Time changes and jet lag made sleeping a challenge. I found myself awake at dawn so I went for a walk. The entire hotel was smoke free so it was a good excuse for a walk. My little trip put things into perspective only to reaffirm the hotel location is not conducive for travelers without a car and locals were not quite ready for the sights of an American tourist walking around at 5AM looking more like the hunter than the hunted.
I queried some wholesale fish mongers as they were loading the truck with the days’ offerings, specifically about the price per kilo on the tuna and I think they thought they were going to be robbed. Probably the bad kitchen Spanish again. I need to remember to not say anything unless I have to. A couple more blocks and my walk about was complete. It was the start of a big day in a new country and I am pretty excited to get started.
Now back to the bar for a triple pull off the espresso machine. I almost feel like I am in Amsterdam except for the lack of females in public places other than workplaces. At all of the Hotel bars, corner bars, neighborhood restaurants and anywhere else but the grocery store, we did not see women on their own unless they were working. I know I said they were a liberal country and we discussed this subject further at one of the wineries in Rioja and we will get to that later.
Pamela was not quite awake when I returned from my walk and trip to the espresso machine. When I told her how great the coffee was she did not believe me. Then we went downstairs and she tried one herself and bang she was hooked. From there on out it was two doubles each before we started our day.
Since our walks had not been successful in finding any shopping we took our query to the internet, grabbed a cab and 8miniutes later we were deposited in the center of Torrejon De Ardoz. As we passed several grocery stores, I knew we would be OK. The suburb felt not quite European but not quite third world.
Spain is a vast and diverse country as we would continue to learn and regionally it varies significantly. I always think you have your finger on the pulse of a culture if you shop in the same stores they buy their groceries in.
After shopping through various shoe stores, the siesta time was looming near and we did not know if even the grocery stores closed during this period. The schedule of restaurants around the siesta is a little hard for most Americans I would think. We are so used to being able to consume 24/7 and that’s probably not such a good thing.
Looking at life from an un-American perspective plunges me even deeper towards introspection and thinking about how different they live here and yet it works for them and has for thousands of years.
We finally make our way back to a grocery store I saw as our cab drove through the square located by the train station that will take us into Madrid. We shop for a few things for the room but soon find out we will skip the Hotel food tonight and take advantage of the charcuterie, cheese and olives offered at ridiculously low prices for the high level of quality.
Jamón, Foie Gras, olives, roasted peppers, fresh bread, sparkling water and a couple of bottles of wine and we were set for the evening. They actually had a tetra-pack liter of Joven Rioja for .72 euro.
We were not brave enough to try it but for less than 25 Euros we bought everything listed above and the wines were both 2004 Rioja Reserva’s and extremely good quality we would find out later. The moment we stepped onto the street we were able to hail a cab and boom, six minutes later we arrive back at the hotel.
We scurried inside quickly with our bounty and headed upstairs to set up our little feast. In and around Madrid the hotels will have a couple of television stations where they speak English, we would later find out this is not the case in the vast interior of the country.
As afternoon turned into evening we devoured the antipasto and consumed some of the wine (who am I trying to kid, I meant all the wine) as we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen in a long time. Shades of light we so easily take for granted become complex and expansive when the latitude and longitude of your location changes by that many degrees.
We took our siesta a little later than the locals, but still wound up at the bar around 11PM where once again only a couple of women were there and of course they had male escorts. Here in America we would have seen probably more groups of women than men. Here it was way beyond the opposite; no groups of women and other than a couple here and there. It was men in groups, aging from early sixties down to mid-twenties, three to five in a group.
On this Thursday night the televised soccer match was the draw to come out to the bar. Just like in Ireland I was pleased to see no one appeared to be drunk. They had a good time but no one needed to be looked after like they do here. Jamón, queso and honghos croquettes were fabulous. We later found out this was the equivalent as fried mozzarella on menus in America. The only difference would be that it is just prepared a lot better and confusing to the average American foodie. Back up to the room we conclude day two. Full, fat and complete.
This article was originally posted on Oregonlive.com