Madrid, Espana. The streets were quiet this morning, another peaceful awakening for those native to Madrid. The week long semana santa, (easter), holiday affording them a sleepy start to the day. Shops in the trendy Chueca district opened lazily, if at all. Looking up the sky was cloudy and gray - this, I am told by a local, is an anomaly for Madrid this time of year - I suppose we brought a little of Vancouver with us.
We drifted back to the hotel for a seista, (spain is perfect for me, and my need for constant midday naps. It's like they designed life specifically around my injured needs), and then left for a fantastic evening otu with a wonderful man named Gonzales, (Gon-thal-es). Being a business contact of one of my travel friends he was happy to drive us around his city, our own personal tour guide. We stopped for a peek at the Palace and it's cathedral, and then made our way to stand breifly in the direct geographical center of Spain. As a tourist, this was pretty nifty. As an artist, I was bored.
By this time the streets were full and bustling, the celebrators of Semana Santa out in full force. Occasionally someone dressed in the iconic garb; tall pointed hats with only small eyeholes through which to see - not unlike those seen on people in the kkk, but, worn for completely different reasons - could be seen dotting the crowd.
We moved through, dancing with the crowd until we reached Plaza Mayor. Rich in history this large and open square has always been a hub for activity. In the past, bullfights, trials, executions, markets and theatre all presented themselves there. Today it stands bordered by tapas bars and restaurants, their patios spilling out into the square. Here street performers make their living, and I sat romanced by the feeling and indulged in a glass of sangria while listening to Gonzales' stories. Here the artist in me sang.
Soon we tipsily giggled our way to Botin, reputed to be the oldest restaurant in the world. Guided by the forsight of our gracious host, our reservation directed us to the most beautiful section of the time rich building. Down "in the cave" as Gonzales put it, we sat in wonder. It wasn't a cave, so much as a time capsule built of old brick stones and thick rich wooden beaming. Artistically placed lanterns and plates adorned the siimple brick walls, and the romantic lighting lent a relaxed and comfortable feel to our dinner.
We laughed over wine and gazpacho, (which is, by the way, an incredibly fantastic cold soup that I definitely invite you to try, if you ever chose to eat there..) and tripped over the language barrier with the good grace of alcohol and high spirits.
1735. This place has been open as an inn and eatery since 1735. I am still reeling from the thought. My mind drifted as I sat there letting the indulgant red wine settle onto my tastebuds, to how many souls have been in that very spot, enjoying their own Spanish cuisine and company.
History, delicious food and glorious company.. Salud. To experiencing life.
Madrid, Spain - 04.21.11