A shower and a cup of tea sharpened my jet-lagged brain. Never underestimate the resurrecting powers of scalding hot water and fire hose quality water pressure.
Dressed in my gray jeans and pink Chucks, I set out with a paper map and marker. I turned right instead of left outside my door and took the street Calle de las Huertas.
Completely different experience! Clean, calm, relatively few people, the street-turned-pedestrian path was actually paved with poetry – phrases in brass letters pressed into the paving. How cool is that?
Onward to the Prado, but en route my first unexpected thrill was a woman busker who busted out an aria from Carmen in a voice like liquid smoke and caramel. I was astonished. Yes, I dropped a Euro. Onward, giddy to realize it was all downhill to the Prado – literally. It was also noon. A bit further along I found the gates to paradise aka Le Café Belle Bonbon, a pastry and coffee joint.
The café con leche was delicious and hard-core caffeine. I hadn’t had breakfast and wasn’t hungry though by now it was 12:30. Definitely planned to come back this way and pick up something on the way home.
I decided to walk past the Prado to the famous Retiro Park. The police I saw yesterday were out in force again – I took a photo of a female officer standing at parade rest next to a police van parked in front of the Prado.
My dirt path through Retiro Park was more forgiving than asphalt, with the bonus of having multitudes of vain Spanish men jogging by with serious expressions and shorts. The rest of my walk was down quiet streets with grand buildings in lovely neighborhoods and virtually uninhabited. Window shopping is almost as fun as Paris. Behold, even the shoes in Madrid have got game.
Walked back a slightly different route, recalling how taking side streets on foot are always more pleasant than main roads. Realized I was thirsty and getting hungry and that it was 3pm. On no account did I want to eat in the Prado again, so I started reading menus. One place seemed promising; the outside venue was full of contented diners, and the menu had no English words, so I rolled the dice. Somewhat intimidated by the sleek steel and white leather décor. Puzzled over the menu (couldn’t get iTrans to function) until the waiter put an English version in my hands. He was laconic but helpful. I ordered two appetizers, hoping to double my chances of getting something edible. I drank three glasses of water and fiddled with my iPhone, like everyone else was doing.
The first dish arrived and looked like a bowl of white foam, and the bowl was smoking hot.
Oookaaay. Took a bite and it was freaking delicious. Ravioli filled with partridge, and I tasted olives and potatoes too. So, so good. I felt like I won the lottery. The next dish was cold, a single large scallop on some kind of chilled greens. Again, various distinct yet harmonious flavors, each mouthful a party. Well, where do I sign up. I marked it on my map and headed out towards the Prado. I was walking by the
I was walking by the Museum of Archeology when sphinxes on the steps called to me and I turned right through the iron gates.
It was a free entry day as it turned out. I spent several hours browsing through objects from the dawn of Iberian time. The older I get, the more I marvel at the brevity of our recorded existence. Most of the exhibits had Spanish and English commentary. I loved a bronze sarcophagus cover of a married couple, holding hands.
Also fell in love with the mosaics, carved wood screens, and the ceilings.
Time passed without me quite realizing it and I hit the wall around 6pm. Wanted to get a taxi, but more that I wanted to buy some apples and pastry, so I walked and walked.
After the Passeo del Prado, cops and crowds converged for one of the many Easter processions. Very festive and grim at the same time. New Orleans Mardi Gras parade meets the Inquisition. Hard to describe. That’s definitely what I heard last night, so I have a small hope that it won’t be like this my entire stay. I stopped in paradise and got a Panini on olive bread and two pastries – hey, according to Fitbit I’d walked over 10 miles on one scallop and one ravioli. Weirdly, I haven’t been particularly hungry today. I figure it’s the coffee – it’s so strong it might as well be speed.
I was one street away when I heard the drums and trumpet and saw the back of Christ’s head hoisted over the crowd, moving at a stately pace. The people carrying the shrine through the streets wore red satin hoods that covered their entire heads, white robes, and ropes that looked like nooses around their necks. So strange. I ran to catch up and took a few photos. I’ll never see the like again.
That done, I limped back to my noisy apartment and ate half my Panini, and something that turned out to be a butter cookie dusted with powdered sugar and filled with gooey caramel. Score!
In bed messing around with airdrop and drop box, trying to get all the photos onto the MacAir. It’s not a cinch, but at least I have most of them somewhere.
It’s 11:30 pm. the streets are packed out, and the processions keep making the rounds. I am going to go look for my earplugs. But what a great day! Don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I bet I’ll enjoy it.