As I sit here, getting ready to head out to La Rambla, the big Madrid market — apparently THE place to be for any resident of Madrid on a Sunday afternoon, I can’t help but think how different this trip to Madrid has been for me. While I won’t go so far as to say that I have become a maja (although I do play one on the stage…ha), I think that I have been an honorary Madrileña for these weeks. That is just the Spanish word for a resident of Madrid.
I think that everyone has a personal travelling style and, while I think mine may have altered a little, in that I am no longer as pleased with the solitary nature of travel, I do still really like to stay pretty much in one place for a period of time, so that I can really feel the place and get to know
the place, as much as possible like a resident. Okay, I realize that if I really lived in Madrid I would not be living in a four star hotel, but I think you can see what I mean. I like to wander the streets, I like to go where the locals go, I like to get out of the tourist center, and well, I like to have time to take it slow and observe what life looks like around me. To have time like that with a place lets me so both the ways in which the culture is unique and the ways in which our humanity we are all so much the same.
And I have had that opportunity here. Last time I was here, I hit the museums and the palace and I was gone. This time, I haven’t even been able to summon up the adventurous nature needed for a day trip. Okay, yes, I have been working most days, but on my free days I have just decided to savor my surroundings.
Most days I have been in a neighborhood called Malasaña, Madrid’s answer to New York’s East Village. And I’ve seen all of the kinds of things that one sees in the East Village. I’ve sat on the square where the revolt against Napoleon’s occupation of Spain began, a square now filled with a dog park and playground. And yesterday, I took a trip to the Salamanca district, perhaps best described as Madrid’s answer to DC’s Northwest quadrant. And of course, I’ve strolled the great streets: the Gran Via, the Paseo de Recolettes, the Paseo del Prado, and wandered in the Parco de Buon Retiro. Oh yea, and there are dogs everywhere.
And what do I see? I see people, living their lives, just as we do back home. I’ve seen a long line for a soup kitchen in Malasaña, I’ve seen boarded up store fronts, and today, I’m guessing I’m going to see a pretty big demonstration at Puerto del Sol on behalf of the 21% of the population in Spain who are unemployed.
I know I am just a visitor, but I really feel like Madrid has invited me, and let me see her. And for that, I am grateful.