As the title suggests, this blog is the first in a short series of my recent adventures in Spain. It is difficult to capture a place in words, to describe it to someone who has never been there in way that does it justice. My hope is that this series will remind those who have been to Spain of the joys they have experienced, and for those yet to visit that it will in some way awaken imagination and the longing to see it for yourself. This is also the tale of first impressions as this was my first long awaited expedition to Spain.
It is Friday night when my flight from Incheon makes a quick EU entry into Paris. From there I am soon aboard Air France for the short connecting flight to Barajas. My arrival in Madrid is without any hassle. Within twenty minutes of touching down I am on the metro, and in another twenty arriving in the city center. I discover even for a first time in Madrid getting around on the metro is extremely simple.
For my first night I have a reservation at a hostel in Plaza Oriente, which puts me in walking distance of the major old town sites. Early the next morning I take advantage of it. Not much of one for maps, I let the explorer in me lead the way. Given where I am, I suppose it is only fitting. Walking along whichever street seems to beckon, I follow the gray bricks a short distance to Puerta del Sol. It is here I slip onto a quieter street and a few minutes later stumble upon Palacio Real de Madrid. I must admit in person it is an impressive specimen of architecture. Next to it is the Almudena Cathedral. After capturing a few photos I continued on my way as police begin gathering for what appears to be a drill.
It is the perfect day for exploring, the atmosphere epic. The smell of crisp clean air possesses a remnant of forlornness under a dark sky, but the sun, as it drives away the clouds, speaks of lingering hope after an early morning rain. I let myself get lost further still in the narrow winding streets that create a unique dialog between man and city, and where daily life rising from the cobblestone pavement, moves with a nonchalant rhythm.
I enter a deserted, yet cheerful street. On the corner drenched in a ray of sunlight that has managed to find its way down through the maze of rooftops is an abandoned wheelchair. As I approach the other end of the street something stops me and haunts me simultaneously. A reminder that life is beautiful. Many thoughts and emotions, both of delight and expectation are stirred within me. Half an hour earlier, I had passed an elderly couple at a place that seemed far from here. The husband thoughtfully pushing his wife’s wheelchair. Now as I stumble upon them again I feel as if I have intruded in some way on their privacy. The gentleman attentively and patiently holding his wife’s arm as she leans on him for support, carefully surmising each step. The love between them is unmistakable. Here are two lives that no doubt have long and remarkable stories, yet all the years and time seem to fade away. The up and downs, the joy and the pain have been molded into this single moment conveying a message every heart longs desperately to know, “Love never fails.”
A heavenly whisper echoes in my soul.
I wonder on in a dream-like disposition until shortly I come to Mercado de San Miguel and Plaza Mayor. Stepping through the vaulted archways I find myself to be the first person to have stepped into the plaza this morning. Choosing a table in the sunshine I embrace the stillness and order a cup of tea. I sit here for an hour and watch the plaza come to life as the people and conversations around me grow. Police on horseback, entertainers with bubbles and other contraptions, tourists of all sorts, and locals enjoying a morning coffee mingle together. I feel a bit like Audrey Hepburn. The ambience has captured a scene straight out of Roman Holiday. Especially as the older, distinguished gentleman who is waiting on me pauses to ask some questions about me in Spanish. He is inquisitive, not forward. I put together some sentences feeling rather proud I haven’t forgotten all my Spanish. I make a grammatical error, but without interrupting he thoughtfully corrects me and nods that he understands.
“Si, si senorita.”
I could go on, but not wishing to make the same mistake we often do when on holiday, seeing too much too quickly, I will bring part one to a close to allow the imagination a chance to pause and linger for awhile as the sun lends us its warmth and dances playfully across the square with the peaceful ecstasy which accompanies a lazy morning in the plaza……