Saturday, May 29, 2004

madrid saturday

I´m not sure I´m doing this quite right, but here goes.

It is Saturday in Madrid, and this is the second-to-last day of our 12 day excursion in Spain. Tomorrow we go to Salamanca with a several hour stop in Segovia.

The smell of Madrid is a mixture of good food, cigarette smoke, early summer air and car fumes. The past three days have been wonderful. I have ventured out on my own, spending hours in the museums, eating fish and seafood soup at a cafe, and navigating the metro system. I´ve ridden in the open air upper deck of one of those excursion buses--hokey, yes, but the sun was shining and I got to see large parts of Madrid that I would have otherwise missed on foot. Not to mention all that I learned from the British-accented (sorry folks, my Spanish is not quite ready for audio only) English taped guides. My only question is: How hard would it be for the Brits to learn to say Don Quixote correctly? Don "KWIX-oat" grates on the ear!

I was tempted to believe that Madrid had more blind people than any major city I have ever seen, but that wouldn´t be logical, would it? The services for the blind here are just much better than most places, I guess, and certainly more visible (forgive the unintended pun). There is an organization for the blind here with the acronym ONCE, which spells "eleven" in Spanish (I have no idea if that has a deeper meaning) that provides jobs, like selling lottery tickets, for the visually impaired.

I´m sitting in an internet cafe across from our hotel (El Hotel Gaudi, which contrary to its name has no architectural features relating to that marvelous architectural style) that calls itself Carribean. They have platano and queso sandwiches here (platain and cheese) that I tried a few days ago. Not very good--they use sweet platanos and added sugar. Yuck! However, it has cheap internet connections and it is very close. Right now I´m being drawn in to help the American tourists navigate the internet. Yikes.

My favorite foods here so far include gazpacho and tortilla espaƱola. The ham is exceptional and the desserts (particularly the bread pudding/flan and helado) are fab. The red wine is particularly good--and cheap. My fellow travelers complain constantly about how much weight they are going to gain (which makes me want to forcefeed them blubber) but we walk so much I can´t imagine they´re going to have any problems. Suddenly it seems as if all of the United States is one large white mass sitting on a couch or behind the steering wheel. That´s, of course, when the entire country is not on a treadmill or out jogging. Or buying the latest fad diet supplement. What a contrast...

Well, it´s off to get something to eat and maybe a glass of that lovely Spanish wine.