What are your all time favorite cities?
Boston and DC on the east coast rate highest for me. San Fran knocked my socks off out west.
But Madrid… Madrid holds a special place in my heart.
De Madrid al cielo! From Madrid to heaven! That was the marketing slogan in place the first time I went to live in Madrid.
Madrid truly is just a step away from heaven.
Madrid is a city of neighborhoods, barrios, where the millions of inhabitants know their neighbors, and the barman at the corner bar knows how each and every one likes his coffee in the morning. “Ah, Carlos. Espresso, eh?” “Pilar, buenos días. Coffee in a large cup with warm milk?” “Señora! You are back again! You like your coffee with hot milk, in a glass, right?”
Madrid is a city for walking. For hours on end. While talking with a friend. Who may well put his or her arm in yours as you walk and talk.
Madrid is a city that loves its food and drink. All regions of the country are represented here, each one offering its own culinary specialties: shellfish from the coastal regions, octopus from the north, food to be eaten in summer’s heat from the south, and Basque food – the Basque culture’s love of food can only be likened to Italy: food is the central part around which culture is organized and celebrated.
Madrid is a city filled with unexpected wonders. Have a meal at the boisterous Casa Mingo, and stop next door at the Chapel of Saint Anthony of Florida, where Goya paintings grace the ceiling. Visit the Plaza Mayor, the central plaza in the city, where people-watching is the main attraction. Watch as groups of friends, or new lovers, meet at the horse statue in the middle of the plaza. Wander down the Gran Vía, but don’t forget to look up at the amazing cupolas gracing the buildings. Step into any bar on any street and ask what the specialty of the house might be. Prepare yourself to be delighted, and consider ordering a glass of house wine to accompany it. You may find an establishment that specializes in all-things-pickled, which would make my son Dennis the happiest man on the planet! Or go for a stroll in the Retiro park, and stop for a soda in a café. Or maybe stroll down the Paseo del Prado, then sit on the grass behind this austere and amazing museum, listening to the guitar player outside.
Madrid is a city that thrives on social interaction. If you linger at any shop window, or perhaps find yourself peering into a bar to catch the bullfight being televised, prepare yourself to be engaged in conversation. In most cases, you will make a new friend. Life in Madrid is lived out in the streets, among people. This is a city that believes in its heart that it is really just a small village.
There is a piece of my soul that still lives in Madrid, that walks its streets each and every day. There is a piece of my soul that cannot live without Madrid.