-floor shops were just opening for the day. It was like a movie!

After a quick shower and a delightful nap, we hit the town. I had been worried about walking, but Madrid is a super walkable city. People were everywhere: walking, on scooters, drinking at sidewalk cafés. I tried not to gawk, chanting “be normal, blend in” over and over to myself. But that was pretty hard. Spanish women are slender and elegant, all class and dark beauty and neutral tones. I was a grinning fool in a fuscia wool coat, pale pale skin, and no cigarette in my fingers.

The city streets wind and zigzag, and I was thankful for J’s directions so I could just take it all in. We soon reached the Gran Via, similar to 5th Ave in NYC. The wide sidewalks bustled with people, the towering buildings shone with Christmas lights and flashing electronic billboards, the high-end shops boasted their fancy wares in the windows. We saw some fancy federal buildings with big statues and fountains. One had a giant banner hanging that said “REFUGEES WELCOME” and I couldn’t help giving them a mental high-five. You go, Spain!

We finally popped into a mercado, where stall after stall offered tapas, wine, sangria, and more tapas. We sampled a few different kinds and I found yet another Spanish thing to love: jamon iberica  (there should be some accents in there but the tablet out smarts me once more). It’s a type of ham that is out of this world delicious.

More walking, tasting as we go. You can just pop into these little places and grab a couple tapas for a few euros. Genius. Pizza, gelato, tacos, wine – we ate our way back to the apartment. A woman played her guitar in the courtyard below our window, the folksy sound putting us straight to sleep.

******

The next day, we hoofed it across town again to the Prado, a significant art museum we couldn’t miss. We popped into the cathedral just behind it, too – my first European cathedral! I was not disappointed. Though small, it was pretty incredible. I gave some coins to the old woman outside that urged us to go in, and we headed for the museum.

I have no words for the vast amount of incredible art inside that building. Classical art, masterpieces, priceless works that left me speechless. We barely scratched the surface of the museum and I felt cheated that I didn’t get to see it all. The Roman sculptures impressed me almost as much as the work of French painter, Jean Ingress. I mean that guy was G.O.O.D.

We finally left in search of lunch and found a cute little café. Two courses and dessert later and off we went again! We stopped by a modern art museum, the Reina Sofia, which I think we were both unimpressed with. It’s hard to follow the Prado with modern, abstract, weird art. I have yet to learn how to appreciate modern art the same way. After a nap, we caught a cab to a different part of the city for dinner, again at a big mercado.  More delicious tapas, this time several different types of seafood and a bowl of paella washed down with sangria.

We decided to walk home and wound our way back through the narrow streets, arm in arm. Despite the huge size of the city, it’s much cleaner and smells a lot better than NYC  (or at least this central part is much nicer). Rather than the constant stench of urine and garbage, the air here is full of fragrances from cooking food, coffee, passing gents, and tobacco. Our short time in Madrid is almost over, as we caught the train out of town the next morning. So I tried memorizing every detail as we walked, pretending I lived here among these stylish, beautiful people and their stylish beautiful city….

Magnificent Madrid, I hope we meet again someday!

*******

Our next city is Seville, where we spent the most lovely Christmas. I hope you all enjoyed your holiday, whatever you did, whoever you saw, and wherever you are! Stayed tuned for the next leg of our grand adventure! (Maybe I’ll even figure out how to get some picture in here!)

FELIZ NAVIDAD!!

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