Over the last couple of years we’ve sort of stumbled into a kind of tradition, walking down to the Royal Botanic Gardens, taking a stroll and getting rained on. That was pretty much the agenda for today, and as one can hope for on any travel day, all the pieces fell into place.
The one thing we had somehow managed to miss over these last two weeks of fun has been a healthy meal of chocolate and churros. I did have that folder full of them back in Sevilla, but I’d forgone the chocolate in the interest of being able to fall asleep. We’ve spent the last couple of days wandering around here and yet the time never seemed right. So this morning we left home with the express goal of having a second breakfast comprised of that most wonderful Spanish treat.
Rather than take the long haul to the Valor over on Gran Via, we chose instead to patronize San Gines, the older churreria in Madrid, and unfortunately a favorite of tourists (the place is mentioned in every guide book ever published in every language.) Upon arrival, sure enough the non-Spanish speaking hordes were spilling out the door. But we were committed so we queued up. I ducked out for a second to check on another entrance to the left, apparently a whole second San Gines but with much less of the old cultural flavor of the one where we were waiting. When one of the servers came out and started pointing us in that direction, I asked “Abierto?” and he said yes and we shuffled to the side, ending up second in line instead of zillionth. Unfortunately we were second in line to a family with a bunch of kids that they couldn’t keep corralled long enough to figure out what they wanted. The chaos only lasted a few extra minutes though and we had our order pretty quickly.
It’s a wonderful treat, dripping in simultaneous waves of guilt and pleasure. You can enjoy them as long as you don’t think about what you’re eating which is really nothing more than hot oil, flour, sugar and a giant-sized molten candy bar. You eat slowly and savor every bite, planning all the while to head to the nearest Starbucks to get a coffee to dilute the giant slug of chocolate that you’ve ingested. It was fun though and the Chinese couple at the next table taking selfies of themselves shoving churros in their mouth was an unexpected entertainment bonus.
We really did stop at Starbucks for dilution and from there wandered down to the Paseo del Prado where we grabbed a bench to enjoy our drinks. We sat opposite a fountain with a water nymph giving the “sit” hand signal to some sort of alien creature with three nipples on its face, dispensing water. Slug? Dragon? Who even knows? A young woman came by with a pair of some kind of Mastiffs which she freed to run around on the grass patches that were clearly marked “No dogs.” To her credit, she did clean up after them, including using a paper towel to mop up the grass when one of them peed.
It was getting cold with low gray clouds blowing past and a moderately stiff wind picking up. We got up and crossed the street towards the gardens, only to get stalled by a very large group of teenagers, mostly boys whom were heading into the garden. For the life of me, I could not grasp why any tour leader would think for even the shortest second why a bunch of teen-aged boys would be interested in a spring flower display, but there they were. Once they passed through the group gate we went on, dissing a woman who was trying to sell us a package of greeting cards for the purpose of helping the elderly disabled children.
The gardens are a great place to spend a last day before traveling. Peaceful, mostly quiet (aside from the groups of elementary school children running around screaming) and full of good energy and fresh air. Lots of bird song and beautiful blooms. We were lucky this year because a lot of the spring flowers were still in bloom, along with many of the trees and quite a few Rhododendrons. Our favorite plot, the vegetable garden, was replete with as much chard as I’ve ever seen. We walked from one end to another and then back until we’d covered the place from top to bottom. And just like that, it started to rain as we were heading to the exit. Crossing the Paseo we stopped in Starbucks for a coffee and a sandwich to split before heading back up hill along Paseo de Lope Vega and Las Huertas.