Friday, September 14, 2007

The Street Walker

Yesterday was essentially a perfect day. I spent time wandering the streets aimlessly, looking for cafés to stop at, people to watch, and street music to listen to.

Metro stop La Latina: oh so that's how I'm getting home!

The morning found me wandering the area around my Hostel, eventually stumbling into a Latin district, where I found somewhere to park it for a while. I spent most of the morning enjoying café con leche and torta de manzana in a cute, edgy-modern cafe, writing and sorting photos. From there, as I finally hungered for something a bit more substantial, I moved on and ended at Plaza Tirozo de Molina which was packed with the afternoon lunch crowd. After waiting endlessly for a table to free up, I asked a beautiful Spanish girl with a similarly shaved head if I could join her and her puppy Lúlu. To my pleasure she said yes, and while I waited for my food and she finished her drink, we chatted about where the best bars and cafés were in the area. It's funny, I think my Spanish is good enough where people think I'm from here, but just bad enough where they think I'm a bit dim. When we get to the part of the conversation where I tell them I'm from California, they are always surprised and I think a bit relieved… as if now they know they're not talking to someone who barely graduated the 4th grade.

This lunch spot was typical Spanish, which was just what I'd been looking for. A three-course lunch had me slurping gazpacho for a starter (good), eating a roasted veal with rice and veggies for the main (mediocre), and taking a rocket ship back to my childhood for the cuajada desert (superb). It's a simple custard-like cream, almost like a plain yogurt I suppose, topped with honey. Fabulous. All washed down with a beer, and I was ready for a Spanish siesta! (Unfortunately I failed to note the name of this place, but it wasn't all that thrilling so you're not missing much… and this dessert can be found all over the place).

Gazpacho, and Cuajada

From there I made my way back to the hostel where I could get online and post yesterdays blog entries. I seriously contemplated taking a nap, but somehow the hours wore on and before I knew it it was time for another wander. Apparently my timing was just right, as I walked back outside to slippery streets, the smell of fresh rain and a clearing sky. I walked back up to the plaza and climbed aboard the Tirso Molina metro to go one stop to Sol.

Puerta del Sol

This is a major shopping area, sure to be full of people, and it did not disappoint. Dozens, if not hundreds of shops line the surrounding streets, and I walked up and down most of them window shopping and admiring the ebb and flow of beautiful Spanish women. I eventually stumbled upon Plaza Jacinto Benavente and a glorious Maestro Currero (Master churro maker), founded in 1902. Just what the doctor ordered (I have a kind and understanding doctor, you have to understand!). An order of churros and a cup of hot chocolate was placed before me, and if you've never enjoyed this little treat, you're truly missing one of the great culinary wonders of the world. The chocolate is less a cup of hot cocoa and more a cup of melted chocolate bar. It's so thick and so high-fat that by the time it reaches your table a thick skin has developed over the top. The first churro you dip breaks the skin, and as you twirl the crusty pastry, the skin wraps around it like a warm chocolate blanket, the heady scent of deep dark cocoa hits your nose, and you realize, right then, that heaven awaits. One can only eat a couple of these before a mind-numbing satiation sets in, your eyes glaze over, and you start to wonder if you ask nicely, if someone will just carry you home.

Churros and Chocolate… love at first bite

Once I found the courage to stand again, I kept making my way back to the hostel to prepare for the next adventure of the day. I dropped back into the hostel's lounge and picked up a book for a while, chatting occasionally with other travelers as they passed through. Finally sensing a growing rumble in the belly, I decided to make my way back out for dinner.
Maestro Churrero
Plaza Jacinto Benavente, 2
28012 Madrid
+34 91 369-24-06

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rating: 5 feet
verdict: bring a stretcher