Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cat Walk

Today we walked. And walked. And walked some more. 12,914 steps, according to the pedometer,  around Madrid´s Madridiest´s neighbourhood, La Latina. 
the many colours of jesus

I listened to a podcast about crows this summer, and one of the speakers noted how she found it absurd when people talk about going out into nature. Nature, she said, can be found everywhere. Even sitting on a bench and watching the crows. While I do enjoy "getting back to nature," in that spirit, I don´t need to "go for a walk". I walk everywhere! So today we´re staying in the city, enjoying the architecture, people, and yes, even pigeons, the city environment has to offer.
plaza mayor

La Latina has a medieval vibe, with twisting and turning streets lined with quirky shops and tapas restaurants opening onto sunny squares. Being the historical centre of Madrid means a wide range of architectural influences, from Arabic tiles to French balconies, lots to see before we even get to today´s main event, El Rastro market.
el rastro

the cane stall
If you want to get really catty, in the best kind of way (gato, or cat, is what the locals call, well, locals), get up early on Sunday and head to El Rastro. We began our walk in Embajadores, checking out vendors along Calle de Toledo, stopping to hear the organ grinder (who, I kid you not, is pictured in my 1999 Madrid guidebook), and heading up Ribera de Curtidores. This street is a mix of old and new, but from tacky souvenirs to handmade leather goods. Whatever you´re looking for, you can be pretty sure you´ll find it at El Rastro. Plastic rosaries in every colour, gas masks, flamenco dancer aprons, all kinds of corks, well curated antique shops, knives, pets, the cheapest underwear you´ll ever see, scarves, CDs, kitchen gadgets, batteries... It´s a never-ending feast for the eyes.

Once we´d had enough of the crowds (we only covered about a third of the market), we made our way to the Plaza Mayor, the opera house, the Royal Palace, and finally Plaza España. It´s a lot of walking, but there´s always something interesting to see, and the time passes quickly. Today we saw a human sculpture of two riders on a motorcycle going over a bump (Baby loved that), a man blowing giant bubbles to the delight of about a dozen children who were screaming and running wild with delight, seven brides posing for a group photograph, and an accordion and flamenco guitar player, both of whom Baby delighted by dancing and snapping his fingers. I call it his ¨olé¨ move. 

brides in plaza españa

It didn´t have the freshness of a pine forest, but a walk through Old Madrid refreshed my appreciation of my Second City. 

leading the way

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