Friday, April 28, 2006

Time’s almost up… and Tales from Madrid..

When I woke up this morning, for some reason I felt irritable. I think that the moving from hotel to hotel, packing and unpacking, living out of my backpack, and going..going..going..has finally caught up with me. Throughout our travels, I have gone through phases, where I feel more moody than others, but today is different. The constant bustle of the city is wearing and the weaving through the crowds has gotten increasingly more frustrating, especially when the sidewalks are so narrow, and the people are going every which way. They become easily distracted and fail to watch where they are going…and then, there are the weavers, the guys in their business attire, talking loudly on their cell phones, and walking all over the place. You start to pass them on the left, and then they saunter to the left, then you go the right..and again, they saunter to the right. I feel like I have grown a little impatient, always being boxed in between the masses and then shoved to the side. I think that we American’s in general have this sense of personal space that lacks in some other cultures. That bubble…that ‘me’ zone. Here and now, I am noticing more, the people standing just a bit too close in lines, and they have no qualms about just shoving right past you. And they stare. We have noticed numerous people like to look at our feet. Maybe it’s T’s brightly colored running shoes, or my open toed sandals and my lovely undecorated, slightly calloused feet. (What do you expect after walking all over Europe?) Whatever it may be, I have noticed time and time again, and certainly, it makes me wonder if I am wearing or doing something inappropriate, or is it just that I am not wearing the perfect coat of toe nail polish? Or perhaps, can it be simple shoe envy?

Walking around Madrid today, we came across an area on a street called Gran Via, which was quite reminiscent of being in NYC in Times Square or 5th Ave..or in San Francisco. For a moment, everything felt and looked familiar, as if we were back in the US, and it was really a good feeling. As much as I sometimes yearn to get away from home, at that moment, I felt as if I couldn’t wait to get back home.
I think being here in Madrid, it has been a little hard for us to get used to the whole eating-dinner-at-10pm thing. So many times, we would come across these great looking restaurants, only to find, that they didn’t even open for dinner until 9 or 10. We would walk away dejected, and because of this we probably missed out on some good meals. We just couldn’t wait that long! Instead, the meals that we have had have been mediocre at best. We have found ourselves a few decent Caprihanas, some good Gazpacho, grilled veggies and salmon, but most of the other food has been somewhat disappointing. I hate that feeling, of ordering something that sounds really good on the menu, and then being so let down when it comes and you taste it…and, it is …not that good. I almost want to contest sometimes, like… ‘do I have to actually pay for this? And, maybe you should be paying me to eat this instead?’ I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, but it is such a let down for me. I love the act of dining out and eating. It is one of my favorite things to do, so when I have an experience like this, it really is a bummer. I think that since we have been in Madrid, I have actually lost the few pounds that I had gained over the 3 months of traveling, if you can believe that! I have even opted many times not to get dessert. (Of course, the chocolate chip cookie and brownie at Starbucks doesn’t count…but well, I did have some decent rice pudding..)

A lot of our sightseeing here has happened as part of a scavenger hunt of sorts. While traveling, T has been doing his fare share of reading…mostly large books on tech related things…XML, PHP, Java, HTML..and, along the way we have accumulated a good number of these books, not to mention a new bag to transport them all in. Here in Madrid, he made it his mission to find a few more, and so we spent some time looking for bookstores that carry computer related books(Libros Informaticas)…in English. (not easy to find, let me tell you…) This may sound like an interesting use of time, but it has been a great way to see the various areas of the city.

Since we have been here for a number of days, we have paced ourselves and done a cultural thing each day. Along with discovering much of the central part of the city, we have taken in the Reina Sofia Modern Art Museum (where the toilet incident occurred), a peaceful walk through the Retiro park..the Palacio Real and a Tour of the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (Bullring)…

Tomorrow, our last day, we plan to head out of town to Toledo..

I think after all of this city sightseeing, it will actually be nice to get back to our home in the small town that is Ithaca, NY…at least for a little while..

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