I arrived at my hotel jetlagged, grubby, and tired (I only let myself sleep 4 hours on the plane to help me adjust to the time zone here).
But it was a pleasure to unpack, do a bit of handwashing in the sink, take a shower, step out of my airplane clothes and into shorts and a tee-shirt—it was 84 degrees with an intermittent breeze this afternoon.
On my way out for a walk, i stopped in the lobby, picked up a business card and zipped it in my fanny pack. That way, in case I got lost, I’d have the hotel’s address. I figured walking would help me stay awake, adjust to Spanish time, absorb sun (for jetlag) and get a general lay of the land.
I’ve never been to Madrid before. Where had I landed?
Our meeting place for our first few days, Hotel Moderno, is right in the center of Madrid. When I pushed out through the glass doors of the lobby out to the street, I was embraced by warm, balmy air, city sounds, and hundreds of conversations in Spanish. They washed over me, adding another layer of warmth to the air.
I looked up and down the street to get my bearings so I’d be able to recognize this block when I returned from my aimless wandering. I looked up and there was a kind of shade thing right up above me in the sky: blue, yellow and white. Very distinctive. That’s a good landmark, I thought. But then a block later, I looked to my left and there were the same shade colors in the sky on that street, too.
I was in a shopping district and there were local stores and local chains mixed in with Starbucks, KFC, and Sephora. The streets were clean. I passed a Metro stop. There were all ages, all type of people but it seemed to me that there was a higher percentage of gorgeous, sexy people of all genders showing lots of skin with lots of tattoos on display streamed by me. I saw lots of human eye candy.
There were city things: graffiti (though not much and it was pretty contained). Two unhoused men napping on two benches. Lots of outdoor cafes with people lingering and visiting on the sidewalk at small tables but I didn’t stop.
People walked little dogs—is that a Madrid thing or just a city thing? To keep your dogs small?
While I walked, I began jotting down a list of quirky, unusual details I was noticing on my walk. This is always one of my early lessons for my writers on travel adventures—ramping up our powers of observation by teaching them notice and note things that smell, taste, sound, are different. Or that grab their attention.
Here are a few items from my list today:
The family who boarded the plane in front of me: a husband and wife and their three sons, all five wearing hiking boots and sporting serious backpacks. The oldest boys, I’d guess about 11, were identical twins who wore matching red tee-shirts. One tee-shirt had “Thing 1” emblazoned on the front and the other said “Thing 2.”
Two street musicians performing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. One played the accordion and the other one played clarinet. They had two tiny dogs at their feet, clearly part of the act. One wore a doggie sweater with a 3-D violin bursting out of its chest.
Uber Eats deliver driver on a bicycle with a giant green insulated backpack on his back and a full-faced black face mask.
Two gay guys happily hung on to each other, laughing and touching each other with obvious pleasure as they walked freely down the street.
A giant green frog statue in front of a casino.
One other thing I noticed: pedestrians in Madrid do not wait for the crosswalk sign to change to WALK before they cross. If the street is clear, they go! So, I did, too.
Now I’m back at my hotel, writing this blog post as one more way to stay awake until Brenda and Andre return in an hour or so from their reconnaissance trip on the Camino, getting everything squared away for our group. I hope to get their full report over tapas and wine tonight, if I don’t fall asleep on my plate.
Now here’s a visual diary of my afternoon stroll.