Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tapas and Funny Hats in Madrid

Our Spanish road trip was now on the home stretch and we were on our way to our final city: Madrid.

We did our best to enjoy our last few hours on the road. When we got to the city we were going to return the rental car.

This is sort of random but I thought that the road signs indicating "hospital" were interesting. 

Our hospital signs in the US are pretty stupid. If you don't speak English you are pretty much screwed.

We stopped at a roadside McDonald's for some quick food. This time I went for the forbidden fruit: the McDonald's beer.

We ditched our (third) rental car at the airport and grabbed an Uber to the Airbnb. Please don't be crazy, new Airbnb guy. The ride over was amusing because as our pickup place was the Madrid airport our driver figured we were fresh off the boat and was asking us all of these patronizing newbie questions as small-talk. You don't know what we've been through, dude.

Our little apartment was very tiny but also very nice and bright and clean. My first question was: how do you use the washing machine? The guy reached into a nearby drawer and pulled out the user's manual which was written in several languages. I feel a good review coming on!

Sweet, sweet laundry.

There was a tapas walking tour in our Lonely Planet guide book so we did that for dinner. It was a lot of fun.

In a way doing Madrid last was a perfect decision. It was by far the most touristy location we'd been to so far, and so the city was trying to sell all of the Spanish things that tourists want even though they are not from the Madrid area.

For example this poster is advertising the Valèncian paella that we devoured in València.

The man painted on the wall of this establishment is doing the high up cider pouring thing that we learned how to do on our tapas tour of Barcelona. It was if we were getting a nice little greatest hits refresher of our time in Spain before we returned home.

From scouting out all sorts of restaurant signs I learned that "para llevar" means "take away".

For the most part we just pointed at things that looked good not completely knowing what the heck we were eating.

The thing on the bottom shelf closest to the camera is topped with piles of baby eels.

I think this was brie cheese with some sort of fruit topping.

In some ways Christmas feels like pizza. Sure it came from Europe, but we weaponized it then aimed it right back where it came from with Coca Cola Santa and Bing Crosby.

These little bread slices with meat on top were real tapas, as they came free with the drinks. Our server guy here had lived in California for a bit and I gave him a little gentle Midwestern ribbing about that not being "real America". He replied that Madrid isn't real Spain.

We also bumped into an American family that we had met previously while on a walking tour in Valéncia. That further cemented my certainty that this was like the last episode of Lost or Survivor with lots of flashbacks of important past happenings. 

We heard so many more non-Spanish languages spoken in the streets of Madrid that the place felt a little like a Spanish zone of Disney's Epcot.

As we approached the Christmas Market on the Plaza Mayor we saw a lot of people wearing crazy hats and colorful wigs.

I convinced Lydia that she needed a poop emoji hat to commemorate our very poopful Spanish Christmas.

There were a few stalls selling nativity scene stuff. I searched for a caganer in vain as that's not really a thing in this part of the county. Especially after witnessing the Catalan zeal for independence I came to view Spain as more of collection of ancient kingdoms rather than a country. I think a large reason that the US is so cohesive is that its such a young country, and most of our history has been together. The EU on the other hand, and even some of the member countries themselves, have long histories full of warfare and atrocities against each other. It's clear to me that people remember those things for a really long time.

The square was crazy tourist-trappy. There was a guy in a matador costume shilling meats out in front of a "restaurant" called the Museum of Ham. No thanks.

One touristy place that I did enjoy was a visit to Chocolatería San Ginés, famous for their churros and hot chocolate. The line was crazy long and we said screw it, but as we were walking away we saw that they had overflow seating in the next door nightclub.

A hardcore obsession with one really good fried dough product reminded me of our stop in at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.

We didn't have any big tourist boxes to check today, and we had a lot of fun. This was like the retirement portion of our Spanish journey.

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