|Monday April 14 2008|
The day after Al-Andalus, Steph and the Raven and I caught a train to Madrid. Steph was flying out early the next morning to Malaysia, and the Raven and I would meet Paul and Madonna the next day, and catch the train with them to Barcelona, and onto their place outside of Vic.
The Raven and I had time to tour around Madrid, the capital of Spain, a bit. We saw the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), which was the principal royal residence from 1734 to 1931. We found a music store and picked up several of Jose Soto's music CDs to take home with us. The Raven enjoyed listening to an accordion player, and gave him some money, because I used to play the accordion when I was little. We strolled along the Gran Via - Madrid's main street, the Raven frolicked in tulips, and we stopped for a Starbucks. Of which there were many. There may be more Starbucks in Madrid than in Seattle. Europeans are not as obsessed with coffee as we are - or at least not in the same way. The to-go cup of coffee is a permanent attachment to the hands of most Americans. Here the Europeans take time to sit and enjoy the coffee and the company. Their version of to-go coffee is drinking it standing at a counter.
The shops here open at around 9-10 AM, then close around 1-3 PM, and re-open around 5PM, and close around 8 PM. Which makes it a bit confusing, if you pass a camera store at 1 PM, (which you need to bring your camera back to, to buy lens filters), and return a bit later with your camera, only to find you don't even know where the store is anymore, because the doors (like garage doors) have been brought down for the afternoon siesta.
We actually got lost several times in Madrid (which is not so bad), and the wandering around was really an excuse for wandering around looking for our hotel. The streets are at angles, many of the tall, old buildings look alike, there are lots of little plazas everywhere, and the buildings are tall enough that you can't use anything tall for a landmark. Finally we figured out that when we saw a big poster of George Clooney staring out of a poster on a certain wall, that was our plaza and our hotel was across from it.
When it rains in Europe, it can really RAIN - while sitting in a restaurant eating, the heavens opened up and it DUMPED rain - gulley washer in the cobblestoned streets. It was a thunderstorm, too, and you could see the lightning even at the bottom of the narrow street lined with tall buildings.
My hotel was a cozy little affair... and in fact I had to get a double room because my suitcase and I would not both fit in the single room!