So, I went back to Madrid for my last night in Spain. This makes sense, right? Since my flight was from Madrid, and sure, Toledo was only an hour away and I had a primo parking spot and a really nice hotel room that I could have kept for an extra night. But I thought to myself, hey, Madrid, yeah, cool city, gazillions of hotel rooms, no problem.
Parking, on the other hand…Not so much.
So, I timed things perfectly. Spent the day in Toledo going to the museums and such that had been closed on Monday, working a bit more on my tan, enjoying the city in general, and then heading back to Madrid at rush hour. Yeah. Well, the good thing about that was in stop and go traffic on the highway, changing lanes and all, I realized that I hadn’t stalled once. I’m like total expert stick shift driver. Yeah, I rock in small ways.
So I get to Madrid, start looking for a hotel. Preferably one with parking. That’s cheap. And comfortable. Well, I got one out of three.
Actually, genius that I am, I had gotten rid of the map of Madrid I’d had earlier. Which isn’t that big a deal. There are signs pointing me toward landmarks, so I can easily get myself toward the Puerta del Sol (kind of Madrid’s answer to Times Square) and that sort of thing, but forget trying to find the actual streets for hotels recommended by lousy Fodors, since the map I had been using was the one in the book that I had conveniently ripped out of the book so I could carry it around with me.
Eh, whatever. I find a parking spot on the street and walk into some hostals (which are not hostels, but sort of somewhere between a hotel and a pension) and pensions. Nope, no single rooms available at the first five. Fine, there’s a pension on the 6th floor (can anyone say walk-up) in the building where the last hostal was full. I give it a try. Hey, they’ve got a room. Hey, it’s only 11 euros. Cool. I’ll take it. Oh, of course no parking. Really? I’m likely to get towed on the street there. Sure, I’ll park it at the parking lot you recommend, which is only half a kilometer away. No, I won’t give a thought to bringing my now extremely heavy backpack to the pension while my car is parked on the street in front of it. I’ll wait until I’ve parked half a kilometer away to give this some thought.
Half a kilometer and six flights of stairs later, soaking with sweat and generally feeling hot and nasty, I notice the little sign at the entrance to my “Pension y hotel residencial.” Hmmm….
Bathroom is busy, so I wash up a little in the sink in my room and change and go out of the evening. I know I should shower, but hey, I’m fine. A little perfume. I mean, I did shower this morning, before spending the day walking up hills in 90 degree weather in Toledo. I’m cool. Or rather, clean enough.
Hey, I’m going to eat at the world’s oldest restaurant. And Hemingway’s favorite. It’s called Botin, right off the Plaza Mayor. Sweet! Perfect way to end the trip. Hemingway and Food all in one package. And that was essentially the theme for the trip, right? Before it became torturing rental cars, that is. Oh, and their specialty is roast suckling pig, which, as it turns out, is one of my favorite things to eat.
Now I know it’s cheesy that I’m reading a Hemingway book (The Fifth Column) in his favorite restaurant, but I’ve gone though all the others I brought with me so I really don’t have much choice at this point.
In walk some British folks who are in town for a conference. They are seated at the table next to mine. One of them asks me, somewhat incredulously, if I’m reading Hemingway translated into Spanish. I say that would be silly, since I can’t read Spanish. And so begins an evening of hanging out with Brits on my last night in Madrid.
Actually, I’d already ordered my pork and while I was chatting with them, my food came. After a few minutes, the waiter came over and scolded them for keeping my attention. “Her meat is getting cold!” he told them rather sternly.
And it was quite good, really.
So after everyone’s eaten, someone gets the idea that since we’re in the world’s oldest restaurant we should get the oldest Spanish brandy they have. So we get that. Then the oldest sherry. The waiter suggests something else that none of can figure out what it is. The little phrasebook is of no use. Oh sure, we’ll take some of that too. It turned out to be a Basque liquor, kind of cherry and anise flavored and not exactly bad.
Having eaten and drunk in a manner that would have made old Earnest proud, we venture out into the Madrid nightlife.
So, like 6am, I’m back at scary residential pension, and ready for a couple of hours of sleep, but some guy is playing his radio really loud and then at like 6.30 they start tearing down the building across the way, brick by brick, with sledgehammers or something. Anyway, it’s slow and repetitive and loud. I give up. I’ll shower, get some coffee, and walk around the Puerta del Sol for a while before I have to take the rental car back to the airport. Hey, two out of three isn’t bad, right?
Yeah, so bathroom is REALLY scary. There’s something evolving in the bottom of the shower stall, and that entity apparently has an issue with allowing the water to drain. Oh, and there was actually no way to determine the relative cleanliness of any of the towels in there. Yep. Well, hey, showering is overrated, right? Just ask the French. But at least I went and had really good coffee.
And by the way, a big of fi on Fodors, who had included a little warning in their book that even if you think of yourself as a coffee afficianado, you’ll likely find that the coffee in Spain is too strong. They recommend something that sounds like an Americano to make it palatable. Too strong? What? First of all, saying coffee can be too strong is like saying that a rodeo can have too many cowboys. It just doesn’t work that way. Second of all, the coffee in Spain is amazing! Outstanding. I’m depresssed by the inferiority of Starbucks now. And the expense. A cafe cortado, the drink I chose to make my own, which is a double espresso with just a dab of steamed milk, generally runs about 50 to 75 cents. Yeah, Spanish coffee…
Anyway, so I manage to return my rental car without having done any visible damage to it, and luckily I had unlimited mileage, which was sort of the equivalent of letting Jason loose at an Indian buffet. I put over 28k kilometers on that thing. Poor Toro. But I didn’t crash him into anything, so that’s cool.
And I’m back, which is less cool. Got back last night. Tired. Dirty. Jetlagged. Just a bit hungover.
And now, having slogged through 848 unread email messages at work, I’m about ready to call it a day. My adventure over, my laundry duty just beginning. But I’m primed to take a few whacks at recreated Spanish dishes to go with all the Spanish wine I brought back.