May 15, 2009

I went to Spain and all I got was a Japanese husband

When Annie told me she was coming to Spain, there was no question that I was making the short jump from my island over to the mainland to meet her there. Even though I had just seen her at Houseparty, when she tackled me in the middle of St. Catharine's Street, I can never get enough of Ann. And this was an excuse for us to be our ridiculous selves in a foreign country and have foreign adventures. She also chose a country that I'd never been too that has cheap airfare through Easyjet, which sealed the deal.
I arrived late Tuesday night in Madrid, so there wasn't much to do after I got there except go back to Kaitlin's apartment and sleep. Kaitlin is an old friend of Annie's from home (West Islip, NY) who was nice enough to also let me stay at her place, instead of braving a Madrid hostel on my own. Kaitlin was teaching English to young students in Madrid, so she had to get up early and go to work on Wednesday. Annie and I woke up a little bit later and explored the city together. Annie had already been there a few days and knew her way a round quite well, which was awesome for me - less map reading skills required for this leg of the trip.  
We walked down the hill from Kaitlin's apartment to the Underground entrance at Plaza de Toros, the Bull Fighting Arena. The coming weekend was a holiday to celebrate the patron saint of Madrid, so there were many bull fights scheduled that week as part of the festivities. Unfortunately, I was in the city for too short a period of time to get to see a bull fight. Even though I'm not one for unnecessary violence, blood and gore, I would have liked to have been able to say that I had experienced a bull fight. Ann and I jumped on the Underground and headed for the palace (Palacio Real).

Plaza del Toros

Palacio Real

We approached the palace through the gardens in Plaza de Oriente. The palace was closed to the public that day, but there was a constant flow of unmarked sedans of the silver and black persuasion driving through the palace gates. There must have been some sort of diplomatic ball going on within the palace walls. Annie and I briefly brainstormed how we could swing ourselves an invite, but after resolving that we weren't willing to sleep with any diplomats to get in, we ventured to the Cathedral adjacent to the palace (Almudena Cathedral). It was also closed. But very impressive from the outside.  

Almudena Cathedral

0 for 2, and it wasn't even 11:00am yet. Our next stop was Plaza Mayor, the main square. They were setting up for some sort of concert or show for the weekend celebrations in the middle of the plaza, and the immense scaffolding took away some of the square's charm. We decided that if we can't go inside museums and palaces... we can always shop! Annie took me to Sol, the section of town that had fun street markets and shops.   

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Kaitlin met up with us for lunch at a restaurant called Chic, and it was exactly that. Beautiful decor, amazing carbonara, and great white wine. We were the first to arrive for lunch. They hadn't even opened yet, and we got there at 1:15pm. The Spainish like their late lunches and their late dinners (9:00 or 10:00pm), and they actually do take siestas. A lot of shops and restaurants close down during the afternoon hours after lunch and don't re-open until 5:00 or 6:00pm.
After lunch, Kaitlin returned to school, and Annie and I walked over to a museum that was actually open.  In the Museo del Prado I got to see some famous art work that I had studied at Bucknell, like Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. We saw a lot of Titian, Durer, Rubens, Greco, and Goya and of course the famous royal midgets painted by Velazquez (more commonly referred to as Les Meninas). There was a beautiful exhibition in the Prado called Sleeping Beauty. It juxtaposed paintings of the Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon with sketches and paintings of the fairy tale of Briar Rose. My favorite painting was called Flaming June by Lord Leighton. It depicts a young woman curled up in a chair on a balcony, her long auburn locks lay lazy about her face and the sheer tangerine fabric of her long dress wrapped and wrinkled about her legs. The sun glitters off of the Mediterranean Sea behind her. That is the ultimate Katnap, and one day I will take that exact nap. I accept my own challenge. A random amusing highlight: a nude painting of an incredibly obese five-year-old girl, entitled Eugenia Martinez Vallejo, the Freak. I renamed her Pony. 
Museums make me sleepy, so Ann and I sat outside the Prado in the sun for a bit, figuring out where we wanted to go next. A group of six or seven Japanese men in suits were sitting next to us. One guy rolled up the pant legs of his suit - super attractive. Another, meticulously unfolded his museum map and laid it out on the grass so that he wouldn't stain his suit when he lay back. Soon they started taking pictures. No big deal, tourists tend to take pictures of museums. Annie and I were looking at a map, and Ann says to me under her breath "they're taking pictures of us." Great. Then one of the men comes up to Annie and asks: "Can you take a picture?" We of course say yes, sure, and reach out for their camera to take a picture of their group. But the man corrects himself: "Can you take a picture with us?" Annie and I look at each other. "WITH you?" I ask. "Are you sure?" The man answers in his Asian/English accent "Yes, you very pretty girls." Annie and I just sit there for a while, not sure what to do. Finally I say, "sure?" and he sits down on Annie's left and another man from their group comes and sits down on my right and their four friends each snap a bunch of pictures of us with their own cameras. So now they have like ten pictures of us - fantastic. Annie thinks they are going to go home and show those pictures to their friends and tell people that we are their wives.    

Our Japanese Husbands on the lawn of the Prado

Then we came across this building (below). Challenge: can you tell me what this building is... Annie and Kaitlin aren't allowed to play. And if you live in Spain or I've already told you what it is, obviously you are not allowed to play either. There will be rewards to the most creative guesses, and of course to whoever gets it right. I haven't decided what those rewards are yet - all I can tell you is that they're awesome!

Mystery building

We ended our afternoon in Parque del Retiro, reclining on two back-to-back benches by the fountain, waiting for Kaitlin to come pick us up. But Kaitlin fell asleep, so we just took the Underground back to her apartment. As we stood up from our benches, Annie said to me matter-of-factly: "Well, I feel obligated to show you the pond." I laughed at her delivery of the line, thinking, jeeze Ann don't do me any favors, and then laughed again because the pond was less than 20 feet to our left. It was just hiding behind some trees. Now I understand her feeling of obligation. It would have been silly for us to leave without me first having seen the beautiful pond, since it was so close. 

The Pond

That night we went out to a Tapas bar for dinner and drinks with some of Kaitlin's friends. We drank tinto de verano (3/4ths red wine, 1/4th soda water) and ate the tortilla and garlic ham on slices of bread and fries in a spicy sauce that topped our glasses on plates. I had four glasses of tinto and many plates of yummy food and spent only €10!  

Me and Annie at the Tapas bar

Liz and Kaitlin being The Stag

Fierce blondes on the loose!

Doing the Alex Face

Only one full day and night in Madrid.  Thursday morning it was off to the airport for Barcelona!      

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