I haven’t had to say much about the weather in Madrid because it has been mostly pleasant. The weekend was no exception. It has been chilly in the mornings, with lows in the 30s, but generally the highs have been in the 60s. We avoided the chilly mornings on Saturday and Sunday be not going out until later in the morning.
As our tour guide said on Friday, with barely disguised sarcasm, “I know the life of a tourist is tough.” But we carry on in the face of enormous inconvenience, like not being able to eat breakfast until 11 in the morning.
We had decided to allocate some time on Saturday to shopping. No, not shopping for things we need in the apartment, but real shopping. [When I say “we,” I am sure you realize I mean “not me.”] Over the course of our visits to Madrid, we have found some stores that have clothes that can’t be found in the states. We visited a number of those stores Saturday morning and early afternoon. While I waited outside the stores, occasionally being consulted, I noticed how the trees have changed in the 9 or 10 days we have been here. When we got here, the trees were mostly bare while now many of them are blossoming out. We can see the seasonal change in people, too. They are less bundled up, even in the morning and most of the outdoor cafés are now very busy throughout the afternoon and evening.
It was a nice day for walking around in no great hurry, with “No Particular Place to Go” [credit to Chuck Berry, Chess Records, 1964. Let’s see ChatGPT do that.] Some places, like the spice and olive oil shop, we visit on each trip. I would say that the vast majority of the places we know survived the pandemic.
We had spotted a restaurant named La Traviata on Thursday, conveniently located near the opera house, that seemed to have a good menu and looked nice, so we meandered in that direction. As we neared the Royal Palace, we heard what sounded like a band and singing. We followed the music and saw a substantial crowd in front of the east side of the palace. When we got closer, we could see orderly ranks of troops and a military band. The band was not playing military music, but what sounded like patriotic songs and they were accompanied by the soldiers. Next to the soldiers was a group of about 100 civilians, men and women, many of whom wore medals. They also sang, which is one reason I thought the music was not primarily martial. I tried to get pictures, but with the crowd, it was difficult. Shortly after we arrived, the military formed up and paraded away. I would have liked to have heard more.
La Traviata was only a couple of minutes away. We had a very good meal. The caprese salad was so good that we plan to go back on Monday. The deserts were very, very good.
We chose yet another unexplored street to get back to the apartment. Many of the major streets in this area of Madrid converge on Puerta del Sol. Puerta del Sol is the geographical center of Spain and has a plaque marking “kilometer 0” which is the starting point for measuring all national roads in the country. But don’t go looking for the plaque for a while; Puerta del Sol is a huge mess right now. The whole area is being renovated. It is usually a good place to people watch and see performances by musicians, but right now it is just chaos. People are being funneled through narrow walkways. I really dislike the pushing, shoving, people who are often so distracted by their phones that they bottle up everyone else.
In the evening we went to see flamenco at Tablao Flamenco 1911. This venue used to be called Villa Rosa, and it really did open in 1911. The pandemic forced Villa Rosa (and Casa Patas and others) to close. It reopened relatively recently and we were looking forward to going again. When we were here in March of 2020, we attended what turned out to be the very last performance at Villa Rosa, which went on and on, because the performers knew the lockdown was coming at midnight. But I am sorry to have to report that most of the changes during the conversion to Tablao Flamenco 1911 were not positive to us. The atmosphere had clearly changed and now there seems to be an emphasis on packing in the largest number of people and doing 3 shows a night instead of the traditional 2. The quality of the performers was high and we enjoyed the show, despite the changes we did not like.
Sunday was bright and a little windy. It was also Father’s Day in Spain. We were warned that everything would be closed and that only tourists would be left in the city since Monday is a bank holiday so locals would take 3 or 4-day holidays. That prediction turned out to be incorrect. The temperature when we went out was borderline for needing a jacket but it promised to get warm. We thought it would be nice to sit in the sun in a café in Plaza Mayor for a leisurely meal. However, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of restaurants and cafés on the single street we walk to get to Plaza Mayor, and we almost stopped several times before we got there. We did find a place with an open table–the Plaza was quite busy–and sat in the sun. Despite the cool temperature, the sun was very warm. The meal turned out to be a little more leisurely than we anticipated because the waiter got my order for vegetable paella wrong and brought me seafood paella. That would not work for me, so I shared Patricia’s pasta while we waited for my food. [I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my Spanish that was the problem: paella verduras doesn’t sound much like paella moriscos, even when I say it.] Nevertheless, we had an enjoyable meal–but no desert.
Our desert (surprise) was ice cream. The weather was so nice that we ate our ice cream, only a single scoop each, while sitting on a bench in Plaza Santa Ana. The plaza was busy and there was plenty to see.
We stayed in Sunday evening. Our trip is nearing its end and we were happy for a little down time. We had cheese, crackers, chocolate, and oranges while we watched an NCAA basketball tournament game. Real Madrid was playing an important game against Barcelona (a big deal called a Clasico) and it was on a big screen inside the bar across the street. The audience noise from the basketball game was mixed with the cheers and groans of the crowd across the street. It was a nice evening.
Monday is our day to do last-minute things such as visit La Traviata again, pack, and get the apartment ready for us to leave. We fly home on Tuesday. It looks like it is still going to be winter when we get back to Santa Fe.
It has been a wonderful trip.