September 19, 2005


Madrid is a lovely city organized arond numerous plazas, many of the circular and with or without fountains, some of them rectangular like the massive Plaza Mayor which is surrounded by ancient four-storey apartment of them with renaissance style nudes painted on the walls. It´s an open area lined with cafe terraces, and used as a stage by comedians and magicians. All of central Madrid seems like one huge tapas bar, and the people's chief occupation, tourist and local alike, seems to be staying up late.

We drove into the city with no idea where we were, but by chance ended up in the center of the center, in a nice two-star hotel that was once the city´s first luxury hotel. We´re about a half-mile walk from the Prado in one direction and an equal distance from the royal palace in the other. We haven´t seen the Prado yet because museums are closed on Monday -- tomorrow we hope to spend the whole day there and at Goya´s tomb (Dan´s special destination).

Meanwhile we´ve been walkig all over -- discovered a lovely cafe bistro across the Plaza de Oriente from the palace, with luxury ambience and midrange prices. The royal palace is the largest of the many grand white stone buildings in Madrid, some of which turn out to be things like the Cahmber of Deputies. Along with the circular plazaa and the well-trimed parks, they give Madrid the air of a Hispanic London, in contrast to Barcelona's Catalan New York. (Like New York, Barcelona seems to have been covered in a watercolor wsah of blackish gray, Madrid seems clean and spacious in comparison, perhaps partly because today happens to be sunny.)

I can´t find any difference yet between Madrilenos and Barcelonans.

We walked through many Madrid streets that look like NY's Soho, however -- former industrial buildings being renovated into classy hotels. And we discovered a really charming residential district near Calle Segovia that smells of media money -- nicely repainted apartment buildings, some with peace placards in the windows.

We went looking for a hotel, the Reyna Victoria, that Dan and his girlfriend stayed in a few years ago. It was the hotel in which Rilke wrote his ¨Duino Elegies,¨one of the greatest sequences of poetry in the twentieth century. We discovered the building -- it´s being renovated as the Hard Rock Hotel Madrid, to reopen in March 2006. Time marches on.

All of this would be wonderful if not for one little mishap that occured last night -- upon arriving at our hotel, we discovered that through a miscommunication my bag had been left behind in Barcelona, in the driveway of the arts foundantion where we´d stayed. My only bag, I should specify -- everything I had packed for a two-week stay. It´s safe in Barcelona to be picked up when we return in ten days, but between now and then I'll be undergoing the spritual exercise of making do with one pair of jeans, a couple of borrowed tee shirts, and whatever socks, underwear and toiletries I can gradully acquire during our strolls.

More later!