Even before arriving in Madrid, the flu descended on our family. I had visions of this historic capital that may never be realized. What we did experience was living in Madrid versus touring through. Because our time was not shrouded in the glory of Palacio Real or crowned by the massive Goya canvases at the Prado Museum, the essence of this unique city revealed itself.
My Madrid was one of midnight mornings. Did you know that the palace changes from pearly white to effervescent silver as the sun rises? Did you know that if you sleepily wander into Chocolatería San Gines before 6:00 AM for hot chocolate and churros, you will be greeted by party-goers just bringing their evening to a close? Did you know that Puerto del Sol is truly radiant after a misty dawn? It is a beauty that does not reveal itself when the rest of the world is awake and the crowds and trinket merchants blanket the square.
My Madrid was one of winsome siestas. Did you know that on Sunday afternoons, when all the madrilenes have retreated for siesta, you may experience a virtually private opera or symphony performance by talented buskers practicing their craft? Did you know that after the fish markets close for lunch, you may be caught in the crossfire of local children having “snowball” fights with the ice left in piles outside the market stalls? Did you know that in La Latina (the oldest part of the city) the Church of San Francisco el Grande is the perfect spot to settle into a creaky pew and give thanks?
My Madrid was one of twilight expeditions. Did you know that tapas at San Miguel Market are an amazing representation of what the city has to offer in a breathtaking turn of the century building of steel and glass construction? Did you know that as Plaza Mayor fills at night, you lose the symmetrical rectangular sense of order you feel there during sleepy afternoons? Did you know that you can stand in the geographic center of Spain while in Madrid and at night, as the city lights up, it truly feels like the world revolves around this illuminated metropolis?
Every time we left our apartment to find an open pharmacy or fresh fruit at the market, a new piece of this seductive city revealed itself to us. Without the glamorous big attractions, we were gracefully enchanted by day-to-day life.
This quote from my favorite Spanish novel captures how Madrid transformed before my eyes as I wrote this Blog:
“He once told me that a story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things he would not be able to discover otherwise.” Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Shadow of the Wind