Well, I’ve been in Madrid for two days now, and it already feels like home. After a mostly uneventful flight here, I arrived in the evening and promptly fell into a deep and all-consuming slumber. I woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the city. I was so happy to have connected with Pam, a family friend, who has lived in the city for the last four years. She has been a wonderful tour guide, taking me around the city and explaining the historical significance of each of the sights. Yesterday we walked over 13 miles, and it feels like we barely scratched the surface of things to see and do. Some of the highlights for me were the Royal Palace, Buen Retiro Park, and the Temple of Debod.
Pam and I are both staying in the Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter), a neighborhood that was once home to great writers of the Golden Age of Spanish literature such as Cervantes and Quevado. Of all the neighborhoods that I have visited so far, this one is by far my favorite. Comprised of narrow pedestrian streets that are filled with little boutiques and tapas restaurants, it oozes charm and one can almost sense the spirits of these great writers lingering around each alleyway.
Literally right outside my door was the cutest little cafe called Mathilda, which served the most delectable tortilla and cafe con leche. I also met one of Pam’s friends, Alfonso, who owns a restaurant that specializes in churros and chocolate, named, appropriately enough, Chocolat. Pam and I enjoyed a delicious breakfast and chatted with other customers who overheard us speaking English and made suggestions of places that we should be sure to visit during my stay here. It was a wonderful way to be introduced to the delights of Madrid, one that left a great impression of this city.
We also ventured into Buen Retiro Park, which was once the hunting grounds of the Spanish monarchy. We were there on a Saturday, and on the first sunny day after weeks of rain, so the park was crowded with people. While strolling through the grounds, we came across a woman sitting with a typewriter and a sign that said “You give me the theme, I will create a poem.” Of course I was immediately intrigued, and when we asked her the price, she said that after she was finished we would pay her what we thought it was worth. So I was game, and gave her the theme of travel. She asked if I wanted the poem in English or Spanish, and I told her Spanish. I figured it would be unique souvenir of my travels. She started typing, and within about five minutes she had produced a poem that Pam helped me to translate. I was both impressed by her creativity and charmed by her manner— I paid her what I hope was a generous contribution and we went on our way. I am already planning to frame the poem and put it on my wall as a memory of that afternoon.
There is so much more to tell about my time in Madrid, but I will have to save it for my next post. I am leaving in the morning for Gaucin in the very south of Spain, and will be taking the train there. My plan is to continue writing more about my adventures on the train ride. Until then, hasta luego!