I’ll admit that this waiting around until later than 9 PM for dinner is a bit annoying. The Mali fellow at the African restaurant told me that they sometimes stay open until 3 or 4 in the morning for dinner guests. This makes me wonder how this country functions because I’d be of no use at work if I was out drinking and eating until 4 every night.
After lying around and recovering from our day of hiking in Toledo, we decided to go out for dinner. It was 8:30 and so we’d at least be hunting and gathering at a more socially acceptable time. On the walk over to Plaza Mayor, My Lovely Wife hit on a brilliant idea – let’s act like Spaniards and go eat tapas instead of dinner. That’s what they were all doing, and we could pretend we are like they are, only we wouldn’t be going out to dinner at 11 after we finished the tapas. I suggested one of the places we’d eaten last year, the one where we were relegated to the basement when we’d incorrectly answered the Test Question, “Dinner or Tapas” with “dinner.” The place was open but there wasn’t a soul inside, and even if we’re pretending to be tapas eaters, I am not about to be the first person in the restaurant and face that shame. So I a pivot and said, “Let’s try that place over there,” a working class hole in the wall jammed with locals.
We went in and took the last table. I ordered potatoes with garlic and mayonnaise, grilled mushrooms and mixed croquettes. Two glassed of vino tinto de la casa turned out to be served in little half juice glasses. The Real Madrid fútbol game was on the wide screen and a Spanish family to our left was yelling and arguing and slapping each other on the back. What a really nice change from all the places we’ve eaten over the last week. If this had been the states, there would have been a bowling alley out back. It was great. The food came, it was tasty and the din only died down a bit when the family shuffled off to a room in the back. Sitting there I could have imagined myself in any town in Spain in the 1930s, stopping in for a bit and a cup after a long day working on the railroad.
We spent the next part of the evening at the other end of the spectrum, the Mercado San Miguel. Formerly a neighborhood market, it’s been gentrified into an upscale “stand up and eat” place frequented by people who want to be seen. We’ve tried a couple of times to eat there but it is such chaos and truly you have to stake out a seat at 3PM and hold it if you want to sit and eat at 10. I found us a square foot at the wine bar, ordered two glasses which came in stemware, a distant echo of the place where we’d just had dinner. Leaving My Lovely Wife there, I went off and bought two slices of ponche, and brought them back. A couple next to us apparently felt infringed upon because they made a lot of noises and gestures and the big shiny headed husband of the two eventually inched his way in front of me, taking up room for three. I guessed that they didn’t understand the concept of European Socialism. But it didn’t matter, we ate our desert, drank our wine and watched the young women who were doing neither, hogging the prime seats while hoping a disowned Spanish prince would come along and take them away from it all.