Today marks my 18th day in Spain and I figured if I don’t start writing about it now, I never will.
January 28th, 2015 my mom and I departed sunny and 80 degree Dallas on an overnight direct flight to Madrid. With almost no sleep from the plane ride, the first day was jetlag central. I begged my mom to let me take a short, one-hour nap once we got to the hotel around noon. Nevertheless, that one-hour catnap turned into 3 hours of (much needed) lights out. We then explored the Madrid Metro and like typical tourists, went straight to Puerta del Sol.
Puerta del Sol is the epicenter of Madrid. Although the Puerta del Sol originated as one of the gates that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century, it is now the focal point for shopping and restaurants. And this is where we (my mom and I) discovered El Corte Ingles.
One of my biggest fears leaving home was that I would find no reminiscence of normal. But I quickly realized El Corte Ingles has EVERYTHING. The main store has 9 floors, rivaling in size New York’s Macy’s on West 34th Street; however, El Corte Ingles exceeds the famous department store in products. They have everything from a super market to cosmetics to clothing to luggage to souvenirs to toys and more. They even had a wine sampling machine in the super market…least to say my mom and I took advantage of that one. In true Spanish fashion, we stocked up on red wine, cheese and cured meat then headed back to our hotel for a little happy hour until dinner time.
SPANISH FACT: For those who don’t know, meal times in Spain are completely different than the rest of the world. Breakfast is normally between 8 and 10, but is very light. Toast and pastries are common, but eggs and bacon are non-existent. It is customary to have a mid-morning snack, as lunch is not served until about 2 or 3 p.m. Lunch is the largest meal of the day and usually consists of 3 courses (a primary course, main entrée, and dessert). Most restaurants have a menu of the day that includes bread, the three courses, and wine. Stuffed from lunch? Good. Dinner is not typically served until 9:30-10:30 p.m.
Therefore, to avoid looking like the tourists we clearly were, we didn’t head to dinner until 10 p.m. even though we were fighting to even stay awake. It took us a while of walking around in the neighborhood of Salamanca wide-eyed and hungry, until we found this quaint café on the sidewalk looking at the beautiful Puerta de Alcala. Our hunger outweighed the skepticism of sitting outside and we took a table. The heat lamps kept us fiercely warm and the food was delicious. It was a perfect meal. One of my favorite things about meals in Spain is the leisurely attitude. In the United States, you sit down at a table where the waiter immediately gets your drink order and maybe even your food order then races around for the rest of the meal trying to bring everything out as quickly as possible, pick up your plates, bring you the check, and usher you out the door so the next set of consumers can have your table. In Spain, that is considered rude.
My mom and I spent over 2 hours at our table leisurely making our way through several appetizers, our entrees, a bottle of wine and desserts. We had time to take in the beauty of the atmosphere and enjoy the food we were eating. After we had ordered dessert, a flaming white bottle of Moet champagne passed our table and we watched the table next to us enjoy the fireworks and then pour the champagne into glasses with ice, strawberries and mint. Out of curiosity we tried to ask the waiter what that was, but he just smiled big (clearly speaking no English) and walked off. Just a few minutes later he came back with two champagne glasses and poured the Moet for my mom and I. Wow we love this city. Little did we know, the two women at the table next to us had actually ordered the champagne and the waiter had mixed up the order. Instead, we all four enjoyed the sweet drink and called it a night.
Day one in Spain: Success. Bienvenido a España. To hear more about my trip so far, check out my next blog, The Spanish Tourist.