Today was about wandering. The weather finally cooperated—it’s a good 30 – 40 degrees cooler than yesterday, perfect for walking everywhere. Good thing the Camino has conditioned us for hills.
We went to El Rastro today—Madrid’s open air market that goes on for blocks (and blocks). The last time we were in Madrid, we were far away from the action and missed out, so this time it was on our list.
Will looked it up and found that the market has a cap at 3500 stalls, and we wandered through them for a good two hours—some used clothes, lots of brightly colored dresses and sarongs, jewelry and purses and linens. We wandered down side streets and looked at antiques spread out on tables or along the curb and wished we could fly home with delicate pitchers and ceramic platters. In short, it was lovely.
Tonight we ended up having dinner in a plaza where a dozen or more restaurants had set up chairs, with waiters hustling in and out of nearby restaurants, and we started to feel nostalgic for leaving this all behind in the morning.
So, as a farewell, I present a few observations about Spain:
1–There’s a huge commitment to public life in Spain. In small towns and giant cities (Madrid is the second largest in the EU), there are public squares filled with people each night—drinking, eating, catching up with friends, walking dogs, visiting the pharmacy. In Madrid, although there are taxis everywhere, there are few cars overall. Sure, there’s the Metro, but also: people just walk. In four days, we’ve ended up having pre-dinner drinks in the same plaza near our hotel and seen the same people walking their dogs, interacting with each other. People move out of the way when a car approaches, but traffic is necessarily slow; the focus is on pedestrians. I can’t help think of the nastiness in America right now, the culture of blame and distrust, and how it’s happening because we’re locked away in our homes, lonely and bored, turning to our keyboards and our conspiracy theories for solace.
2–I could people watch Spanish fashion all day. The colors are bright, the patterns bold, the bras rare. It’s all skirts and dresses or jumpsuits with lots of flowing fabric. Since we left the Camino, I haven’t seen a single pair of leggings. (Except for the black ones I’m wearing on the plane tomorrow.)
3–Maybe because it isn’t a tip economy, there’s no rush to vacate a table in a Spanish café. Sometimes you might try to get a waiter’s attention for a half hour before the cuenta arrives, and the waiter always seems surprised that you’re thinking of leaving, already. In the US, our food sometimes arrives with the check and an insincere “no rush,” but here, you could literally sit for hours with no one bothering you. And when you ask for the check, they bring you instead a complimentary digestif, prolonging the experience further. There may be a line of people waiting for a table, but no matter.
4. The dogs. Have we mentioned all the dogs? Everyone in Spain has a little perro, leashed and moving inconspicuously down the street. (In three weeks of dedicated dog-watching, I haven’t seen any of the large or dangerous breeds that are everywhere in Modesto; these are clearly companions, not guard dogs.) Will and I have pointed out as many perros as people, and it’s clear that we’re ready to see our pups again soon. Humphrey and LG, we’re coming back!
Tomorrow: early morning taxi to the airport.
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