I am happy to be back inSpain. It’s a country with a vibrant and colorful culture, a long and interesting history, and the weather is perfectly Mediterranean. I can’t remember if this is my third or fourth time here, but it is my first time to the bustling capital of Madrid. Even though it is a large and bustling European capital it’s central historic center can be easily navigated, and rather thoroughly visited, by foot and in a couple of days.
The most difficult thing to adjust to in Spain is the schedule. Everything happens later here, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Starbucks doesn’t open until 8am. Want lunch around noon? I hope you’re ready for a coffee and a pastry because breakfast is in full swing. Don’t even think of dinner before 9pm. Want a night on the town? Plan ahead. Many night-life venues don’t even open until 11pm or midnight and then go until the wee hours of the morning with many not closing until shops are opening. The Spaniards have a word for this special time of day: la madrugada. Probably something I’ll never experience.
But I did manage to be out one evening past 10:00pm when it seems the entire city—young and old—were out for a stroll. It truly is magical. Sidewalk cafes are bustling, dishes are clanging in restaurants everywhere, the weather is a silky breeze, and it just feels like everyone is just trying to live the good life for a few hours.
I can’t say that I was particularly taken by any one spectacular sight in the city. It was more enjoying a sense of place for me. The Royal Palace is truly remarkable and I loved walking through its opulent halls and recalling all the historic fiction novels that I’ve read that took place there. Parque Retiro is a welcome respite among the urban chaos. And art lovers would probably not skip the Prado Museum, but since I’m averse to long lines and museums, I skipped it. It looked pretty from the outside though.