“Then she smiled, and in that instant, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in love, and he would remain in love for the rest of his life – not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.” – Jess Walter
I fell in love with a moment, too. I was sitting on a bench, alone at the train station. It was late afternoon, and the sunlight was dimming beautifully. I was comfortable, wearing sunglasses, hair in a messy bun, and a long flowy skirt that danced with the wind. The breeze blew gently like in some music video. Ed Sheeran’s song, Photograph, came on my iPod, and I fell in love. I will remember this moment forever. It was nothing, it was mundane, it was a small thing. It filled my heart. I started week #3 in Spain like this.
On Monday morning, Valerie and I rushed out the door while the sky was still a bit dark. Cold water splashed on our legs as we walked down the street (actually UP the street…every street seems to always be going up), to the metro. I am never taking the Madrid metro in the morning. It is packed, smelly, and hot. I wonder if people pass out in there during winter, when everyone wears their heavier clothes. We live right outside the city, northeast, and had to go all the way southwest to a boring orientation for auxiliars. We found the place almost two hours later, exasperated. There was only one way we could turn this morning around, and make this day beautiful: going to Chocolateria de San Gines for lunch, which consisted of 12 churros, and decadent hot chocolate. Whatever image your mind created as you read the words “hot chocolate” is an insult to this chocolateria. This is not like any hot chocolate I have ever seen or heard of, and my entire childhood flashed before my eyes when I saw it. Let me elaborate. This hot chocolate is super thick, kind of like syrup…but even comparing it to that sounds degrading. It is very dark, so it is not overwhelmingly sweet. We dipped our churros in it, we drank it, we took pictures of it, we smiled stupidly at it. The churros were sensational! Crispy, fresh, and simple. This place seems to abide by the “less is more” rule of thumb, and it has taken them all the way to churro fame. Rule #1 – if you spend even a day in Madrid, you go eat churros here, yes? Good. You can get off at the Sol metro stop, which is the city center, and walk down Calle Mayor from there. Buen provecho, amigo 😛
What could possibly go wrong after going to churro heaven? NOTHING! And so the rest of our day was brilliant. It was a little past noon, so going back to Alcobendas seemed crazy as everything would be closed for the siesta. We had a few pending errands at the bank, but it would soon close for the day…Pointless to try to get anything else done at this point. So we walked. We walked around the city center for almost 3 hours, too consumed by the beauty of this city to worry about hydration and soreness. The longer I live here, the more I realize that the only way to intimately get to know Madrid is by walking it. As long as you start out in the city center, you can take off in different directions and learn that important things are closer than you might think. We made our way down Calle Mayor, and ended up at Chocolateria de San Guines, Mercado de San Miguel (wonderful place for the culinary-culture-curious ones), Botin (the oldest restaurant in the world), Plaza Mayor, La Latina (a neighborhood that looks exactly like Spain looked in my mind before arriving), and the Palacio Real. We just walked around without checking maps or cellphones, just looking up and around us, taking beautiful photographs.
Tomorrow is my first day of school. Soon I will fall into a more regular schedule, and will start building a life here. It’s a life I had very little time to imagine or plan out. It is an unexpected life I would have never guessed 10 months ago. Yet it is my life. These are my moments to have and to hold, to create and to cherish, for better or worse, till death do us part.