Saturday, December 31, 2011

Madrid and....I say Hola

Hola...that was my greeting to a Spaniard who passed by me.  By then, I was comfortable greeting strangers. The weather had been cooperative and our days had been beautiful.  This (Valdelasfuentes) was the starting point of our daily adventure.  Travelling in Madrid is simple and easy as there is a good transport system. One can opt to use the train or the bus services.  For both of us, it was the train and our own two feet.  Armed with a good road map and train service map, getting around was quite easy.  When it happened the first time, we were surprised.  Being asked if we needed any help by a total stranger.  Spanish people are happy people and not just that, they are also very helpful and friendly.
Inside the train. A convenient way to travel. Cheap and clean!
The Parque del Buen Retiro was the first place we arrived at for a tour.  This is the most popular park in Madrid.  On the day we visited despite the cold winds, there were many people and families.  Everyone had something to do at the park.  Some were cycling, some were rollerblading, reading or just standing.  I have always loved parks.  Wherever I go, I am always in my element when I am in the park.  On that day, I had the camera with me. Most of the time, hubby would be the one holding it (for safety purposes).  It was a nice walk with all the time and no hurry.  There are many sights to note in the park.  We saw a few that the map showed. The park is huge.  It was not possible for us to cover all in a day and in winter.  The sky gets dark earlier than usual. Therefore, I walked, admired the beauty, sat for a while on the benches (something I loved to do) enjoyed the peace around and allowed the wonderful feeling to soak in.  It was a beautiful park.
Two girls; one rollerblading, the other walking.
My favourite
Maple tree with seeds
Seed from the Maple tree
Woman reading
These two cats were seemed to be doing some loud talking.
Beauty and Peace
Something trees are not ordinary but not out of this world
Paseo de la Argentina
one blow the leaves...
...Another scoop them into bins
The first worker blew the leaves to a spot and another came and scoop them into bins.  It was something I do not see in Malaysia. It was definitely the blowing of the leaves I meant (that I do not see). LOL
Monument of Alfonso XII
The Lake
It is so common to see man pushing a pram with wife/woman walking alongside.  Father with a child perched on his shoulder and mother pushing the pram. I observed and found the Spanish people are very family oriented.  It is so common to see family complete with grandma and grandpa spending time together at the park, in the restaurants or shopping.  
A very common sight
A magic show
Puerta de Alcalá (view taken from Park Retiro)
In the marked rectangle- a long line of people waiting to buy the lottery
'Panhandling'-they were playing Jingle Bells
We stumbled upon the restaurant El Duero, as we needed to rest our feet. In addition, we were looking for a few items on our ‘food to eat’ list.  Most of the time the scenario would be ‘The person speak no English and we speak no Spanish’.  The same when we were here. A waiter showed us a table and we seated ourselves.  I asked if they have oreja (pig’s ear) and bravas I was elated when the waiter said ‘Si Si’ to my questions. I went “Ah, you understood”. My elated look put a wide smile on the waiter’s face.  The waiter also recommended salad and lamb.
The Patatas Bravas-alioli was not out of this world.  It was potato wedges deep-fried with some sauce dribbled on top.  To me, the sauce tasted like chilli with tomato sauce all mixed.  There could be some kind of herbs and pepper added too.
The oreja was some experience.  Hubby said it was too oily.  I thought it was an acquired taste and bite.  There is a pungent smell of pork and the bite was slightly hard with the ligaments. If I were back in Malaysia, I would have asked if they bathed the pig before slaughter. (Laughters) It was a new eating experience for both of us eating the oreja.  I would describe it as quite tasty but not exactly heavenly. We were in Spain and it was what they enjoy, we try to.
We could not finish our food and the last plate, which was the lamb, had to be packed for take-away.  Signs made, hand gestures shown; the waiter understood that we wanted the plate of lamb wrapped up.  I did not know how to ask but it seemed take-away is not a common practise in Spain.  It was the second time we requested for our food wrapped.  The first time was two pieces of cake. Napkins were used to cover the cakes, and then placed on a paper plate and given to us.  We had to request for a plastic bag.  Only this time, the waiter used tin foil.  Whatever it was, we were happy.  At least, it was wrapped.  
In almost every street-Christmas decorations (lights) and people
Waiting in line to buy sandwiches 
Deli shops that sell cold cuts like Jamón (ham) and other kinds of meat are prevalent in Spain.  I loved the sight of the cured meat hanging and in different colours.  I found out from our hosts that the coloured wrap around the ham is the trademark of the producer.  Chorizos (Spanish sausages) are sold at the deli too.    
Plaza Santa Ana
There are many plazas (city square) in Madrid.  
We were fortunate on that night as there was a ‘light show’ held in front of Congreso De Los Diputados (The Congress of Deputies) building.  There were a huge crowd seated and staring at the building.  There was something going on but what?  Out of curiosity, I (hubby joined too. He had no other choice) decided to sit with them.  Asking for information was impossible.  Then a beam of light shone on the building.  Slowly it lighted.  The light show was lighting up the steps in lines with a projector.  It took a while to find out where the lights came from.  It came from a box opposite the building and mechanically controlled.
Woman selling roasted chestnuts, corn and sweet potato
Human Jam!
We walked to Puerta del Sol after that.  We had no plans. We just wanted to join in the lively and merry Christmas spirit.  There were many people.  Spanish people loved walking. (I told myself.)  The shops were not full of people but the streets were.  Puerta Del Sol is one of the best-known places in Madrid, Spain.  It is also the busiest.  As the clock ticked by and with the sun setting, the crowd grew larger.  By sunset, it was near impossible to walk.  As tourists, I have this fear of getting lost (separated from my husband). There was no Christmas market here but everyone here was just happy doing something or nothing (just standing).  
street artists
The glee (look)
Children loved the mime artists at the plaza.  There were many queuing for their turn.  I was able to capture these pictures.  The camera was put away after that for safety reasons, as there were gypsies around.  That was our worries for that moment. We stood around and after a while, decided to head for the train station.  The croowd was getting too large. :o)

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