Moments in Madrid and Surroundings

This palace marks one of the centers of Madrid, and I walk past it to go to Retiro, hit the shops on Gran Vía, and attend my art history class in the Prado Museum. Because I am an ardent seafood-lover, this meal of squid served in its own ink is my favorite so far. I can't reveal the name of this café, but I can tell you it is the most beautiful one in Madrid and serves gummy bears with its drinks. I became a regular on the spot. The restorer of Salamanca's breathtaking cathedral added this little gem in 1993. Astronauts are closest to heaven, some say. Madrid's equivalent to Central Park is gorgeous, but it closes at midnight. I only discovered this at 1am on a night when I was there with friends. Oops. Don't worry, I eventually made it out, and only a few people had to hop the fence... I attended a major match between European champions Real Madrid (rulers of la Liga) and Manchester City (winners of the Premiere League). And went nuts like everybody else when good old Ronaldo scored us the winner in the last minute. To gear up for my first class presentation at Madrid's biggest university, I tried jamón-flavored chips in the cafeteria. Yum. These beauties are from Chocolatería San Ginés, a staple of Madrid's nightlife and so called because it's right next to the church of San Ginés. Dessert here is a religious experience. Sunlight playing off the blue of these Arabic "azulejos" (tiles) within the Alcázar in Segovia, a castle-fortress that inspired Walt Disney's palatial illustrations.

I have been in Madrid for five weeks, and I oscillate between thinking that I more or less understand this teeming metropolis and finding cultural surprises around every corner. For now, I’m content in this in-between space, wandering around and observing as much as I can. Regardless of how much or how little I actually understand – and who can say? – I do know one thing: Madrileños know how to enjoy life. And so, fortified by my señora’s encouragement, I fall into the rhythm and do the same.