Saturday, March 29, 2014

Walking Around



My number one goal for today was to find some waterproofing for my shoes. Yesterday’s 5 miles in the rain was just enough to overcome the Dick’s Sporting Goods spray on that I had used just before our trip to Paris in February. I’m not saying it failed, but it sure didn’t work. And while I didn’t have water sloshing around in my shoes, the leather was soaked through. So with that in mind, and after an Americano at a street side café we took off up Calle Sierpes, the main shopping street, to see what we could find.
The solution came quickly, I stopped in at a Timberland store and asked for “un producto para proteger mis zapatos contra el agua” which was far easier than trying to roll “impermeabilización” off my tongue. And as it turned out, they had it to the tune of 11€ which while expensive was probably worth it given the forecast. So I forked over and we headed on to Corte Inglés for some groceries, the ABC Prensa newspaper kiosk for the International New York Times and then back home drop all that stuff off.
Next up was souvenir, shopping first at a couple of artisan ceramic stores and then to the little shop across from Casa de Pilatos where we had picked up some fun stuff last year. We spent a lot of time there chit-chatting with the French owner about tattoos, China, pollution and Russian mobsters. It was an exciting hour of cultural exchange and amity.


After unloading that stuff we decided to go for a walk through the Murillo Gardens heading in the direction of our favorite Starbucks at the end of Avenida de la Constitución. There are a lot of ways to get there, but the best is through the Murillo Gardens that flank the east side of the Santa Cruz barrio. I stopped to take a photo of this balcony that factors prominently in Rossini’s Barber of Seville. In this particular scene, set below Rosina's balcony, Figaro advises the Count of Almaviva to climb up in search of his true love. From there it was on for coffee and people watching the latter, of which offered a great deal of entertainment and diversion.

Coffee gone, the winds picking up and the temperature not being what it could be due to scudding clouds, we decided to walk on through the area behind the Alcazar, ultimately finding ourselves back in front of the cathedral. We'd thought about visiting both of those locations again, and we still might, but today the lines were long and the streets were choked with tourists. You don't think that the day of the week has much bearing, but apparently it does given the sheer volume of poorly dressed people that we encountered. 

I took this photo in the plaza at the foot of our street. I thought it sort of represented how tourism is changing, right before our eyes.  On your left you have the last of the western tourists of indeterminate origin, and on the right the Next Wave, young Chinese carrying absurdly fancy cameras sent abroad by their now wealthy parents. The more time we spend over here, the more it becomes clear that this is where we're heading. Not only is every corner store in Spain owned by a Chinese expat, but every single attraction is loaded to the gills with them. 

Walking past a lot of half-drunk-in-the-middle-of-the-afternoon people sitting and staring into the sun in the street cafes, we decided to take a stab at finding a ceramics store we'd wandered by on day one. We didn't have any luck with that, but we did find this amazing flamenco dress store that featured of all things, a manikin that was clearly cloned from Taylor Swift. Honestly, how amazing is that? Taylor Swift, squinty eyes and all. I had to wait for the shop clerk to get out of the way to get Taylor's photo, but the wait was worth it. We failed in the quest to find the ceramics so we gave up and returned home for a couple of hours until we could, with all good conscience, go out and find some dinner.
 Earlier in our day we had checked the menu at a restaurant just up the street. Italian it was and we thought it would be nice for something different. We popped in at 8 on the dot, early by Spanish standards but as it turned out, a propitious choice. Not only did our self-assured entrance convince some menu reading wishy-washy couples outside to follow us in, but ten minutes after sitting down the place was full to capacity. It was a great choice. We started with burrata, a fresh Italian mozzarella, soft on the outside, liquid on the inside served with toast slices and tomatoes. I had Tortellini with ham and peas in white sauce and MLW had a really nice place of spinach stuffed ravioli served in a sage-butter sauce. Just delectable. Dessert was panna cotta for me and tiramasu for her. Wonderful all the way around. We ended the evening with a long walk down to the Arenal, next barrio over where we finally figured out that the Spaniards stay down there while the tourists stay up here. I took a few photos on the stroll, particularly of a pastry store that featured some interesting options like French Toast floating in a sea of honey, something that looked like divinty called Lengua de Gatos or "cat's tongues" and perhaps the most interesting thing of all, Hermanidades gummy bears. What's not to love?



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