After a not-so-pleasant overnight flight where no amount of ambien could quell the anxiety from the serious turbulence, I landed in Madrid at 8:30 in the morning. With my giant bag that I thought wasn’t that heavy until I had to tote it all over Madrid, I caught a train to Atocha knowing they had locker storage until I could meet up with my friends that evening.
Even though it was just the train station, Atocha is beautiful. I spent probably 30 minutes just wondering around it, partially because it’s huge, but partially because it’s magnificent. We spend so much time and effort making buildings that are transient locations so gorgeous, and that is endlessly fascinating to me. It was also the site of the 2004 subway bombings, and there’s a nice memorial to the people who were killed during that tragedy.
After checking my bag (in my bad, broken Spanish) and losing a quick 40 pounds, I found my way out of the train station and over to the plaza in front of the Reina Sophia museum, where I watched a huge group of school kids in little red hats pour out of the building on a field trip, a dad play a game of futbol with his son, who used their bags and sweatshirts to set up a goal, and two women chase their dog with a cone on it’s head. The museum was closed that day, so I explored on foot – stopping for a café con leche and tortilla – which, in Spain, is like a crustless quiche filled with potato and onion, not the flat flour wrap of Latin America.
Eventually I found myself strolling through an open air book market on the edge of Parque Del Retiro, where I paid 5 euro for an old Spanish map. The whole thing was delightful and wonderful, and old men were gathered to talk smack and young people rode their bikes. It’s only a block (uphill) in length, so I meandered up and explored some more, somehow ending up at the Prado Museum. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of renaissance portraits so the Prado wasn’t really my thing, but it was really neat to see Las Meninas in real life. My favorite Spanish teacher in high school used classic Spanish art to teach us vocabulary, so many of the paintings there were by artists I’d studied many years ago. Aside from that, it was kind of an ‘eh’ moment for me, though it’s entirely possible I’m just not cultured enough.
By this point it was around 3pm, and having not slept and flown across the sea, I was exhausted, not showered, and generally feeling icky. I picked up my bag and caught the metro to my friend’s apartment – clutching the tiny piece of paper with her address the entire time. Without a cell phone and with very limited Spanish, I was terrified of getting lost, though I did anyway. Eventually I asked a non-threatening woman and a baby and she pointed me in the right way, though I only understood about half of what she said.
Shana and I then headed out for a quick tour of Madrid and cañas, where we walked around some cute neighborhoods and saw Plaza del Toros. Though the idea of bullfighting makes me uncomfortable, the building itself is undeniably beautiful, being heavily influenced my middle eastern architecture.
Cañas are the best thing in the world, and I hereby move that we bring them to the United States. They are tiny, cheap, beers, about ¾ of a pint, served with some mysterious set of snacks to be determined by the whim of the bar or restaurant. In my time in Madrid the following things were served with our drinks – olives, pickles, ham, tiny chocolate with cats on it, corn nuts, peanuts, fried eggs, toasted bread with cheese on it, and potatoes covered in cheese.
This is the plaza where we had our second round of cañas! There’s also an amazing mural here that I didn’t get a picture of.