Thursday, July 19, 2007

Madrid: a tribute

The Royal Palace and Sabatini Gardens, sunset
La Almudena Cathedral and the Palace after sunset, taken from Parque del Oeste

I arrived in Madrid last Weds night, dropped my stuff and showered at a friend's place at 11, and we went out… until 5am. On Thurs nite, after a day full of walking around the city, we napped until 11pm and then went out until 6 (I remember smiling exhaustedly at the encroaching daylight outside). We were able to wake up at noon only because we knew we were going to the pool, where we could sleep more.

Now it's 8pm and I've been trying to work at a funky café/resto with WiFi for an hour, to limited success. The sky has that crystal clear late day brightness, and all I can think about is Plaza Oriente, with its epic sunsets that cross the Casa de Campo (forest) and bathe the Palacio Real in orange light. How wonderful to be back in Madrid. It was as if, because I wasn't actively "missing" Madrid, I'd forgotten how amazing it was. I felt kind of guilty. It probably has something to do with the current Barcelona phase/obsession—which just sort compounds the guilt (add to that the fact that I prefer Barcelona’s soccer team but Madrid’s tapas bar scene-- both fundamental elements in the quality of life equation-- and it gets very complicated; but more on that later). Coming back here, the city in its overwhelming beauty and fantastic vibe is speaking to me. It is saying: "This is why you lived here, fool. How quickly you forget, you ungrateful scum."
And I reply: "My dear Madrid, I'm so sorry. It will never happen again!"

So I went out and enjoyed it as much as possible… I walked till my feet hurt. I didn't get in 4 days and 5 nites to all the old haunts, but I got to many of them—and discovered some new ones. I was a man on a mission. And this time, for the first time, armed with a digital camera! Thus the sense of progress from my old days in Madrid, in 98 or 01-02—I'd moved up in the world! (Pics will be posted any day now.) It was highly rewarding to see that Madrid was by and large prettier and more impressive than I'd remembered it. Many renovations were finished, the neighborhoods boasted even more shops and bars, and things looked spiffy in general. While newer, northern Madrid is mostly a modern wasteland of financieros (finance types) and pijolandia (preppyville), the division makes it much easier to appreciate central, old Madrid, which is eminently walkable and overwhelmingly pretty.

Thanks again to M. for hosting me and our NYU colleagues for coming out and ripping it up with us in Malasaña, Huertas, and Latina. Hasta el otoño mis amigos!!

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