File #20: Chin-chin

Hi-ho readers,

I tried writing this last night but was too tired and too sad (from no longer being in Madrid). I really would like to be in Madrid and not at my desk right now. But! We move on. Now for the recap of last week.

On Sunday I had lunch with my friend Kelsey from Wheaton at Cafe Forum, my regular place, and on Monday I saw Mommy (a French-Canadian movie) with my film class at the Ciné Lumière. It’s part of L’Institut Français, du Royaume-Uni, and it is conveniently located on my street.

Then Tuesday was my birthday (most of which was spent at work). After, however, I threw myself a little birthday party. I went to Drink, Shop, & Do for a disappointing candlemaking class with Zoe, Becca, Jillian, and Mary, and Galina!! (my friend from Wheaton) who was in London for the week with a study tour from the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (my friend Ella was here too but more on that later). My “first drink” was a vodka gimlet that came with a temporary tattoo that you got to draw yourself. I thought I did a nice job until I realized that my drawing was backwards. We got hungry and went to Burrito Cafe across the street in our party hats and then made a relatively early night of it.

This was not the case for Wednesday. Ella and Galina took me to Adventure Bar and The Roadhouse in Covent Garden, and needless to say I was very tired at work on Thursday morning.

Then on Friday I left for Madrid! I flew out of Gatwick and was at my sister’s host mom’s apartment by 5 PM local time. It was between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit all weekend and I almost cried from happiness about this at least three times. There were leaves on trees and everything smelled like honeysuckle. Char was in Paris and Munich this week, and as an apology for going to Germany without me she bought me a dirndl that looks just like the one I had as a little girl. I tried it on and then we kicked back for a little while before meeting up with Melanie and her friend Jaci (who were also in Madrid on Friday) to go to the Good Friday procession near the Banco de España. The “Procesión del Silencio” went for several miles, organized by the Jesús de Medinaceli, a Catholic brotherhood in the city. Members clothed in ceremonial wear and hoods processed through the streets, followed by cavalry and many parishoners. All parishoners walked barefoot, and some walked with chains shackled to their feet to signify how their ancestors had betrayed Christ at the time of his crucifixion. The most famous part of the procession happened when a statue weighing almost 3000 pounds appeared, being carried by hidden members of the brotherhood. If you looked closely you could see their feet shuffling underneath. I had seen nothing like this procession before.

To break up the somber occasion, we walked to Toma Jamón, a restaurant specializing in the famous Spanish dry-cured meat. We ate a lot, including huevos rotos con jamón (broken eggs with ham), pa amb tomàquet (bread with crushed tomato and olive oil, a Catalonian dish eaten all over Spain), croquetas (fried balls of mashed potatoes and béchamel), olives, and a bottle of good red wine. Melanie and Jaci went back to their hotel and Char and I walked off all of the food before going home and falling asleep very quickly.

Saturday was our big touristy day (well, for me, not for Char). Char’s host mom, Anabel, makes all of her food and so she packed us a lunch — tortilla sandwiches with other lunch snacks.Tortilla is not like the flour or corn tortilla we see in the States. It’s referred to in English as a Spanish omelette, and is a very thick egg omelette with potato, then fried in vegetable oil. It’s a similar consistency to a frittata, and it is very, very good. Char and I walked to Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid’s biggest park, to enjoy our lunch and the sunshine. We poked around the park, watching the rowboats and vendors, taking a coffee break along the way before stopping inside the Palacio de Cristal. I would like to note that the very warm temperatures did not stop trueMadrileños from wearing parkas, which I witnessed more than once. We walked through the park to visit the Real Jardín Botánico, which was lovely and also featured an art exhibit in an adjoining building. We kept walking through the city to get to the Puerta del Sol. New Year’s celebrations happen there and there is also a plaque called the kilómetro cero, which shows the symbolic center of Spain. If you step on it, it’s supposed to ensure your return to Madrid in the future. So of course, I did. We ate yet more at a restaurant called El Museo de Jamón, which has locations all over the city. We shared a bocadillo de chorizo, a sandwich made of a small Spanish baguette and pork sausage. And of course, a cold beer. We walked to the Palacio Real to take a tour, and also to enjoy the view of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the mountain range that surrounds Madrid. Then we went to the Mercado de San Miguel, where Char had me sample gulas (baby eels, although I think mine were imitation) and boquerones (anchovies, definitely real). I liked the gulas but had to wash down the boquerones with a San Miguel beer. Also, I would like to note that day drinking is commonplace in Spain. Like, a LOT. The last place we went before I needed to nurse my sunburn was the Plaza Mayor, a busy plaza in central Madrid. We took the Metro de Madrid home to enjoy a dinner of chicken, salad, and sauteed mushrooms prepared by Anabel. We had a pretty long nap before venturing out again for a late dessert of espuma de yougurt con frambuesa (whipped yogurt with raspberry reduction) and tinto de verano (wine with lemon soda).

Sunday morning was Easter, so Char and I ambled through El Rastro, an open air flea market held every Sunday, before heading to Santa María la Real de La Almudena, the head of the Catholic church in Madrid, for Mass. The service was in Spanish, so I had a tough time understanding for obvious reasons. I decided that I would enjoy the architecture. The cathedral is Neo-Gothic but has very bright paintings on the ceiling and behind the altar, and has modern stained-glass windows. We did a little shopping in Recoletos in Salamanca (Char’s ward/barrio) before heading back to her host mom’s apartment for an Easter lunch. Anabel’s mother Carmen and son Itor had arrived, and I was thrilled to learn that Itor is fluent in English. I enjoyed listening to the Spanish at the table, seeing what I could gather from context clues. Char’s Spanish is so good now. I think she is better at Spanish than I will ever be at anything in my life. We had pork and so many grilled vegetables and more gulas con aguacate and so much bread. My wine glass kept being refilled without me noticing and Anabel also made me try two shot glasses of patxaran, which is a fruit based liquor that she makes herself. Anabel and her family are from the Basque country, and this is a specialty there. Needless to say, all this booze made me very sleepy and when I woke up I was still drunk and needed to walk it off. Char and I went downtown (very slowly) to the Círculo de Bellas Artes to watch the sun set over Madrid from the roof. We only had 15 minutes up there but it was so, so beautiful. Afterward, I was somehow feeling hungry, so we went to Char’s preferred drunk food locale, Sidreria El Tigre. A GIANT plate of tapas comes with a 3,50 glass of cider. So we were gorged on jamóncroquetas, and the like. But we still decided to get ice cream…at a McDonald’s no less. I swear, it had a MARBLE STAIRCASE. McDonald’s is treated like a real restaurant everywhere but the States.

On Monday morning we woke up “early” (9 AM) to try to get into the Museo del Prado, Spain’s main museum. Not before eating pa amb tomàquet at the VIPS down the street, first. I have no idea how to describe VIPS. It’s a restaurant, but they also have take-out, and it’s a store that sells toys and books? They’re literally everywhere. At the Prado, the line was half an hour long, so we ditched and went to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza instead. It’s one of the largest private collections in the world and has a lot of paintings from Dutch schools, Impressionist art, and late 20th century American art. It was really nice and I wish we had more time to spend there, but I needed to pack and leave for the airport. It pained me to do so. I thought about “accidentally” missing my flight more than once.Madrid, I love you, and I will return someday (knowing more Spanish). I missed Char a lot and I miss her more now. I may have cried a little going through Spanish customs. Now it’s on to my last week of work and trying to get in all cultural activities possible here.

Things I Read and Liked This Week
None. Was too busy living life. Will compensate next week.

And that’s the week that was!

P.S. Word of the week: claro (meaning “of course!”)

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