There’s been something gradually growing on the horizon of my consciousness for the past few weeks, a love that I was only half expecting, a love that has somehow surprised me now that I recognize its existence. The object of my love? Madrid. Yes, I love Madrid. I first began to realize the existence of this affection when we went to Paris. Yes, Paris is amazing, and I really enjoyed my time there, and I would go back again in a heartbeat, but I literally felt a sense of relief when we were getting on the plane back to Madrid. It wasn’t just that I was going to be able to understand the people around me again, but more that I was going back to that lovely town, my home away from home, Madrid.
The second instance that drove home how much I love this city is a dream I had the other night. For some reason, in my dream, I had to go home during November – it was awful! I kept trying to figure out how I could get back and stay for the full amount of time that I had been planning on, but somehow it just wasn’t working out. Madrid had been taken away from me! And ever since I woke up from that, I’ve been realizing more and more why I like this place so much.
1. El Retiro, of course! That place is definitely one of my favorites in all of Madrid – it’s so beautiful and peaceful – although I visited the Casa de Campo this weekend, and it’s now hard on the heels of El Retiro. Both places are filled with trees, benches, crowds of people taking advantage of the good weather, and plenty of lovely spots to sit down and read a good book. Although, Casa de Campo is by far the larger of the two, as it’s more like a campground/wilderness-ish area, and it also has an amusement park and zoo. I took a delightful turn around the lake there on Saturday, taking pleasure in the crisp autumn air and the happy splashing of school children out for a rowing excursion, and I look forward to going back sometime soon (before the heralded cold of winter comes).
2. People watching. There are so many different types of people wandering around great big city – young, old, business-like, touristy, fashionable, loud, quiet, happy, somber, and everything in between. Hair styles are different, the trendy ones at least – for some reason, a lot of the young guys seem to think that short hair in front goes perfectly with a handful of or fewer dreadlocks in the back. Oh! I’m pretty sure that I saw my first toupee in use today when I was on the metro…kind of cool, but pretty creepy.
3. Taking walks through the streets. There’s so much to see downtown, with pedestrians thronging every sidewalk and vehicles pouring through every street, shops open for business at all hours and little bars and cafes constantly inviting entrance. On Friday, I went out for a few hours, mostly just walking along, people watching, and taking in the sights and sounds. It was relaxing. Of course, near the end there I was pretty famished, which brings me to the next thing I love about Madrid…..
4. The food!!! Or at least, my host mom’s food…Seriously, she cooks amazing food all the time. Like today for example: delicious fried potatoes with the perfect amount of salt, garlic red bell pepper, and an amazing joint of baked lamb. Mmm. The lamb was full of flavor, tender, juicy, and the outside was just a tad bit crispy. This was of course accompanied by the requisite chunk of bread, which worked perfectly to sop up some of the garlic olive oil that the bell peppers were in. Or the other day when she made us some veggie paella – to die for! Outside of Maria’s cooking though, there are those lovely little things called tapas, and a wide variety of delectable little pastries, sweet and savory!
5. Friends. I’ve met a lot of really cool people here, although to be honest, most of them are international students like me…ah well, the people are always one of the make-or-break points, right? I love it when I make friends who just organize a day outside, playing beach volleyball in the polideportivo downtown and throwing in a picnic and an outing to the heladería to pick up some delicious ice cream. I also love meeting random people in random ways, like the guy who joined us yesterday when we were playing volleyball – nobody had met him before, but hey, why not?
6. Street performers. Coming from a small town, I never grew up with seeing people on the street corners, in the parks, or wherever with their crazy costumes, magic shows, and musical instruments. I like it. It’s fun hearing accordions in El Retiro, watching performance artists en Puerta de Sol, and listening to snatches of jazz tunes being played on a trumpet in the metro station. Of course, not all of the performers are that great, like one older woman who insists on singing karaoke in one metro station fairly frequently, but then you also have the really good ones like the three piece string quartet I saw in Sol the other night, and the somewhat random ones like the hippy playing some strange homemade instrument that defies description.
There are tons of other little things that I love about Madrid, but these six are some that I like the most. Isn’t that always the way of love though? It’s not a set list of six points that completes the reasons for loving, but one to which new points are always being added, each day a new experience and a new reason to love…Madrid, I love you!