In an effort to take my mind off the ticking time bomb that is my insides right now (sorry if that was TMI) I thought I’d begin telling the actual story of mine and Laura’s adventures in Spain.

Several posts ago, I wrote that after failing to get on a flight to Brazil, Laura and I decided last minute to go to Spain. We ended up flying on Iberia Airlines, and happened to be on a flight almost entirely filled (no exaggeration) with teenagers returning from an American basketball camp. It was the loudest most chaotic flight I’ve ever been on, though it was a party for the dozens and dozens of Spanish teens.

After a sleepless night on the plane, we finally arrived in Madrid. The airport in that city deserves a special note here for being quite dazzling. The ceiling is made up of gracefully arcing wood slats supported by massive beams painted to follow the colors of the rainbow as they go down the terminal. That description doesn’t do it justice, so google the T4 terminal and find a picture.

From the airport, we took a city bus into town. The bus dropped us off at the local train station, which was about a 20 minute walk from the historic center and any hotels we might be interested in.

At some point, I’m going to write about some of the fascinating examples of urban design issues we observed on this and many other walks in Madrid. There were some really great boulevards, narrow streets and, surprisingly, some of the most pedestrian-unfriendly streets I’ve seen in Europe. It was very illuminative.

But for now, suffice it to say that what stuck out to me was the sense, after we got into smaller streets near the historic center, that we had stumbled upon the remnants of a party. There were bottles and paper in the streets, and store owners were just opening up. It was like the entire city was slightly hungover.

Keep in mind that this was between 10 and 11 am, so it wasn’t early. But my first thought was that a city that wakes up around the time we Americans start thinking about lunch was my kind of place.

After comparing prices at a few hotels, we eventually chose the most expensive option in our price range. It was a hotel right on one of the main squares, Puerto Del Sol, located in an old building. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but we resolved to find cheaper places later.

That was almost two weeks ago now, so I can’t remember everything we did that day, but I know we took a short nap, and mostly walked around looking at old buildings.

We also found a great place for “churros con chocolate.” Apparently in Spain it’s a thing to order churros — in this case often more like long, skinny fry bread — and a cup of pudding-like hot chocolate. The churros are then eaten by dipping them in the chocolate. It’s making me even sicker to think about this right now, but if I wasn’t ill my mouth would be watering.

The place we found was tucked in a tiny alley and around a corner. The best seats were those on the street, and we happened to sit under a very old stone arch. We also showed up around midnight, and when we left there was no sign that things were slowing down.

And that was one of the things I liked most about Spain: it’s evidently a country of night owls.  Dinners usually were around 10 pm, and people stayed up really late.


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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