I am in Europe to visit seven cities for the holiday season. You, the reader, shall get one post for each country I visit. This is the third one. Enjoy.
“Is this Madrid or is this Bushwick?” I thought to myself. This was my very first time in Spain. Madrid reminds me of Manhattan & Brooklyn. It had its own version of Times Square (the infierno turístico). It also had what I call a “barrio inconformista.”
When I began my city adventure, I was stunned to the fact that (most) drivers yield to pedestrians. This was too damn strange for me, as I am used to the trafficky rumbles of the East Coast.
I traveled with my brother, who noticed something very interesting about the way people talk here. As a stalwart of Spanish, he witnessed that the people of España can be quite sarcastic.
“Are these destinations close by? Or do they just appear to be close but are actually really far apart?” my brother said to the receptionist.
She wittingly replied, “Hombre, come on…It depends how fast you walk.”
It was quite peculiar at first. Eventually, I realized that it reminded me of Jersey City sarcasm–the sarcasm that my teachers, friends, and neighbors used in everyday speech. I eventually accepted this unforeseen expression and went on my merry way.
Nobody wants to speak English here.
I need a coffee…
The Hip Madrid
After dodging a few prostitutes on my way up North, I visited a bunch of specialty stores and elegantly chic boutiques. The first joint that caught my attention was a bike shop. The gent by the front desk recommended a tasty place to sit, relax, and hang my hat. He made me walk up the block for thirty meters (Erm, thirty-two yards) toward a local gem.
Yes, I found a Hipster Refueling Station in the heart of the Malasaña barrio. “La Bicicleta“ had it down pat. It was different because there was a sense of class in the air. I enjoy good service and tasty coffees. It was here in Madrid that I was introduced to a heavenly drink.
Enter the carajillo, an espresso with your choice of liquor! Typically brandy. I took a few of these bad-boys with a little whiskey and rum. Why didn’t I think of having this back in the ‘States? ¡Ay caramba!
Again, I felt so callow every time I couldn’t speak Spanish. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to my college professor, Mia, for not practicing enough during Spanish class. I could’ve done some real Spanish damage had I done so! I only knew “hola” and “buenos nachos.” That’s pretty much it. Luckily, these Madrid-folk are well-educated and can take my guileless ass to class.
I learned about Madrid through the eyes of two Russian women
Sofia and Nastya are two endearing ladies from Vladivostok, Russia. I was actually surprised when they didn’t have any vodka or caviar in their backpacks.
Sofia says that the Madrid folk accept people in terms of physical appearance. They dress as they please. It’s like a New York City type of individuality completely accepted in this city. She herself dons pink hair, with a firecracker of a personality to match.
“You must know how to speak Spanish, even if the people here enjoy the company of foreigners.”
I can understand why they do not feel an obligation to accommodate to my own language. I am their guest after all. This touristy dilemma will only get tougher when I go to Barcelona. (More on this on the next entry.)
What I Personally Have in Common With Spain
The Spanish people love their dogs. I am overjoyed for this. However, it terribly vexes me that nobody cleans up after the little pooches. Brown bombs everywhere. Traveler, be warned.
Despite having to constantly watch my step, I was happy to be engulfed in a culture that knows how to relax. As a Port Authority man, I am accustomed to the fast-paced life of America’s New York area.
There is something cool about this city. It’s hard to understand, but I must come back to figure that out. But first, I’m gonna makes some carajillos. ♣