Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

Madrid: Lunes 9 hasta Viernes 13 | Wednesday Part II November 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 10:47 am

With the free time after visiting the Tribunal Supremo, I headed off with a classmate to go to the Prado, Spain’s (arguably) most famous museum. El Prado houses such masterpieces as Velázquez’s “Las meninas” (which adorns the cover of our art history book), Goya’s “El 3 de Mayo de 1808 en Madrid” (the cover image of one of our history books), El Bosco’s “El Jardín de las delicias” (a print of which hangs on the wall in our art classroom), and El Greco’s self-portrait. I was astonished and awed by them all, although I had to go back the next day as well.

We left the museum exhausted and looking for lunch. Since I was the only one who didn’t have a hankering for a ham sandwich, I took my book and went off in search of some good vegetarian food. The general trick is to take one of the side streets that run perpendicular to the main street until you reach the street one block over that runs parallel to the main street: here you will find the restaurants, cafés, and bakeries. I was lucky enough to encounter an Indian restaurant, where I ordered sambar (lentil and vegetables) and naan to go. I exchanged my euros for the bag of food so hot I was worried the plastic would melt, and found a bench to lunch on. Much to my liking, downtown Madrid is filled with trees and parks, so finding a green spot to eat in wasn’t too difficult.

The view from the spot I found for lunch...

We then met at a metro station to go visit the Defensor del Pueblo, what would be called an “ombudsman” in English. I am too tired to rant about the position right now, but I promise I’ll elaborate later. We arrived, entered the building, and were led by a sub-secretary to a presentation room. “Now I won’t be boring,” he said as he powered up a PowerPoint. Recalling the never-ending stream of sleep-inducing powerpoints of the worst school meetings, I could feel my eyelids getting heavy (the scarce amounts of sleep we’d been getting certainly didn’t help!). Then the sub-secretary began to read us the slides. Let’s just say that the Defensor del Pueblo visit was not the most exciting part of the trip to Madrid.

However, we were soon set free and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the theatre, as a group of us had decided to go see a comedy that night. Stopping at a café on the way, I tried a “café caribeño”…coffee with melted chocolate and whipped cream on top. The light and sweet whipped cream gave way to the slightly dark chocolate which melted into the intense black coffee…the perfect drink, and with enough substance (I was just about to write “substanciality”…I feel like my English is going downhill!) to hold me over until tortellini and crepes after the play.

The show, called “El Pisito (The Little Apartment),” set in the 50s or 60s, was about a couple who, in order to get an apartment to live in, stage a marriage of the boyfriend with the old woman who now owns the perfect apartment…and then they must wait. A few of the jokes went over our heads, but there was a great line about how strange Americans are (in part because they make popcorn)…my group was the only one in the theatre laughing!

We walked back through the madrileño night to our hotel, where flour, sugar packets from Starbucks, soy milk, butter pats from breakfast, and eggs awaited me. The working conditions in the little room kitchen were less-than-desirable, but I managed to churn out a steady stream of hot crepes, not perfect but as good as they could be considering the lack of a whisk, spatula, and a bowl larger than that for cereal. I had wanted to throw in grated lemon rind, but first of all I didn’t have a grater, and second of all, the store didn’t sell single lemons (one frustrating thing for me about Spain is that way too many fruits and vegetables come in plastic, at least at the supermarkets).

the hotel kitchen...note the employment of the base part of a citrus juicer as a mixing bowl...

Now that our room was very popular due to the smell of crepes and nutella wafting down the halls, it was more difficult to enforce our BYOF (bring your own filling) rule, and we ended up with at least half, maybe ¾, of the group in own room, which was luckily rather large… After the crepes ran out, though, the majority of the group left, and we were left knowing who our true friends were…and then, full and content, we went to sleep.

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