Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The fifth and final European-summer installment: España

The two buddies at La Granja de San Ildefonso
I promise that this blog post about the final part of our three-week European tour will not be as long as the previous two, but then, our sojourn in Madrid was just three days long.
In the fancy-food section on the 9th floor of El Corte Ingles
After flying on Thursday from Brussels on BA miles via Iberia (convoluted, eh?) to Madrid, my old buddy Howard picked us up from Barajas. Nothing beats a friend who lives less than 10 minutes from the airport! Since Howard had to work on Friday, Angela and I were free to take the metro to the city center. It goes without saying that we had to pay a visit to El Corte Ingles, in many ways the Spanish pendant to Berlin's KaDeWe, London's Harrod's, and Paris' Lafayette and Printemps. While our—OK, Angela's—shopping spree was rather moderate in the general areas of the department store, we spent an inordinate amount of time on the 9th floor, in the gourmet food section. Aside from exotic foods such as Stubb's Bar-B-Q sauce (really!) this area features numerous small food stands with wonderful tapas and more. Additionally, there is an incomparable view of the city and the royal palace from up here, and we made a point to sample a few goodies.
The view from the gourmet section and its dining area is worth the lift ride, for sure!
So, I had to travel to Spain to finally find a Grimbergen on tap
I always wanted to try out the "miniature" setting on my camera

Superb ice cream—and the macaroons on the left were filled with it!
What would a visit to Madrid be without stopping by the Museo del Jamon? We ducked in right before the general siesta time, when hard-working folks were on their way home to take a well-deserved mid-day nap but felt the urge for a little nourishment. Well, who can blame them at these prices?
These prices are for real—cheaper than even Berlin
The crowds—not all those hams— were a bit much for Angela
That evening, we went with Howard and Lidya back downtown, for a late meal (oh, we started around 11 p.m.) and a bit of looking around. It is amazing how the Spaniards make the night their day. I've always said, they are total animals!
Posing in front of what must be the world's most ornate post office
BiciMad, the new bike sharing program, uses eBikes! Reportedly, somebody hacked into the on-board touchscreens and a porno image of a nekkid dude greeted renters for a while!
By day or night, Madrid has some amazing sights
After sleeping in on Saturday, Howard invited us on a field trip to the countryside so we'd tank a bit of culture. La Granja de San Ildefonso is one of several royal palaces that date back to the 16th century, and its gardens were designed after those in Versailles. We all agreed that they were actually prettier, especially with all those shade-giving old-growth trees that were lifesavers on this hot summer day. During our first stroll through the extensive garden the 28 fountains with their 496 jets were dry, and we could only imagine what it would look like with water gushing from them. Well, after a break for a beer and delicious food we went back as we were told that the fountains would actually be turned on. What a spectacle—I'll just let the pictures tell the story of La Granja de San Ildefonso.

On Sunday we stayed in Madrid. While Howard and I took a stroll in the close-by Jardin El Capricho, another royal relict, the two ladies went for another shopping excursion to a different Corte Ingles. Somehow, Howard and I ended up in a hip neighborhood fusion restaurant/bar (OK, maybe a gastropub?) to quaff a well-deserved afternoon beer. Before long, his son, Simon, happened to spot our car and joined us, and a little while later Lidya and Angela arrived via taxi, all worn out from shopping and craving the ill-functioning AC inside while we had just wanted to boy-talk while seated outside at one of the sidewalk tables. Tapas appeared (and quickly disappeared), and then Howard's daughter Karen and her boyfriend, Ezekiel, made us a five-some. More food was ordered and consumed.
What looks a bit like a hole in the wall provides actually a fine dining experience
Tapas: lentil-based appetizer with red onions and zucchini
Tapas: baby squid on pizza dough
Tapas: two different types of curry
The cheesecake dessert!
And that's what we really had come for ...
It was close to six o'clock when we made it back to la casa. We lazed around while watching a movie, Angela took an extended nap before packing her bags, and then we had a final meal at a typically Spanish late hour. And on Monday morning we flew back home, after three weeks of Europe.
Madrid to Boston, on Iberia, in Economy! The ignominy of it all!!!
I realize that I never got around to writing anything about our three days in Berlin, where we stayed in the swank Waldorf Astoria and enjoyed the coolest digs of the entire trip. We saw my brother and his sons, did some family business, and took a lovely boat ride on the Spree. But all that seems to lie so far back in the past, especially now that I have been back in Lubbock for two days and life already has changed again. It was a very nice trip, and I am glad that Angela and I will have lots of wonderful memories for a long time to come. Still, it is time to move on. In less than 72 hours I will be in Utah for the next 10 days. Stay posted!


No comments:

Post a Comment