Hemingway once called Madrid the most Spanish of all the cities. This is one of the reasons we chose Madrid for our next leg of adventure.
If Paris is a Ferrari, Madrid is a Mercedes with one bent rim. It is a classy city, proud people, rich in culture but, oh, so laid back compared to ma belle Paris.
Our Air France pilot required two shots at landing the plane before we commenced the always arduous task of circumnavigating a new city. We took two cabs because there were five of us. The first cab dropped me and two of my sisters in the middle of a square and pointed his finger toward a narrow cobbled road. Our apartment turned out to be well more than two blocks away. This was Madrid.
Our apartment is spectacular. For about $50 per night each, we have enjoyed four spacious bedrooms, elegant modern design and triple noise insulation on the windows. This point goes to Madrid. Paris has nothing like this.
By now it was well past noon and at least one of us was hangry (me). We circled Plaza Mayor and a few side streets. We avoided Botin, the restaurant often frequented by Hemingway, opting instead for what we thought would be a cheaper option. “Enjoy the tapas!” said everyone who had learned we were heading to Spain. And so we did. What we thought would be our cheap lunch option was, by a mile, our most expensive meal yet. This was Madrid.
Later that evening we joined a tour that we had previously booked. It was a tapas tour—virtually a repeat of what we had had for lunch. What we had believed to have been a cheesy-mash concoction in our earlier tapas turned out to be cod. Puréed cod. While this left four of us surpressing a gag reflex, Marsha, the one among us who dislikes seafood, helped herself to another portion.
Of course we’ve enjoyed the museums as well making the nearly requisite stops at Prado and the Reina Sofia. We ventured out of the city boundaries to visit the Palace of el Pardo where Franco ruled until his death in 1975. Our tour guide (as a guided tour is the only way to visit this working palace) explained that half of Spain’s population would still vote for Franco if an election was held today. This was surprising news as Franco’s alignment with Mussolini and Hitler in WWII clearly puts him in enemy camp to those of us from the US. At any rate, the palace was a highlight for me but, sadly, no pictures of the beautiful tapestries inside were allowed.
Possibly the second highlight of Madrid was the hamburger we bought for lunch at a restaurant with locals only and a server who spoke zero English. Ah, the savory taste of a burger after all that tapas.
Happy and laughing (and giving away any secret that we were American tourists) we boarded the train to head back to our apartment in central Madrid. The train car was crowded with bumping and pushing. When we disembarked Judy noticed her new (vintage) purse she had purchased in Paris had a gaping hole in it. Her first thought was it had been a bad purchase. But then it became clear the hole had been caused by a razor or sharp knife. The pickpocket got nothing from her except perhaps to steal a piece of peace.
We went back to our lux apartment with the plan of going back out, Spanish style, around 8pm. This never happened. We sat and had a plate of cheese (confiscated from our restaurant platter earlier in the day), sipped Cosmopolitans made by Marsha from a juice which strongly resembled cranberry juice, and enjoyed our last full day in “The most Spanish of all cities”.
This was Madrid.
[All photos mine and copyrighted]