Day 1.5 – Greetings from Spain

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May 2, 2013

¡Hola de Madrid! I’ve been in Spain for less than 24 hours and I already know that I’m going to love it here. Someone is going to have to pry me out of this country with a crowbar come two weeks from now because I am not leaving.

For someone who landed in the morning around 10:00 a.m. and is just now going to bed (as it’s well past midnight), my cousin (whom I shall abbreviate to M) and her husband (whom I shall abbreviate to P) wasted no time in getting me to cover quite a bit of Madrid in one day. As soon as we got out of the Metro from the airport, we went to eat. Now, it was about 10:45-ish in the morning, I hadn’t brushed my teeth for what seemed like days and I smelled like airplane. You would think that I’d want to go straight to their place and freshen up. Yeah…no. Ironically, the first thing I wanted to do was eat and drink and eat and drink we did.

Now I was told that these two like to eat all different types of foods and often. I’ve been trying to maintain a vegetarian diet and would never consider eating any type of meat except chicken, turkey and the occasional few seafood items (sometimes I eat bacon…I LOVE bacon…but like I said, this is sometimes). Let’s just say this went all out the door the moment I landed because I was not going to let my inner food-priss get in the way. I had decided that if I was going to be here, I was going to eat everything – no limits. An attitude I’m glad I adopted considering jamón (ham) is HUGE here. So popular that they sell it by the leg in store, the more expensive the better the ham is.

With that being said, we sat down that morning with a plate full of pintxos (pinchos) and sangria. Even without having brushed my teeth, that Sangria tasted pretty darn good and so did the food. After this quick bite we headed to the apartment to freshen up, change and then back out to explore the city. M had told me that today was a holiday (what day isn’t a holiday here?) so the city was dead. We first went to Sol (the center) which was a bit more hustlin’ and bustlin’ than their quaint little neighborhood. Turns out May 2nd is Fiesta de la Comunidad de Madrid (The Day of Autonomous Community), thus marking the uprising of Spain against French troops in 1808. Yeah, I picked a pretty darn good day to come to Spain (all coincidental, of course). We ended up seeing the remains of a parade that had taken place earlier and walked into a bakery. True to form, I ordered a waffle cone filled with whipped cream and topped with chocolate and nuts. Kind of like one of those Drumstick ice cream cones but WAY better.

While licking the whip cream out of this cone, M took me on her own mini-tour of Madrid and Sol, going through Plaza Mayor and a few calles (streets) next to it. Turns out that a majority of the street names have a little picture underneath it, just in case you have no idea what the word means. For example, Calle Gato (Cat Street) would have a picture of a little cat on it. Those Spainards, they know us dumb folk need that.

Before I continue, I have to give props to my cousin for her tour. I have never seen anyone who has only lived in Spain for a little over a year and half, who barely knew a word of Spanish before she left, give such an informed and awesome tour. I don’t think I could have received a better tour from the writers of Lonely Planet or Rick Steves himself. Every street, every building, every monument – she covered it. My exhausted brain took in a lot today! This girl needs to start her own small tour company especially for Americans. She’d bank off of it.

Then we got hungry. When you’re in Spain what do you do when you get hungry? Why, go on a Tapas Crawl of course. Tapas are pretty much made in every single way you can think of, I even saw little hamburger ones with french fries on top. The way this works is that you choose which tapas you want and put them on your plate. Each tapas has a pick in it that you remove, save and then take up to the cashier who charges you by the picks. Could it be any more simple? Why yes, it can. In case, you’re still hungry and are a bit bored with the tapas already there, they’ll ring a bill signifying a new one has been made and ready for you to consume. You don’t even have to ask. Can it get any easier than this? Yes, yes it can. You don’t even have to throw your napkins in the bin. You can just throw them on the floor.

Pick your tapas, take the pick out, eat them, drink your cerveza con limón (beer with lemon), throw your napkins on the floor, pay and walk out. Why can’t all places be like this?

After the tapas crawl we ended up at Plaza de Isabell (with a little portrait of Isabell on the street sign). This is where M pointed out her favorite old toothless couple, playing accordions. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was looking at two old people but all of sudden my exhaustion took over and all I wanted to do was fall asleep on the steps. As soon as I got back to the apartment, there was no taking off of the jacket, washing my face, lifting up the sheets or taking a bath – it was a big, fat flop right on the bed.

After a brief three-hour siesta, we got dressed and headed to the San Miguel Mercado. Which turned out to be an enclosed glass market with tons of tapas, paella, wine, sangria, chocolate, cheese, gelato, seafood – pretty much anything stand! Again, we ate and drank. I don’t think I’ve eaten or drank so much in my life in such a short period of time.

The market was adorable but unfortunately closing down pretty soon after we got there. However, since tapas is just what we call “appetizers” we still needed dinner. This took us to Wok to Walk. Oh yeah, spicy, fried Chinese food in a box. Since we just HAD to have dessert, we stopped at Casa Gines for chocolate con churros. I was told this yummy goodness is served into the wee hours of the night (and I thought Taco Cabana was a good late-night snack). M and I drank that rich, hot chocolate right out of the mug. Nothing about this was gross.

Yes, I’m about to go to bed very happy and very full.

I’d say my first day in Madrid has been a complete success.

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