Last evening, Robert and I participated in a Vipassana meditation group only a ten-minute walk from our AirBnb. This is a type of Buddhist meditation that explores physical phenomena and their interrelation with the mind and body. Last night’s session (in English) was attended by 35 or so practitioners from all over the world and proved to be a very centering exercise. The organization offers various meditation and yoga classes, in both Spanish and English, on a donation-only basis. They prefer that you register in advance so they can have enough tea and light snacks on hand, but it is not essential. We will do our best to make this our weekly Sunday event.
And now for some more illustrated, random observations about Madrid:
If you show up at a local restaurant more than once, you are likely to be welcomed like an old friend. We have been to Tinto y Tapas three times now — it’s a great place to grab a quick snack and a glass of wine if you are looking for a pick-me-up (the empanadas and tostas are really good). Each time we go in, we are greeted with warm smiles.
A couple weeks ago, Robert and I enjoyed a light dinner at Puerta Amarilla, a tiny place around the corner. A few days later we joined a Meetup gourmet group at another restaurant about fifteen minutes away. The waitress circled the large table taking orders, and when she got to us she had a surprised look of recognition on her face, and with a large grin exclaimed, “Puerta Amarilla!!!” Sadly, this is also a reflection on the local economy that many people must work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
While we’re talking about restaurants, there are other interesting things we have noticed here. Very often you will see a presentation like this:
Great ambiance, beautifully plated food, fine wine glasses…but if you look closely at the edge of the large gray plate, you will notice a couple of chips. This isn’t a culture that immediately tosses less-than-perfect items when they are still usable, and we appreciate that practicality.
Last comment on restaurants: we routinely rely on the Menu del Dia for our primary meal of the day. Many places, including some finer-dining establishments, offer this “lunch special” from 13:30 to 16:30 every Monday through Friday. For a set price of typically USD 12-15, you get a beverage (including beer or wine if you like), first and second courses (usually a selection of three to five items each), bread, and coffee or dessert. Feel like enjoying a second glass of wine? That’ll be another USD 2.75-3.25. And remember, you don’t tip more than a couple percent on that.
We have had the good fortune to encounter numerous like-minded folks at our language school and various MeetUp groups: people from Canada, the US, Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia. Some have been visiting, some regularly spend part of the year in Spain, and others have chosen for one reason or another to live here for awhile. But each of them appreciates all the city has to offer.
One of the first things we did when we arrived was to go for a walk in nearby Parque del Retiro, Madrid’s Central Park. The nearest monument on what has become our normal route is called Fuente del Angel Caido. It was just a couple weeks ago that we found out this statue is widely regarded as the western world’s only prominent sculpture dedicated to Satan (well, technically Lucifer being expelled from Heaven) and that it happens to stand at 666 meters above sea level. Go figure!
Back to food now…last night after the meditation and a light tapas supper in, we fancied a cup of gelato at 00:30 on a Monday morning. In Madrid, that’s not a problem! We did need to walk past our usual gelato haunt and delve a couple blocks further into a more touristy area, but there was a huge gelateria open until 1:00.
Of course there have been certain challenges that we continue to work through. With any luck, most or all of those will be resolved by year-end (we don’t want to jinx anything by prematurely declaring victory, so we’ll circle back to those stories over the next few weeks). But for now, if some local process or detail starts to nag at us, all we need to do is throw on our jackets, walk out the door, and let the charm of Madrid melt our cares away.