Arriving: Madrid

Well, I made it to Spain… but it’s certainly not because packing was easy!

A suitcase stacked so high with folded clothes that it can't even begin to close.

This wasn't going anywhere.

My sister loaned me a bigger suitcase, I got everything together, spent a couple wonderful days in Chicago (I will miss you, Bon Bon and dense, delicious craft beer!), and headed to DC.

A small baguette overflowing to twice its size with cilantro, carrot, lemongrass tofu, and jalapeño peppers.

My favorite sandwich: the vegetarian banh mi.

On the flight over the Atlantic, I watched Water for Elephants, 30 Rock, and Mildred Pierce until I remembered an hour before landing that I should get some sleep. I laid down across four seats and rested my head on four pillows, then the lights came on and the flight attendants came by with breakfast. I decided to drink as much hot black tea as I could instead.

I arrived at my hostel at 9:30 am and spent the next hour sitting in a half-asleep stupor on the first floor landing of the hostel (that’s the 2nd floor to you American folk) playing Sudoku and occasionally staring at the wall. Check-in wasn’t until 1:30 pm.

The check-in guy came by regularly on his way to the Staff-Only Room and would speak to me rapidly in Spanish. He would ask such questions as, “Do you want the light on?” and “Where are you from?” I would shrug my shoulders. He would repeat slowly in English. I would reply with monosyllables, grunts, and my hand (Michigan). In the face of such hostile questions, I finally decided to go for a walk.

I have no clue what I did. Ah, yes! I ate a bocadillo de tortilla (a potato-and-egg sandwich on a baguette), read Crepúsculo (yes, Twilight), and eavesdropped on the locals. I noted that the next 5 people who came in to the bocadillería ordered fried calamari with salad.

I came back to the hostel and the check-in guy checked me in early (“You just look tired.”). I went upstairs to take a nap.

A lovely American girl from Madison came into the room shortly after, also preparing for a nap. We made a date: after our naps, we would go out and explore the city together.

We went to the Prado Museum and got Thai food for dinner (they use less sauce than in the States, which was too bad). I kept flinging broccoli off my plate. Twice the broccoli landed halfway across the room. We laughed and laughed. Later, I considered buying a Messi shirt from a street stall, but decided to ask Bill about it after he arrived the next day. I started to have a crush on Madrid.

It’s just so clean, bright, and beautiful. This picture perfectly sums up how I felt about Spain at this point. The buildings and sky are dazzling. The people are but a well-dressed, shadowy blur:

The evening sun lights up the top of a pretty cathedral in Madrid.

You can never have too many crosses.

That night, curling up on my hostel cot in the same room I had from last December, Madrid felt familiar, like coming home. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine Bill just taking off over the ocean, but I think I fell asleep.

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