Posts Tagged ‘bebiendo’

A friend I met here, D, and I went to Lisbon this weekend. It was three days/four nights of happy exuberance. We cracked ourselves up, laughing so hard we cried, saw various, wonderful things, ate wonderful food, spoke in Espantugese and played “spot the drug dealer” on Rua do Sao Augusto. It’s not hard. They’re in their 50s or older, shifty, wear sports coats and make eye contact and beelines at the tourists. No, thank you.

More later, when I’ve downloaded pictures and reconstructed events.




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– Yes, we know that they drive on the left-hand side of the road. But did you know that foot traffic on escalators, in hallways, and often even on sidewalks moves on the left-hand side, too? Look right, look left, look right again, not vice versa, is what children are taught to do before crossing the street. Keep Left, not Keep Right in the Underground (not called the subway, ever). Londoners I’ve queried on this don’t seem to notice it, but I guess that’s because they’re used to it. I kept feeling like a salmon going upstream and finally realized it was because I was trying to Keep Right. Then when I got back to Madrid I almost entered an up escalator to go down because it was on the left.

– Ridiculously, they buy gas (petrol) in liters but use miles, obviously measuring speed in mph.

– British beer is way better than Spanish beer. Hands down. And cheaper.

– Books are cheap. Or I should say cheap in comparison to in Spain. They are at American prices and big chain companies often have huge deals on multiple purchases, on the order of 4 for 3. I assumed that meant 4 for £3. Often 2 for £20 or 3 for £18.

– British teenagers can be frightening in a way I’ve never been frightened of New York City teenagers. There is a palpable feeling that they will cheerfully beat you to pieces as soon as tell you off in a confrontational-yet-not-inherently-dangerous manner.

– The food there is really quite a lot better than I expected. Meat pies at pubs can be unbelievably delicious, even though probably frozen pies reheated on the premises. That really surprised me. Oh, and mushy peas are fantastic, not a sentiment I would have immediately expected from the description.

– Gravity is somehow stronger on the second level of a London Double Decker. It is necessary to hold on TIGHTLY when walking down the stairs, I’ve been nearly thrown down them by an unexpected stop or curve in the road.

– Riding in London is scarier than any riding I’ve ever encountered in NYC, and not just because of the left-hand driving, must look to the right first thing, but because many London drivers just don’t seem to give a crap about anyone in the road but themselves.

– I like London better than I thought I would have.

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Last Friday I had my first proper outing, Spanish style. My roommate invited me out to meet a few of her friends at a bar near Puerta del Sol, a cute little joint whose bar was positively lined with jarras of sangria ready to be slurped down by those brave enough to venture out in the snow. Yes, that’s right, I said snow! It’s snowed in Madrid, and surprisingly as far south as Málaga, several times in the past week.

The snow was fodder enough for the beginning of the conversation. I was able to follow most of what was being said but there were times when I’d fade out, exhausted from the effort, only to drift back in, now able to understand, but with no concept of the subject at hand. But this is what I gathered over the evening: conversations everywhere are exactly the same. We talked about the weather, we bitched about traffic, we discussed politics, and we laughed. The highlight of the night for me was realizing that about 80% of the time that I contributed, no one looked at me like I was talking like I was from Mars. I got nearly all my points across, even in semi-complicated topics, and was well pleased.

Next stop, a smaller bar in the area that I’d never seen on a street I didn’t remember, in an area the boyfriend and I had traipsed through millions of times but must have kept to the same few tracks. 5€ mojitos were the boast of the bar but I was much happier seeing the shiny silver bowl of maíz frito (corn nuts!) sitting out, pretty as you please.

And even more so by what turned out to be a necklace of felt poppies worn by another bar patron and made by her grandmother.

Going out at 8:30 p.m. is fabulous. You can have four hours of drankin’, snackin’ & chattin’ and still be home before the metro closes for the night. Must do it again soon.

Oh, right. Central and North Americans: apparently a sizeable population of Spain thinks that México is part of North America. What say you? Apparently there is no definitive answer to this debate.

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There has been a lot of stop-and-start in my time here in Madrid. I move forward a step with finding things but two steps back when I get there because Madrileños speak so quickly, even when it’s apparent that I’m not fluent, that I’m having a hard time understand anything people say. Last week I was walking around again, as that’s about all I can do here right now, and decided that I was cold and wanted to stop into one of the millions of cervecerías in town for a beer. Cañas are teeny little beers for around €2, depending on the bar, and are the most common form of beer you’ll get here. After writing for a little bit in a tiny, smoke-filled room, the guy next to me struck up a conversation. He offered to show me another bar, serving proper pints of English beer. As I wanted to practice my Spanish more than the most common transactions allow, I agreed to accompany him. It was pretty funny, I’d be rolling along, understanding 90% of what he said, then came a fog where not a single word he said made it through. After about an hour of this, I’d had enough, and when he began to sound a little amorous, I’d really had enough so I took my leave and went back to the apartment.

Sunday I went to the Museo Bellas Artes and had a lovely immersion into Spanish art from Zurbarán through modern artists like José María Labrador. Two of his paintings in particular caught my eye, small portraits of his wife and his most regular model, done in a sublime style influenced by Renaissance art. Spain seems to have a tradition of extremely young, extremely talented artists. It was here that I was reminded of the exhibition from a few years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet/Velázquez, tracing the French appreciation of Spanish art via artists like Zurbarán, Velázquez and Ribera through the Impressionist movement in France and how it affected artists like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas and their American expatriot contemporary, John Singer Sargent. One painting in particular, at Bellas Artes, by Juan Baptista Martínez del Mayo very clearly owes a debt to Velázquez and influenced Singer Sargent. Unfortunately, just as I got to the Goyas, I was asked to leave for the day. Next time, at only €3 it is one of the cheaper museums in Madrid.

One of my very best discoveries has been at the local grocery store, €.59 40s of beer. Steinberg Clásica, tastes just fine.

Last night around 8 p.m. I went out for a walk, I’d only left the apartment once all day, and that was to get groceries. I ambled north to the Paseo de la Castellana, which becomes the Paseo del Prado further south. This wide, tree-lined avenue was pretty, but a little boring and I remembered that calle Orense was somewhere nearby and decided to turn in its direction to suss out the location of a restaurant I’d been led towards as a possible source of employment.

Not being dressed in my finest, nor in anything even resembling stylish, I decided to pass it by instead of investigating the situation any closer, even at this early hour. Having found it, on I went toward c/ Bravo Murillo and known amounts of cervecerías, the better to attend to my bladder, lately begun to request attention. The area I found myself in seemed populated mostly by high rises and hotels, somewhat desolate, slightly residential.

A few winding turns later, through residential blocks a strange mixture of older and newer architecture (and by newer I mean at least 40 years old), I found myself where Avenida General Perón becomes c/Avila, conflicting impulses of shyness and the need to pee forcing me first to walk past the pub on the corner and then to retrace my steps and to go inside. Passing through the low doorway, I found myself in a small pub lined with leather and hammered nail banquettes, many people belly up to the long bar. It housed two gaming machines and the ubiquitous to Spain cigarette machine that Americans likely no longer encounter. I placed myself in front of the bartender and asked for the “carta de vinos”, what I had been led to believe was the correct request for the wine list and was met with confusion on the part of the bartender and mild derision from the “lady of a certain age” to my right. When asked if I wanted tinto, blanco o rosa, I concurred tinto and when he brought back one glass and a single bottle of red, I understood. I guess asking for jerez (sherry) might have gone over better there. My chilled red cost only €2.70.

Due to the early hour, I could barely smell the smoke in the air and retired to one of the banquettes with my glass. This is not an avant garde clientele like at the cafe I had hoped to visit tonight. But living so far north of the center, and not being able to figure out what’s going on with the Metro, when each particular station closes and when service stops completely for the night, I stuck around my apartment – I did not relish the thought of a 2 1/2 hour walk home at night.

I finished my wine, wended my way back to c/Bravo Murillo, and found myself absolutely ravenous. The combination of not knowing what the hell anything means on menus, not wanting to order yet another sandwich and lots of walking has taken its toll on my weight and my stomach fought back. I needed dessert. Lots of it, preferably something with vanilla creme and sponge cake. I found exactly what I wanted, as the subject line will attest, and happily gorged while walking home.

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