28.10.09

an affair to remember ...

So, its my second day here yeah! Its looking much bettah yeah!

Breakfast is … Erm! Toast and your choice of mini butter or marmalade cubes? What the …? Where’s the juice, where are the eggs, bring on the ham! Clearly not … if you want anything more than what’s on the table you’ve got to make it yourself, which is such a pity because if you know me at all, you know that I am pretty useless in the kitchen even in the comfort of my house let alone an alien kitchen … so a glass of ‘leche’ for me, some toast con marmalade, and ooh nice coffee …

Check out is easy, just give them your access card back … and I am back on the street … and its beautiful … cold, windy and empty, just the way I like my streets! :P Its almost 10:30 and there are barely any people on the streets … I later find out that the streets begin to fill up by around one and what is more interesting is … that some of them are fuller and burgeoning with life more at night than during the day. Hmm! Not that I could be bothered to see it for myself. I am very happy with my roam around all day until your back hurts, and spend the evening with your computer routine … the most activity or partial socializing I need happens at the common room of the hostel where the ‘pub crawlers’ spend their ‘pre-pub-crawling’ hours and talk about all that happened the night before or is going to happen the night after … that’s pretty much all the excitement I need in my life …

Settled in … in the hostel where I was originally supposed to stay and a few facebook updates later (yeah? Go ahead, call me a geek, me importa un carajo!)

And by the by, I just realized … not having brushed up on the little Spanish I know, I for the life of me couldn’t remember how to say ‘how much’ all of yesterday. In all the confusion what came out instead of ‘cuatos cuesta’ (which means how much) was ‘quince’ which means the number fifteen … so for anything and everything worth its value in cents or a maximum of 1 – 1.5 euros … I kept offering to pay ‘Quince Euros?’ or fifteen Euros … thank the almighty I did not get ripped off because your average Spaniard doesn’t want to rip you off … except for the few roguish ones on the streets.

So, I step out into the clear blue sky’s afternoon sun and I feel good tan da dan da … ooh! Café & Te … It’s a chain, I know that much because there is a Café and Te on every second street here, sort of like our own Barista and Café coffee day (tssss chicken tikka sandwich … yaad aa rahi hai). I am already beginning to miss Indian food, especially ghar ka khaana which I have been completely and faithfully hooked to for quite a while now … Anyway so I order an interesting looking salad from the menu card.

Tip Time – Do not order things because they look good in the pictures, figure out what ‘might’ be good or what ‘you might’ like to eat … Because my jamon ensalada didn’t turn out as nice as I’d hoped it would, it was edible but that’s about it. So, I order myself some dessert to pacify my angry stomach and then take out some greens to pay the bill … since the café owner is taking a couple of minutes to come and pick up the greens, they’re just lying on the table right? Errrrrrrr! Wrong!

A minute later a scruffy looking man comes up to me and says ‘ayudarme’ which means help me … to which I say ‘no entiendo’, meaning I don’t understand what you’re saying … he gets me but pretends not to and then starts dropping some pieces of paper he has in his hand along with the bill and the next thing I know … the greens are gone! Hell No! That did not just happen to me … I have been holding on to my possessions like a mad woman for two days now, waking up through the night to check if my passport pouch is still under my pillow, checking the padlock on my locker thrice each time I lock it … so I take control of the situation the very next second and catch hold of the man and ask him to give me my greens back … because I am being loud and aggressive he actually does drop them on the table making it seem like I am some sort of beggar or mugger more like, forcing money out of his pocket. Yikes dude! Besharam!

He walks away and I realize that this is probably the first time in my life when I’ve been able to think on the spur of the moment, been able to evoke the goddess of common sense … and saved myself from some trouble … although it wasn’t a huge sum of money but when you’re a backpacker, every cent counts … and losing money for a single meal is loss enough …

This kind woman sitting right next to me then tells me that she travels to Spain often for work and has seen things like this happen all the time … in her words, ‘these people are all around, they don’t mean to do anything really bad but if you have something out in the open like money or mobile phones or anything slightly valuable, they WILL try and take it away from you’ … as long as you’re careful about that, and keep your belongings safe inside your bag and your bag’s zipper shut, you’re sorted!
Sigh!

Moving on, that evening I walked out of my hostel and just a couple of streets away … behold … a beautiful palace takes my breath away … not knowing what it really is, I just look and look and try and take a few pictures but there is no way on earth that my simplistic (just like my mind) camera lens can justify this wide expanse of awe-inspiring architecture … it makes sense, it does … a city so beautiful with streets full and blocks full of beautiful buildings, would and should have such a beautiful palace no?

Dinner is … voila! Finally! Something that’s like a samosa! An empanada, a folding of dough around some stuffing … sounds good to me! (All my friends are going ‘hey bhagwaan’ right, right this second … oh! You think you know me so well …guess you do!)

The next morning … I am feeling a little touristy. Having met a sweet, young American girl called Maria the night before who literally marked places for me to visit on my map of Madrid … places that are walking distance from my hostel by the way (I am sort of staying in the Connaught Place of Madrid it seems, the area is called Sol, it’s the downtown area and one must stay here and only here when one’s visiting), I decide to walk into Tourist Heaven. And tourist heaven it is indeed. The walk to these touristy spots is more interesting than the destinations themselves. The buildings just don’t fail to amaze … everything is just so aesthetically ‘there’, you know … like where it should be, unlike where it shouldn’t be :P

I really mean it. The architecture is simply breathtaking. There’s beauty everywhere and I am on a plane above amazed …

Talking about beauty – Europeans Yeah?! They’re frikkin’ beautiful goddamit. I mean hello! Show me some real people who aren’t like porcelain doll type pretty. Please! Someone? Anyone?

Tip-Time – Girls, if you have issues with your body or body image or whatever its called … resolve them before you visit any European city because if you do not then you’re in for some serious damage that may take years of therapy to control … Don’t act smug. You know I am right! I mean this place is full of these impeccable bodied, flat-stomached, super-fashionable dressed, make-up astonishingly intact all day, supermodel type girls, who strut around the streets in their high heels whilst I am having trouble walking short distance in my FLAT shoes!

Guys – you REALLY must visit … this place will be like ‘heaven’ or something for you.

So on my first touristy day I see Reina Sofia – Spain’s national museum of 20th century art … Entry into most of these Madrid museums costs about 8 Euros, which is a bit expensive but a woman has got to do what a woman has got to do … or not? Aha! Twist in the plot?

Before going to the Reina Sofia, I reach the Museo del Prado, which features one of the world's finest collections of European Art, from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and a nice lady standing outside the Museo tells me that “The Reina Sofia is gratis (FREE :D) this morning and the Museo del Prado is gratis in the evening …
Saucy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reina Sofia first then … Amongst other things the highlight of the visit for me is the sculpture by Joan Miro … simply magnifico!

After a lot of walking around back and fro and back and fro … Lunch is simple fried stuff dude – good old fries, sausages, ham, and egg combo … can’t go wrong with that right? Fortunately not!

With a lot of fat in me I make my back and fro way into the evening and the Museo del Prado. Now this first touristy day of mine is a Sunday and the entry into the museum is gratis from 5 – 8 pm all right, so there is a looooonng queue waiting to get into the museum at 5 pm sharp, which is exactly when I make my way to it … but the queue is moving quickly and what’s inside the museum is totally worth the wait … besides your breathtaking and hugely awe-inspiring Goya and Rembrandt and Velazquez, there are some amazing works by others I hadn’t even heard of … of course that’s keeping in mind that I do not know much about Art just like classical music and poetry, I appreciate them but I don’t know much about them … So at the Museo del Prado I discovered ‘El Bosco’ and fell in love with his work … You really have to see it to believe it … I myself couldn’t be bothered by the tourist guides and the radio prompters and all that jazz … I just put on some good old Yann Tiersen directing the film Tabarly’s symphony … and I was good to go, good to get lost for 2 hours and 45 minutes in the sinfully red museum of art … and believe you me, the 2:45 hours didn’t do it justice … if you are spending a week in Madrid, and are interested in art, keep one whole day for the Museo del Prado …

Of course it’s helpful to find out when the entry is free to keep budget constraint from tightening your hamstrings …

And the rest of the evening is … empanadas, bebidas, agua, frutas, writing some bit of this … and zzz! Oh! And before zzz! Enter Chi hun from South Korea … really sweet, calls himself a fool, tells me to be careful in Barcelona because he got mugged of a 100 Euros (I know, yikes!) by a man pretending to be a cop (Yikes doble!) … and the next morning, since he is leaving for Peru and wants to get rid of extra baggage, gives me his copy of lonely planet’s Western Europe guide! Hello? Like I love you, like totally! Have fun in Peru and all the bestest in the world to you :D

And I also met Josey (short for Josephine) from Sweden and she is absolutely lovely, gorgeous too in her own Swedish way … oh! I loved her, reminded me of my cousin Dips who I visit soon in London (Dips, can’t wait!). Josey is so warm and open and umm … lovely! She’s been living in the same dorm as me by the way but always returns after I am asleep so I haven’t really spoken to her until this morning, my third and second-last in Madrid … Since she is so lovely I share bananas and green apples with her that I bought from a supermarket and she is much obliged since she has been craving fruit as much as I have …

But fruit here is so expensive and so beautiful looking that it almost doesn’t look real ... Every time I buy and eat fruit here I am thinking ‘I hope this isn’t GM or some such strange mutated thing’ …

Oh! And by the way, did I forget to mention how much my back hurts? It hurts like crazy … Lugging around about 23 kgs of weight to and fro a calle (street) looking for my hostel, followed by three days of constant walking from one touristy spot to another has almost killed my back … and tomorrow I am supposed to go to Barcelona by train, which means carrying 23 kgs from the hostel to the train station, reaching Barcelona and then carrying it again to the next hostel … poof! It’s tiring just thinking about it! So, if you’re thinking about doing this, carry a Volini spray. It works like magic, instant relief! And also try and rest every hour or couple of hours of walking around … really helps … trust me, I know you’re thinking, ‘she just isn’t in form’, but I was in Ok form before I got here … this is a LOT of hard labour dude!

The Botanical garden it is then today … Beautiful again, very well designed and if you take the time to sit on one of the benches and just ‘be’ you will feel like you’re in a movie. A visit to this park deserves at least half of your day so you can see some really wonderful rare flowering plants, but you’ll have to walk around and look for them …

All right dude, enough horsing around, we need some serious food sojourn today. Perhaps we can try out the famous Paella. And try we do … but like we don’t. Maybe the choice of restaurant wasn’t appropriate … maybe. Most importantly though, I am not a seafood person … and my paella had some shrimps, and some other fish, and some other fish in it … and there was only teeny-weeny chicken … sigh! Will go to a Paella only restaurant next and try out some chicken only types … par yaar daal nahin dete yeh log paella ke saath :P

After my Paella disaster I scram to the next supermercado for some junk delights … and behold, a counter full of jamon flavoured crisps/chips. Hello? Insaniyat ke naate normal cheezen bhi rakh lo yaar … anyway …pick up some random pack, which I am afraid is also Jamon flavoured but fortunately once I start eating it, I realize they’re pretty much your regular salted chips, which is great. Hari Om!

Did I tell you about Giovanni by the way? He’s Italian and works at the hostel where I am staying … and there’s such kindness in his eyes that I melt every time he smiles … don’t worry Sim, nothing happened … he is just such a sweet person, greets me extremely warmly every time I enter and exit the hostel, talks to me with his smiling eyes and I try to return the favour with my Thyroid stricken queer ones … its quite an affair I must say. If I am eating something and he is around, I always offer it to him (which I do to all the others as well, its just the Indian in me no?) but he cannot understand why I do so … he once literally asks me … I offered him and a girl sitting with him some fruit and he said ‘why’ and I said ‘why not’ … I should’ve told him its an Indian thing but I didn’t …

The same evening, I was sitting in the common room thinking about where I should go next and popped into the common room’s balcony for a second … and I hear someone say ‘Hola chica!’ … I look towards where the sound is coming from and see a sweet little puberty stricken boy waving at me gleefully. In my head I am thinking India mein hota to ek thapad padta, but here I guess its diff … ‘Que tal’ (how are you) he asks me. ‘Bien, bien’ (good) I say … and then he starts ranting off in rapid Spanish and I have to tell him ‘No hablo Espanol’ (I don’t speak Spanish) … ‘Poco, poco, eh’ (little?) he says and I nod my head … He vanishes and reappears seconds later … and says ‘Adios guapa’ and I wave back at him … I turn around all smiles, taking in this sweet little episode and there stands Giovanni … and I laugh and say ‘funny boy!’ and he says ‘Yeahhh! Your new balcony friend eh?’ … ‘Yes’ I say and set off to loose myself in the busy downtown streets of Sol …

Its my last night in Madrid, and I am sad that I have to leave … I like this hostel, its quaint and small common room with seating space for about 6 people, the red upholstered couches, the small plant on the centre table, the Venetian blinds and Giovanni working on the other side of the room … he seems to enjoy Flamenco and so do I … he tells me names of a couple of groups that he’s been playing on his computer … I am hoping I get a chance to say goodbye to him since its my last night … but he just leaves …

Back in my room I realize how unreasonably obsessive I am … I worry about how much the cab ride to the railway station will cost the next morning, even though I know it shouldn’t be much … I think about Sol … I think about the boy … I think about the food … I think about Miro and Goya … I think about tiny bottles of water costing a whole Euro … I think about Giovanni’s eyes … I think about the I love Madrid t-shirts that I saw everywhere but didn't buy ...

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6 comments:

remya said...

wow. sounds like so much fun. and so quirky :) keep having fun!!

saransh.s said...

Looks like you are having an amazing time! Lovely post! Hope you have even better sojourns to blog about...Will keep reading..

Thanks for sharing this

Percy said...

like the way you're mixing it up there Shruts. good to mix up the lone travelling, being shown round by friends and staying with family. Barcelona more even more walkable city than Madrid - got gothic quarter with plenty of alleyways, parks, hills and beaches. if you're missing meat, they do these monster steaks which are a catalan speciality - not cheap though, least not the one I had. gracia and plaza del sol less touristy than nearer see. cheap tip for food - food hall of el corte ingles (chain of dept stores) you can get nice tapas and salads and take to park! ok, don't want to ruin your blog with travel guide comments so will stop now! see you soon x Perc

sacredeastwind said...

thanks rem and saransh ... hopefully will keep on having such experiences to be able to write about them ...

thanks for the tip perc. no worries about tips, they're always welcome. went to barrio gothico yesterday. headed to guell today ... will try tapas at cortes ... love, shruts.

solitary reaper said...

quite intrsting to go thru ur experience... be careful and take good care of urself n ur belongings molooooo.... nice readin is each episode...

sacredeastwind said...

will take care ch'mma. lots of love. glad that you liked them ... :)