Viva Espana: Day 10 – Up and at ’em

After yesterday being an absolute write-off, and feeling much better today, I was determined to make the most (though maybe at a leisurely pace) of my last day in Madrid.

Sunday seems to be a day for leisurely strolling. Family and friendship groups wandering the streets and finding spots in the parks. Madrid’s centre is incredibly green and generously filled with green space – large green spaces and squares near the Palace, ‘pocket parks’ in residential squares, landscaped areas along the river and Retiro Park.

It’s also a day the shop til they droppers. Shops along the Gran Via don’t start pulling down the shutters until around 8pm.

Sundays are lively in Madrid. I’ve no idea how they compare with Saturdays.

I did leave the hostel yesterday. I’d previously spotted a cafe (part of a chain, a little like Bill’s in the UK) that did basic breakfast – i.e. toast. From there I headed to a park, quiet with clean toilets (just in case). I just didn’t have the energy to go far.

Feeling the need for mint tea and feeling like death warmed up, later in the afternoon, I headed for a tea room.

I’d been on the receiving of some strange looks from older women. When I checked my appearance, I found that I was looking more than a whiter shade of pale. Just as I was thinking that, at least I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew… Cynthia and Carl rounded the corner: “Fiona! Hey!”

The only people I know in the entirety of Madrid and I walked straight into them.

It was nice to see them, and we passed a few minutes before I headed off to the tea room.

This morning, I returned to the same breakfast cafe for a more substantial start to the day. The waitress recognised me, and I got a seating upgrade from a high stool to a comfy armchair.

After breakfast, I headed out again.

Sundays appear to be ‘flea market’ days in Madrid. Almost every square and street was lined with stalls and bustling crowds. Plaza Mayor was the place for stamps and coins.

Realising that the Queen Sofia Museum has free entry between 12.30 and 2.15pm on Sundays, I set off for another art fix.

I arrived just before noon, correctly guessing that there would be a queue… in a stereotypically Spanish style. The general confusion was added to by teenagers on a school trip generally milling around, but there was a protocol:

1. Ask the museum staff member about free entry times.
2. Be directed to the wrong window and be told to stand at a particular spot, ignoring the lengthy line of people.
3. Be told at the window by the next museum staff member that you need to join the line you had already noticed.

This was why I had allowed time.

The German woman behind me was utterly exasperated by the situation.

Shortly before 12.30, there were 100 people (of whom 50ish were the meandering teenagers – no, I don’t know how they can meander in an enclosed space either, but mill and meander they do) were ahead of me and about 200 behind.

Interestingly, I have observed queue jumping (marching to the front of the security line at railway stations) but nobody seems to mind. I’ve been restraining my English tutting… which has been a challenge.

As four young men marched to the front of the queue for the Queen Sofia Museum, the German woman behind me was utterly incensed.

And as we rounded the corner of the ticket office, the queue appeared to have gained another 200 people ahead of us. Where the hell had they materialised from? I hadn’t seen an extra 200 people wander in. The German woman and I had only seen the four.

Musuem Staff Member No 1 was back to direct me and the German woman into another queue, seperate to the one that the teenagers were in.

By 1pm I was wandering the gallery.

Yesterday, I’d gone to a tearoom that served beautiful cake. I couldn’t face any of these so went back today to remedy that issue.

The best slice of carrot cake that I have ever eaten later… and the two older women, ever so elegantly dressed (silk scarves, smart jackets, sharp haircuts), sitting opposite me went to the loo. So what, you ask.

Several moments later, another woman opened the door to the toilet – they hadn’t locked the door – and there was something of a shocked but gentile outcry.

One of the women appeared from behind the door to reassure the third woman that all was well, when the most indignant call of “por favor, Antonia!” sounded. The first had left the door open while the second was still trying to dress.

Antonia received a discreet dressing down as they left the tea room. How do I know? You can tell. Antonia’s sister (they were twins) did not look happy at all. Antonia just laughed.

As for the cake… the proprieter explained that he bakes them himself. I asked about the frosting because it was so light, rather than overpowering the carrot cake with sugary butter. He makes it with green tea, butter and minimum amounts of sugar and it’s whisked to make it frothy – a completely different texture to the frosting that I’ve eaten on carrot cakes elsewhere and I greatly prefer it.

You can’t move for inflatable bears and Transformers (the robots in disguise version) – there were at least three Bumblebees hanging around Plaza Espana this afternoon: “Photo-photo-photohhhhhhh“. Then there are the Disney characters. (A little girl on Wednesday’s food tour took one look at the giant figure trying to give her an inflatable sword and said: “You’re not the real Minnie Mouse”). And if that doesn’t work for you, there’s an assortment of Pixar and computer game characters. For anyone delighted by the reduction in living statues… I’m not entirely sure this is an improvement.

There’s also tremendous duplication but one chap in Retiro Park had found his own niche. He was definitely the only Chucky I’d seen so far.

Don’t have nightmares, kids.

Categories: Madrid, Spain, Travel, Viva EspanaTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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