(Continued from yesterday)
We walk aimlessly but happily for the next five hours, strolling along cobble-stoned, curving streets, the planning of which must date back to a time when right angles were irrelevant or distasteful. Each small block reveals many restaurants, so many that we suspect Madrileños must live in kichenless homes. Some societal manifestations are no different than in San Francisco, however. The teenagers are pierced, bizarrely coifed, and loosely clothed. And there are beggars with SIDA (AIDS), but many fewer homeless than in San Francisco.
An hour or so into our stroll, we enter a supermercado to examine the local versions of fruit, fish, and packaged goods. There are many more dairy drinks than in our supermarkets: fruit-flavored milk and yogurt drinks in packaging not found in the US. We buy plums, figs, and a Brazilian-style guarana soda.
Our afternoon walk takes us past an ancient brick church being restored, a few places that are familiar to Steve from his long-ago visit here with daughter Abi, and innumerable clots of dog poop, most of which has been flattened by previous feet. The afternoon siesta has shuttered over half the stores, but today we are not shoppers.
Finally, just off the Plaza Mayor, which Ann recalls from previous guidebook reading was the site of Inquisition executions, we stop for coffee and a postre (dessert). By the waiter’s laggard approach to us, it seems likely that:
(a) he instantly spotted us as English-speaking tourists,
(b) 2:30 p.m. is not the usual time for flan and espresso, or
(c) he would rather be watching the futbol game in the bar.
Nonetheless, we eventually acquire the treats, rest our feet, and catalog the passersby. In fact, it is easy to distinguish the maps-in-hand tourists from the regulars.
Back at the Dulcinea at 7:00 p.m., we re-select napping as a life-choice and are comatose until 8:30. We dress for dinner, and by 10:00 p.m., our stroll through Friday night’s Madrid has taken us back to Calle Cava Baja, a street we inspected hours earlier and flagged as dinner-likely. After evaluating street-side menus at a half-dozen restaurants in the first half-block, we select Cava de Monje (Cave of Monks) where we have roast red pepper with anchovy, bolsitas (little bags of deep-fried pasta stuffed with chopped shrimp and leek), and a magnificent roast leg of baby lamb and sliced potatoes, accompanied by an eminently palatable bottle of the house’s most amusing vino tinto. We finish with a complimentary, small, square bottle of iced, yellow, anise liqueur. We marvel at our luck or genius in finding such an amazingly excellent meal at random, pay the tab (72 Euros including a properly set 5% tip), and toddle hotelward.
Our walk home began at midnight, through streets thronged with revelers. Unlike San Francisco, however, where the late-night crowd is purely youthful (or so we surmise), here in Madrid there are folks our age and parents with small children, many of whom have not yet begun dinner. Thanks to Ann’s pre-trip acquisition of a very portable, self-folding map of Madrid and Steve’s near-gps mastery of position and place, we make it back to Hostal Dulcinea and into bed by 1 a.m.
Except for an errant ring from a nearby phone some minutes later, our 44-hour first day leads into six hours of quiet sleep. At 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning, a distant alarm clock in a room occupied by either a corpse or nobody snaps its insistent electric buzz, toilets begin flushing, and a few faraway voices proclaim life once again.
Madrid…worth the trip.