Friday, May 20, 2011

Color, Culture and Sangria

I’ll be honest, I don’t have the enthusiasm in me to write about Madrid. It’s sad really because Madrid is a beautiful, vibrant city with plenty to do and see. There are three things, however, that I do want to mention about Madrid: the color, the culture and the sangria.

First and foremost, Madrid is the most colorful city I’ve seen in Europe. The food found in markets; the architectural masterpieces lining the busy streets; even the clothes the locals wear – which is much different from the typical drab garb found in Geneva, Paris and even London (at least during the winter months). It is not as much of a sensory overload as say, Bangkok, but it definitely has its eye catching contrasts that many cities I’ve experienced don’t seem to have. While sitting at a little outside restaurant in the center of Plaza Mayor enjoying your mid-afternoon snack, you notice several things. First, the food on your plate has more color in it than a color wheel. Olives, soup, paella. All of it is absolutely radiating color. Second is the outrageous uniforms the street performers are wearing. Not only might you see someone dressed up as a super hero (which one I can now not remember) but also performers in all yellow, gold or red dress, waiting for tourists to pass by and give them a few coins to dance, act or make fun of them. 
Third, the building directly next to a salmon pink building is covered in murals. Although this building might not catch your attention immediately, as the salmon pink building behind you might have distracted you first (this building seems to match numerous other buildings in the city, all strongly devoted to a color not many places in this world can pull off), it is one that will consume several minutes of your time. Why? Because it literally takes your eye that long, if not longer, to move over each painting and wonder why in the hell it’s there. Why is this the third item on the list under the ‘color’ detail when clearly it’s not the most noticeable? Well, this building from afar looks like a pale pinkish yellow building, which would clearly be very muted by the brighter one to its left. Yet, when you move closer, you notice the yellows and blues and purples of the murals that seem to tie-dye the building, as each color seems to move in just about every direction possible. Everything in Madrid seems to be a canvas.

Madrid is also a city of what I’m going to call extreme culture. Spain overall has a very unique culture compared to the rest of the European continent. However, Madrid seems to have perfected it. With an architectural style completely its own (again with the colorful buildings, and add tall, stately designs to that), an afternoon tradition of laziness beyond what I experienced in Barcelona, and a habit of eating after 9pm which consumes most of your evening is truly the Madrid life style. There’s no hurry. There’s no stress. Hang out and have a coffee or two. Maybe enjoy a glass of wine (not me, of course, but normal people) and enjoy the afternoon sun. This is Madrid. Relaxed and completely at ease.

The last mention I must make of this amazing city is how much people seem to like sangria. It’s everywhere. If you know me at all, you know this is not the kind of afternoon delight I would choose. However, Jonathan is a fan so he believes in trying it all. We found an indoor market just outside of Plaza Mayor – 
actually it’s quite an interesting market. All the walls are glass so it’s bright and feels almost like an outdoor market. Anyways, this market has everything you can think of: seafood, meats, four or five cheese stands, fruits, veggies, and of course, sangria. There is a stand in this market (actually across from a wine booth) that sells seasonal Spanish favorites and sangria happens to be at the top of the list. Let’s just say we visited this market more than once during our time in Madrid. And that’s not the only place that specializes in this fruity (un)appetizing refreshment. Every. restaurant. in. town. has it too. If you enjoy sangria and are in Spain, make a stop through Madrid. From what I hear, you won’t regret it.


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