Madrid, the city that sleeps, but keeps very strange hours. At 10 in the morning the streets are deserted. There is no traffic and few pedestrians other than tourists. Where is everyone?
At 10 in the evening the place is packed, and the fun is just starting. The city comes alive when the rest of the world is retiring. Most restaurants catering to the locals don’t open till 9 and don’t expect customers until 10. By 11 pm the crowds are just getting warmed up. By 1 in the morning they are hot. We know this because the charming little apartment we have rented looks out over a tiny square with the ubiquitous cafe/restaurant. The tables, chairs and patrons spill out into the square. The tables and chairs are there all day, but the patrons don’t arrive until late. The noise reaches a crescendo well after midnight and doesn’t quieten down until 3 am. The city has a great vibe as long as you don’t want to be in bed by 10!
For four days Gordon drags me around the city. We walk for miles down the handsome streets which look today much as they looked in the late 1800’s.
We can pause to admire the later art nouveau mansions
but little dalliance is allowed as Gordon is on a mission to see as many museums as possible. This is what Gordon loves. He is in his element and unfortunately I am in his element too. When I can stand it no longer I wander off on my own and explore the side streets
and the food markets,
and wonder why Safeway never looks like this
While Gordon can spend hours looking at paintings, I can spend hours looking at people
and their toys
On the last day Gordon has one more place he wants to visit. It is a convent and I am a little concerned he wants to check me in and leave me there. Founded in the late fifteen hundreds by a series of aristocratic women who brought with them fantastic wealth and dowries consisting of great painting , tapestries and precious metals, this convent soon became a convent like no other, so much so that the Spanish Royal family got into the habit (pardon my pun) of using it as their own personal retreat.
Today the convent allows a few small guided tours each day so that the common people (in this case, that would be Gordon and I) can enjoy the fabulous rooms, the priceless paintings from Titian to Breughel and the collection of tapestries all based on Rubens’s drawings depicting his chubby matrons. Unfortunately cameras are strictly prohibited. But dear reader, as you know regulations such as these are made to be broken and I can share with you one quick snap of the main staircase
Definitely not your average convent, and if Gordon is going to lock me away somewhere, this would definitely be as good a place as any. If it is good enough for the Royal Family ………………!
During our first two days in the city we wandered around freely with not a thought to our personal safety. But on Wednesday August 16th all that changed as the horrific terrorist attack took place in Barcelona. The entire country went into shock over the 13 victims whose lives were ended by the extremist who aimed his van at hundreds of pedestrians enjoying a stroll along the famous Las Ramblas. The next day Madrid went on high alert. Police cars parked across the ends of pedestrian only streets making it impossible for any vehicle to drive down them. Policemen and women were everywhere, hands resting on their fire arms watching the streets carefully, putting their lives at risk to safeguard ours. Meanwhile we became nervously aware of any white van being driven in our direction.
But the people of Spain, just as the people of other countries before them, were not going to be cowed by the terrorists. A minute of silence was observed at noon on Thursday but after that life continued much as it had before. The streets were packed, the stores were busy, and the squares once more filled with friends and neighbors gathering as they always did, to enjoy tapas and a drink or two with their friends. That first night they might even have been a little rowdier than usual, showing their defiance the only way they knew how.
The police too seemed to appreciate the respect they were earning. And on a lighter side, we too became more appreciative of the police …….. at least some of them
Definitely one of Spain’s finest