Remember two weeks ago when we rolled the clocks forward and then felt crappy for a couple of days while we re-adjusted our internal clocks? Well, the other day before leaving, I checked the time in Madrid and was confronted with the fact that for some reason, Spain was only 7 hours ahead of us instead of 8. A little bit of research uncovered the fact that they had not yet made the Daylight Saving Time adjustment and wouldn’t be doing so until this weekend. Which meant we were going to get to do it again! And so we went to bed on Saturday night knowing that Sunday would begin with a deficit. It was too hard to lose that hour of sleep, better to give away an hour midday. And since we are not governed by clocks due to being on vacation, that’s what we did.
The churches here start ringing the bells like crazy on early Sunday morning. I happened to be awake to hear one at 5AM as it clanged off its count. In the middle of that came another, this one ringing 4 which meant either some priest had failed to roll out of bed and fix his bells, or he’d decided to do it our way. In either case, it was funny to hear something that has been going on for centuries be affected by a modern contrivance, and one that everyone hates to boot.
After breakfast and clock adjustments we went out in search of coffee, ultimately stopping at our regular stop just off the cathedral square. The streets are nice early in the morning, apparently all the people that are out yelling at 2AM remain in bed to recover their vocal chords. We sat and sipped our Americanos and watched people stroll by. A couple of Chinese girls milled around bedecked in Converse high tops, tights and polka dot tops. One was smoking, the other eating ice cream.
We had no plan so we decided to do an ad lib and wander around the neighborhoods on the other side of the boulevard that defines the old town from the slightly newer version. Our apartment from last year was up in that area, but we never spent much time exploring so we went off in that direction, stopping first at the Metropolitan Parasol, that giant modern mushroom shaped public space that looks completely at odds with its surrounds. For a minute we considered taking the elevator to the observation platform but decided not to, choosing instead to visit the little museum that is underneath the base. What a great find - a well-designed, large space that displays the remains of the Roman, Christian and Visigoth cities that lie directly beneath our feet. Uncovered during the construction of the Parasol, they were lovingly preserved for display. Mostly the remains of a small cluster of houses, you could see the rooms, alleys and most interesting the sewer system that served the community. Excellent displays and explanations accompanied each stop on the tour, and beautiful mosaics, the original floors of the homes, were shown in place and elevated for the viewer’s appreciation. A well spent 4 Euros, and as it turned out, closing while we were still inside.
With the original plan in mind, we headed north into the Centro Barrio behind the main drag. What a contrast to the tourist zone, the streets and plazas were choked with locals, gathering for a beer and visiting after church. Women with a beer and cigarette in one hand, baby in the other. Older children kicking soccer balls around the square. Older folks visiting and groups of younger single men filling up the trash receptacles with empty Cruz Campo bottles. Real life in a Spanish neighborhood, not the one that runs by a different clock 5 streets away. We stopped for ice cream before heading back to our barrio for another cup of coffee and a couple of tapas – pork loin in a sweet tomato and pepper sauce along with garlic grilled mushrooms – before taking a break from the day. It was now 5PM and only a couple of hours until – Flamenco!
Last year after much research and deliberation we had chosen to go see a Flamenco show at La Casa de Guitarra here in Barrio Santa Cruz. Unlike some of the other shows where food and drinks are mandatory, or those offered in a big theater, this show is small and as they say here, muy intimato. The show takes place in a very compact room, perhaps 30x30’ with walls lined with classic guitars. It’s a museum plus a venue. A small stage sits at the far end, and the seating is limited to about 40 people on folding chairs. We had stopped by earlier in the day to buy our tickets and had a nice chat with the proprietor about the time change and a good laugh when he “unreserved” two excellent seats and gave them to us. Making your reservations in the flesh apparently trumps doing so via the internet. A small win for Luddites everywhere.
We returned around 7:15 and took our seats. The place was half full when we arrived and filled up over the course of the next 15 minutes. The show began promptly at 7:30 with a couple of songs played on solo guitar. Next a second man came out along with the woman who would be dancing this evening. Different people than last year. A Flamenco session gathers intensity, starting with the dancer sitting. The singer guy stands and claps and sings. As the energy increases, the woman stands and begins to dance. What a difference from the previous show - this young woman’s style was volcanic. Loud, powerful and emotional, just amazing. She danced for perhaps 15 minutes and took her bows, her face covered in sweat. Last year’s dancer was passionate, but nothing like this.
The singer took a chair with the guitarist and sang two corridas with a passion that was almost embarrassing to watch. At times I expected him to pass out because he was straining his voice that much. It was quite incredible and I have to say I was a bit relieved when it was over and he had survived.
The woman returned, this time in a red outfit and the process began again. After five minutes of energy building she stood and took command of the stage, pounding out her dance with even more commitment than in the previous set. To end she jumped down and danced up the aisle and out of the room, returning after the music ended. Just wonderful, and we left absolutely satisfied.
It had started to rain so we nipped around the corner and grabbed an umbrella from our apartment - such is the benefit of living in the place you’re visiting. We went to La Giralda for dinner – duck magret, rabbit stewed in garlic and mushroom croquettes. We sat and enjoyed our beer and wine and watched as the rain stopped and people started to fill the street looking for drinks.