Christina Smac&Tosh – read the sign I held for almost one hour at the airport, waiting for you. It was worth the stares to get this adventure started right. You walked through the sliding doors, and I yelled out your name, but you didn’t see me. So I did the movie style run toward you, waving my arm. Nope, you did not see me. I planted myself in front of you, and you did the wide eyes thing! I hardly remember your first day in Madrid, actually. The image is a haze of disbelief that you came to see me. I don’t think I believed you came to see me until you mentioned it casually, and then alluded to it every time you almost cried during meals.
We went home and made Venezuelan arepas with that thick, black, European coffee I live thanks to. It was nice to cook with you. I let you do the dishes. Not because I wanted you to work, but because you will never be a guest in my house, so you can behave as you do in your own place. Mi casa es su casa.
The day was slow, and mellow. Our conversation was simple because you had not slept in a day, so I did not want to wear you out. We went straight to the Royal Palace. I had been saving up my visit there until someone came to see me. It’s not the kind of place I want to see several times a year, but not the kind of place you want to just skip out on during your time in Madrid either.
“It’s so surreal to me,” you said, “that yesterday I was just in my house in New York, and now I am walking a palace in Spain.” It was a beautiful place to see, but also incredibly unnecessary. With 2,800 rooms, we could not have seen half of it. The dressing room, the dining room, the throne, and the HUGE red crown like the one I imagine The Queen in Alice in Wonderland really wears. The tall, wide windows were my favorite thing because they had the least amount of detail, and because they let so much light in. The ornate walls felt constricting of freedom, like corsets.
I took you for a walk around the main sites of Madrid: Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Mercado de San Miguel. You had mentioned there was not anything in particular about Madrid that you wanted to see because you thought everything would impress you. You had also said you wanted to see things I had not seen yet. You wanted us both to have new experiences together, and that kind of thing makes you an awesome friend. But I had to show you those basic sights, and hint that you might want to take a picture or two there.
Exhausted and hungry, we went to Lavapiés. The neighborhood I love because it is filled with “hole-in-the-wall” type of restaurants, with all the international taste you could want. It was very important to me to introduce you to Senegalese food because its flavorful dishes are a revelation. My favorite dish is the MAFE, which is a beef stew poured over pristine white rice that gives me the strongest cravings I have ever experienced. When I have MAFE on my mind, there is nothing else I can do but go get it. Helpless to its powers, I brought you to the place I felt you might consider sketchy, but I knew it would be worth it! I am so happy you loved it as much as I do! So much, you asked for more later that week 🙂
Cheering to our first red wine glass of many more, we went home, in a daze until the next day. We woke up early, and met the Hiking Madrid group I go to the mountains with regularly. It was holy week in Madrid, and not many people were in town so we were a small group. We headed to La Pedriza, which I was dying for you to see! This has been my favorite hiking location so far. I love it because it looks exotic, with giant boulders piled on top of each other like they are ready to fall apart.
It was a hard hike, and I cannot believe I signed us up to do it right after your arrival. But we did it! In the rainy weather, and the cold wind, we pushed through like champions. La Pedriza can be very demanding on your legs and knees. With every step, we visualized our glutei shaping up beautifully. We saw goats, explored a small cave, and enjoyed two glasses of wine at the end of it. Everything in Madrid = wine, and there is never a single regret over it.
On the way home we had four minutes to catch the train, and you learned the hard way that you’d spend like half of your vacation time running to catch some kind of transport. We made it. We jolted out of that metro cart with pain stabbing our feet, and we made our way through the crowd, laughing madly, running up too many escalators, ramps, and stairs.
Showering, cooking, and packing for our trip the next day was strenuous on our minds and bodies. It was not until midnight that I realized I had made a mistake. RyanAir requires you print out your own boarding pass at home, and I completely forgot. I do not own a printer, and there would be nothing open between the time we went to sleep and got to the airport. A concern that kept us from a good night rest. I had missed a flight in Madrid before for silly reasons. I was not sure what the solution was, but I knew two things for sure: we had to get to the airport with plenty of time for problems, and we had to be super nice suck ups when we reached the RyanAir counter.
I always say every adventure begins before the sun comes out. Now, I’d like to add on that every great adventure begins with a flaw.