Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Madrid on my mind

I stayed for a week and Madrid, and should say I didn't get enough of the city. I told myself and my hosts that I'll be back, with the resolve to speak better Spanish in addition to my bamos, muchas gracias and por que no te callas (Que barbaridad!).

The Spanish capital left me smitten and wanting for more. Here's a list of my Madrid favorites, in no particular order:

The Parque el Retiro is an oasis in the middle of the urban desert. The expansive park features a lagoon, wide walkways and endless trails. The greenery is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Catch a Peruvian group performing. Satisfy your voyeur fantasies, inside and out, at the see-through Palacio de Cristal. Sit on one of the benches and people-watch. Once you get tired of people watching, get up and get tired walking again! Peak through the gates of Palacio Real de Madrid. Get inside for a fee if you're the museum-type of traveler.
Soak in the lights at the Plaza Mayor. I visited during the Christmas holidays when it was flooded with the lights from the giant leaf decorations above, on the buildings and street lamps, and the market stalls themselves. During this time, merchants sell everything from figurines to complete the belen to colorful wigs for the upcoming Diaz de los Inocentes.

Puerto del Sol is where it all begins. Look for the 'kilometer zero' in front of Casa Regional. Pose for a souvenir picture in front of the bear-and-tree statue, the official emblem of Madrid, at the backdrop.

Walk along the entire stretch of Gran Via, the so-called Broadway of Madrid. The gradual slope somehow reminds me of Session Road in Baguio City, and the buildings of old Cubao in Quezon City. Get in any bar, order a cana; don't forget the tapas.

Never leave Madrid without trying paella. I tasted mine during our lunch on Christmas day, homecooked by Alba's father. Go to a churreria and order chocolate con churros after downing your nth glass of cana or wine. We went to one at four in the morning, and the place was heaving like everyone was just having a desayuno or an afternoon merienda.
Relax at the Templo de Devod near Plaza de Espana. This makes a perfect place for a photoshoot on a clear day with the backdrop of the Egyptian monuments and its reflection on the pond.
Brush up on the arts, and see Picassos and Dalis at the Museo Reina Sofia. Use the elevator, which is a piece of art in itself.

On a Sunday, visit the flea market in El Rastro. Even if you have nothing to buy, which is unlikely. Grab a souvenir shirt for five Euros. Take note the market closes three-ish in the afternoon.

Watch flamenco. If you can't, at least hear one. It's one thing that I failed to see in Spain, and for the same reason that I will return. We expected to see one in the La Latina district. The bar was small, and the stairs led us down to an even smaller confinement. The waiter prohibited us from moving the chairs and tables (which we joked as part of flamenco philosophy) to maintain enough space for the dancers. None came unfortunately. However, the impromptu and heart-wrenching singing of three patrons with acoustic guitar accompaniment kept us entertained, tortured, and enchanted until the early hours of the morning.

Bueno... bamos!

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