I discovered something wonderful about jet lag this morning after having vilified it so extensively yesterday - I slept in later this morning than I have in many a year! Like the proverbial log. Lovely.
As such, it was practically noon by the time I stepped outside the hotel. I spent a pleasant couple of hours riding about the city on the top of a different double decker bus, this time meandering through the oldest quarters of the city. As we approached the lively area referred to as the "Sol", I began to notice a heavy police presence accumulating on the streets and plazas. The bus soon became lodged in a swarm of people as the sound of a multitude of chanting voices grew louder and louder. A column of thousands of green t-shirted teachers soon appeared, marching around the popular plaza brandishing signs and red umbrellas. Subsequent news reports from the internet tell me they were there to stage a demonstration against recent austerity measures which have left a good many of them without jobs.
I disembarked, thinking this would be an excellent place and time to have some lunch. I found a little sandwich shop on a quiet street some distance from the plaza, after deciding I would enjoy some traditional Spanish fare for lunch. I laughed out loud when I picked up the menu only to find that all the sandwiches were named after American movie stars! I selected the Michelle Pfeiffer - bacon (which turns out to be grilled jamon), queso and tomate paired with a strong cup of cafe con leche. As I nibbled my sandwich, I was treated to the spectacle of the Simpsons in Spanish, blaring from a television lodged in the corner. I'm not sure, but I believe the dubbing was in Castillian and the subtitles in Catalan. This particular episode featured a guest appearance by the ghost of Lucy Arnez who had a gravelly, lisping vocalization for Spanish speakers. I could understand enough to continue giggling from time to time as Lisa painted Homer and Bart with green oatmeal.
|Museo de Jamon|
After lunch I returned to the plaza to do a bit of shopping and popped inside a Santeria supply and the Museum of Jamon. As I headed back to the bus stop, I observed one of the city's statue artists (i.e., people willing to dress up and pose perfectly still, as if they were human statues) busily chatting away with a decapitated Minnie Mouse. That small touch of the weirdly absurd seemed a palliative to the stiff Spanish formality I've encountered thus far. Well, let me clarify so I don't sound so unyielding - I find the Spanish to be perfectly friendly and pleasant, but they do seem to be a bit reserved. I'm apparently, for example, the only person with pink hair ever to appear in the city - the quick side glances of shock say it all. Perhaps I've just seen too many formal stone facades and fountain statues isolated from humanity by swirling traffic - I guess I just miss the literal and figurative warmth of my hometown a bit. Even the troupe of mimes I spotted as the teachers were assembling seemed a bit subdued. Does that paint the picture? Even the mimes do not feel silly here in Madrid.
After returning to my hotel for a tapas reception and meeting for the program I'll be starting tomorrow, I stopped at a nearby grocery store to select some dinner. A feast of local cheese resulted, allowing me to eschew (rather than laboriously chew) jamon. Even though I was warned, I'm still surprised at how often it appears in dish after dish.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to a tiny town near Avila, northwest of Madrid. I'll explain what I'm doing more fully when I arrive and have something interesting to share with you, dear readers.