April 28, 2007

4/28/07 Madrid Spain

I always travel with a lot trepidation, worrying about the unknown future before me. That might sound odd for someone who seems to be always going somewhere. It's the between times that put fear into my mind. But once an adventure, I usually have the time of my life.

I spent my last day in Almansa with that 'lost feeling'. I didn't sleep well that night, but ended up napping every time I had a free moment. It was a waiting game, this time 'between' destinations. I guess it is always that leaving the comfortable 'known' for the 'unknown'. And I will miss Amparo and Santi too.

Santi and German took me to the station to catch the train for Madrid. I'll remember German's infinite wonder at the world as only a 3-year-old can see it.

A tired and cold German
sees me off at the train station

My malaise followed me the whole way back to Madrid as I traveled through rain and cooler temps. But the minute I saw Cesar waiting for me, my spirit snapped out of it. I greeted him with a big smile and a heartfelt embrace.

I met Cesar and Sonia on the Camino de Santiago in 2002. When I found out that Sonia was a nurse, we talked a lot, this despite the fact that I really couldn't speak her native Spanish. Despite our difficulties, we became fast friends, and we have kept in contact over the years.

Sonia is in the last weeks of more schooling to be a midwife, but was able to change her clinical schedule to spend Friday with me. We spent part of the day in the world-famous Prado, viewing paintings by Ruben, Goya, Velásquez and Greco.

The rest of the day we spent walking in the light rain, stopping here and there for tapas. We caught up with Cesar after he got off work. He is a plumber in a family business that was started by his great-grandfather in 1920.

Later, we visited where Sonia grew up and I met both her parents and her younger sister. Around the corner is Cesar's parent's home where I met his brother. Afterward we met other friends for a lot more conversation. I could understand a lot, but sometimes with so many people speaking at once, I get completely lost. Cesar says it's harder to because they use a lot slang. But I had a lot of fun.

That's me, Sonia and Cesar in the middle

On Saturday, Cesar was the master of the kitchen. He says that life in Spain revolves around food. When they bought their new condo, the most important room to him is the kitchen. Our mid-day meal was mussels, shrimp and fish. I thought I was in a 5 star restaurant. Mmmm.

It tastes as good as it looks

Unfortunately for me, I came on weekend where Sonia already had travel plans with her parents to go to the coast. After meeting Cesar's parents, I said a sad goodbye to Sonia at the bus station. I will miss Sonia a lot. Hopefully, one day, I can show them the same hospitality in my home in the USA.

So it became "guy's night out". We met another of their friends, Roberto, a the train station. We went to visit another friend stuck at home with a leg cast from a motorcycle accident. Everyone was fascinated with my 'gadgets' for this trip, especially my PocketMail. Later Cesar and Roberto showed me how to prepare a 'tortilla de patata', a potato omelet.

For my last day in Madrid we went to the famous Rasta - think of the world's largest flea market. It literally covered blocks and blocks. Many streets sold a specific type of thing like paintings or antiques. It was an amazing assortment of items for sale. I saw a stall that only sold various types of tape, another was all chandlers. Folks sold everything from socks & underwear to kitchen utensils to cameras to gas masks to stuff that was pure junk - all at greatly reduced prices.

This is just one of the many streets of the Rasta

See any stockings you like?

Cameras, cameras and more cameras

After anther quick tour of the city center, I said more goodbyes at the train station, the same station that was bombed by terrorists. It has been completely rebuilt. The original station now houses restaurants and a huge tropical garden.

Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

With Cesar in front of the Teatro Real, the Opera House

A very 'different' train station

I can't thank Cesar and Sonia enough for letting me visit. You couldn't ask for better hosts or friends.

Right now, I'm on a train going to Pamplona. I've decided to change my trip a bit. I'm just going to walk the St James Pilgrimage in Spain, heading west to Santiago. It should take about a month. Then take the train to visit the cousin in Toulouse. I'll do a bit more thinking there. So I might be home in July.