Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Thankful Nomads!

The Senior Nomads outside our airbnb apartment in Madrid
 For the first time ever I woke up at 3:00 am and asked myself "did I blog about Bilboa? What about Madrid? Seville? And now we are in Granada!"  I talked myself off the ledge and realized this blog is just as much for us as for anyone else, and hopefully you enjoy checking in from time to time.

The Blogger Breakfast of Champions. Churros and dipping chocolate!
Now that we all agree the sky is not falling - nor is the rain, in Spain, falling mainly on the plain, here are a few notes. I did cover Bilboa in the 500 Days on the Road post. But I would write it all over again because now that we have ventured further, Bilbao and nearby San Sebastian make the Senior Nomad Top Ten destinations. 

 Last spring we spent two weeks in Barcelona and we couldn't get enough of that city. It inspired us to explore more of Spain and hopefully stay ahead of the winter weather. Mission accomplished.

After Bilboa our next stop was Madrid. A rather jarring transition from the gentility of Bilbao to this sprawling metropolis. We were back in the land of snarled traffic and graffiti. But also towering cathedrals, elaborate municipal buildings, imposing royal residences, huge parks, and magnificent fountains. And lots of very, very important men (and one queen) sculpted in bronze. Most were astride rearing stallions because if you gained statue-status, your effigy should and would be on the revered caballo. If you were particularly worthy, you would be center-stage, at the pinnacle of a large fountain overlooking a congested round-about.

One of hundreds of important Spaniards astride their trusty stallions
 We found a quirky apartment in the center of Madrid's "hip" part of town in the Malasana neighborhood. The narrow streets were filled with traditional and trendy bars (there are more bars per capita here than anywhere else in the world), vintage shops, boutiques, nightclubs, and restaurants. There was a decent grocery store nearby and a lovely church where Michael attending mass on several mornings.
Best host award goes to Enrique. He's also a talented photographer.
Here's a link to the apartment: https://wwwairbnb.com/rooms/991697. Our host, Enrique was amazing. Not only did he haul our mammoth bags up 4 flights of stairs, he spent and hour pouring over the map of Madrid and then took us on a walk through the neighborhood so we could find "the good stuff". That's what makes the air bnb experience so great. 

What graffiti? I don't see any graffiti.
We were able to walk to most every major tourist site in the city - but we also used the very efficient and affordable metro. We are averaging a little over 5 miles a day of walking, so we don't try to hard to avoid the excellent beer taps and tapas! Side note - Spain offers excellent non-alcoholic beer. I wondered when I saw so many people downing little 'breakfast beers' - and I learned that in Spain, orange juice is an American preference, while 'sin' (non alcoholic beer) is the perfect accompaniment to a 'patat tortilla' in the morning. Makes sense! Also found the Sunday open-air flea market that stretched for block after block. Yet more opportunities to eat, drink and poke through a million things you really can't buy if you are a Nomad. And street performances of every kind...including:

Yes. This is a human being somehow suspended for hours above his bike.
Best of all - a great fresh market was a short walk away. Over 100 years ago, the Barcelo Mercado was the central market for all of Madrid. Over time it fell into disrepair, and lost it's luster. Over the past few years it was completed renovated and we arrived just 3 weeks after it's re-opening. Three stories of shiny market stalls kept me well occupied at least once most everyday.

My new 'Papa' Alasandro at his jamon stall
Just one corner of the Barcelo Market
We spent Thanksgiving in Madrid. Last year were were in Lisbon, and settled for a mediocre Chinese dinner - mostly due to the lack of traditional ingredients to make the meal. This time I was determined to find the fixings for a proper Thanksgiving dinner for two, even though I would be working with a tiny oven and two burners. Most everything I needed could be found at Barcelo. Of course, it wasn't going to be cheap. The turkey (a breast and a leg quarter) cost the equivalent of $30. And a lonely can of pumpkin puree at the American Grocery Store was $10. Never mind the many Euros I would spend buying ingredients to make a pie. And stuffing, etc. only to leave them behind. No sense hauling bags of flour and sugar around! It became clear that we may just have to go out for burgers.

But then Divine intervention came in to play. I had a question that needed translation at a fruit and vegetable stall and the nicest young man offered to help. His English was very good, and as usual we got into a rapid discussion about Madrid, the economy, Spanish politics, etc.

It turned out that Andres was very familiar with Seattle because he spent his junior year of high school as a foreign exchange student in Shelton, Washington. Really? Odd but true. He went on to University in Madrid to study nuclear engineering - but his momories of the Pike Place Market never left him. His heart now belongs to his family produce distribution business - which turns out is the largest in Spain. As a labor of love, he owns the stall where met.

Eventually, the topic of Thanksgiving came up.  His wife spent 15 of her formative years in St. Louis with her parents who were teaching Spanish and other courses at the University there. When they moved back to Madrid they brought Thanksgiving with them. Apparently Andres Mother-in-law lays out a full feast. Without even a hesitation I invited ourselves over for dinner. I would bring as many side dishes and beverages as I could carry! He only blinked for a few minutes before saying - sure, isn't that the spirit of Thanksgiving?! I was giddy and already thumbing through recipes in my mind.

Sad to miss son Christopher's first Thanksgiving turkey. Looks like I trained him well!
Unfortunately, Andres Mother-in-Law's elder sister took very ill and there was a change of plans. We still got together with Andres and his wife Paloma for dinner at a restaurant and it was a lovely evening. He worked hard to find a restaurant that served a semblance of Thanksgiving dinner. A prefix 6 course meal that was tasty - and had all the elements, just in small portions on large white plates. The turkey roullade was the size of a chocolate chip cookie. And dessert was a smear of pumpkin puree with a marshmallow quinnelle and a cherry size scoop of cranberry sorbet. No need to push back from this table. But the company was good and no chopsticks in sight.

And NEW to these Senior Nomads postings are Michael's Football adventures. He's attended several matches so far including two in Madrid, so follow that ball!

Michael has made some great connections at football matches. Here's Pablo!
That's it for now. I will catch you up on how the Spaniards celebrate Christmas next.

Madrid getting dressed up for the holidays!
Have a wonderful season filled with joy and blessings!

Debbie and Michael
Senior Nomads

1 comment :

  1. I'm very much enjoying your blog! My partner Carol and I traveled for a year in '99-'00, and now that we're retiring, we're planning a longer journey next year. You should write a post on your visa strategy!

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