week ago I flew home from a 24-day solo trip to Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Seville, and Lisbon again. I'm blogging excerpts from my travel diary and illustrating from memory the memorable and not-so-memorable meals I had...Start from the beginning here.
Day Six: Madrid
Several things I tried to see today were being renovated and so very, very closed, but it has been a pretty nice day for a walk. The garden at the north end of the palace was pretty in a grey, mid-winter, puddle-strewn, empty-fountain kind of way.
I have a soft spot for things that are out-of-use or empty, especially empty parks or places that are normally filled with people. The absence of a park or a building's usual hustle and bustle is a kind of delicious melancholy to me.
I've arrived at the Chocolateria San Gines and am wolfing down a plate of salty, greasy, crispy-chewy churros, dunking them with great delight into a warm mug of thick chocolate. I gather, looking around at the other diners here, that I'm supposed to drink the chocolate once the churros have all been dipped, but it's so so rich... The interior of this cafe is bright, black-and-white-tiled and brass-fitted, and the walls are completely covered with framed photos of celebrities who have been here. There's Javier Bardem, for instance. And a lot of people I don't recognize, though they must be famous here in Spain.
I need to pause this thought to admire a Spanish-language version of a Coldplay song that's playing. Fantastic.
I hesitate before saying that I'm lonely, but it's starting to...wear on me...that I'm always eating and drinking by myself. And that it still takes me so long to work up the courage to even GO IN a restaurant. Taberna Txacoli was ok - had my first tapas: some kind of savoury/sweet seafood on slices of baguette - but I wish I knew what that waitress had said to me. And I walked up and down that street no fewer than three times, trying to figure out which tapas place to try.
Okay, now it's a Spanish version of U2's Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Great!
Thank goodness for kind waiters and English menus - the rabbit I just had was delicious. I chose this restaurant in the La Latina neighbourhood because it didn't look too touristy, and I was interested to learn that it specializes in food and wine from the Canary Islands. The waiters were all very friendly, took great care of me (which doesn't always happen with solo diners!) and when they realized they had made a mistake with my bill, the owner poured me a shot of a sweet liqueur.
Well, Madrid, I should say goodbye on this high note. Your grand boulevards remind me a bit of Paris, except you are content with red brick, brown stone, and black wrought iron. Genteel may not be in your vocabulary, but there's something to be said for your down-to-earth, slightly chaotic living.