Saturday, January 21, 2012

¡Viva Madrid!

Hard to believe: 48 hours ago I was in Lubbock, and in 24 hours I'll be almost back in the US. Packed in between: A fast and furious (and fun-filled) trip to the Spanish capital. I know, for some it may seem like utterly folly to fly for a long weekend al the way across the pond, but for me it makes sense: Extremely low fare ($725 including all taxes), double AA's promotion to earn double qualifying miles, upgrade to Business Class, and, most important, time to spend with my old Buddy Howard and his family. And so I just went.
Lunch in the Irish Pub

After arriving here around 11 a.m. on Friday, it was a day of walking in a beautiful park in sunshine and mild temps, having a few Murphy's Irish Reds over a late lunch in Howard's Irish Pub around the corner, and non-stop catching up with each other. We all have red in the papers and mags about Spain's economic woes, but it is another thing to talk to the employee of an Irish meat importer/exporter who sees it all from the inside. What about an unemployment rate of 48% for young college graduates? Howard's three children are in that very age group (20 – 26), and all of them still live at home. Jobs are very tough to come by, even for smart, bilingual individuals like them.

The buddies in front of the monastery of El Paular

After talking the night away in Spanish fashion (dinner at 10 p.m. and us old fogeys hitting the rack at 1:30 a.m.—Sandra made it home from her night on the town at 7 a.m.!!!) we were off to a slow start this morning for a field trip to the monastery El Paular in the hills to the north-west of Madrid. Along the way we stopped in a sleepy little town, Lozoya.
Saturday morning coffee in Lozoya
The monastery was interesting, especially in the fact that only 7 monks are left over, one of whom gave us a tour of the ornate and sprawling complex. Ah, nothing like tanking a little bit of history and culture in the Old World.
Cherub, resembling the monk who guided us

After another walk through an adjacent park that during the summer months is packed with Madrillenos we hit a nearby restaurant, Los Calizos, for a late lunch. We started with artichoke hearts and I followed that up with the most tender lamb that I've ever tasted. Howard explained that the poor little sheep was slaughtered before it ever got to taste anything but mother milk, thus the name cordero lechal asado.

Tender artichoke hearts with shrimp
PETA probably has put a price on my head for eating this baby lamb's shoulder

Overall, it was a fabulous excursion that showed me a bit of the beautiful surroundings that Madrid has to offer. The sun was already setting when we headed back for Madrid and another evening of conversation and wine. Que vida!
View from the Morcuera Pass going back to Madrid
This time tomorrow I'll be sitting on another airliner, going back to Lubbock. But before then, some hard work remains to be done:
Lidya and Howard showing off the good stuff
That's the 2001 Rioja for special friends
The black-footed Iberian pig and assorted goodies

The master carver at work

Beautiful women simply are attracted to me... ah, the lovely Sandra!



  1. I really enjoy your writing and photos. Maybe a job with the Travel Channel is in you future?

    You could give Anthony Bourdain a run for his money.

    Randy Holloway

    1. That's quite a compliment, Randy, and I appreciate it. When I was sitting there last night, after such a full day (and full tummy), trying to find the right words to update the blog, I told Howard how much I enjoy writing these little blurbs. Your comment is about as smooth as the Rioja I am drinking right now, right here, in the Velazquez Lounge of the Madrid airport--my flight to DFW is about 45 minutes late. Salud!

  2. Jurgen this is all just as I remember it - you were blessed with such lovely weather. El Paular is just beautiful in its mountain setting. As for the lamb, artichokes, Rioja (and beer!) what can I say? Lucky you! Plus my beautiful sister in law and niece... Glad you had the chance to catch up with Howard and see all the family x

  3. Not just one sister in law--had we taken photos of Karen, Sandra, and Stephi, the photo would have exploded, especially with me in it, too. :)