Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Madrid II: Calm Before the Storm

Barcelona had been summer-warm and sunny, and we were shocked to find that Madrid was not only rainy but really, really cold. Not the weather for my sandals, or anything else I’d packed—it was my worst packing job ever. Thank goodness for my Sevogia-purchased sneakers. The last two days of the trip were cold but rain-free, however, so we still had plenty of opportunities for lounging in plazas, soaking up sun. Though the Plaza Mayor is lovely, I preferred the Plaza de Santa Ana, a smaller plaza close to our hotel in Huertas. Lively and full of families and couples, it was the perfect place to sit in the sun and drink a cafĂ© con leche or a cerveza to kick off a tapear or while away the afternoon. An accordion player strolled from table to table; he played some Frank Sinatra for us, singing the words in Spanish. We cannot leave, we kept saying to each other in the plaza. We can’t leave Madrid, and we can’t leave Spain.

We ate well in Madrid. We had menus (a set-price three course meal) for lunch; we had croissants for breakfast. Our first night, we had churros y chocolate then stopped at a great place called Ceverceria 100 Montaditos—a stand-up restaurant serving 100 kinds of small sandwiches. One night we did a tapear that included patatas bravas (not as good as Barcelona’s), olives in the Plaza Mayor, some amazing chorizo, and a final stop at a bustling Galician restaurant where we had fried calamari and a plate of steamed clams. We can’t leave Spain, we said as we drank our bottle of wine and let the evening slide by. We can’t leave Europe. We can’t leave Spain.

I felt truly sad yesterday, when we reluctantly left our perch in the Plaza de Santa Ana and headed to the airport—almost as sad as I used to feel when ending a trip to Barcelona meant saying goodbye to Andrew for a few weeks. Obviously, that kind of goodbye plays no part in this. But now that we’re back in Barcelona, we’re in the final stretch. Decisions must be made. Plans must be put in place. A complex piling-up of plane tickets must begin. Knowing all of that was ahead made it very hard to leave Madrid.

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