Berlin: die Nacht

22 09 2011

First you need Club-Mate, sugared caffeinated half-liter tea-bomb. You will be on your game.

Then you hit up a kiosk again for beers and balls. On second thought, scratch the balls. On second second thought…

Tote said beers plus barbeque fixings to awaiting park party. Marvel at decency of Hefeweissen/banana juice combo. Proceed to play with fire, then enjoy the meaty fruits of your labor. Wish you had perfected the art of portable hot sauce by now.

Allow evening to slide into night.

Strut into exclusive art party held in what appears to your night vision to be a warehouse in the forest. When confronted as to whether you are on the list, gesticulate exasperatedly and grandly declare yourself to be with the person in front of you (as though that weren’t obvious). Take subsequent advantage of open bar.

Escape into nearby park to indulge in ghostly moonlit highjinks.

Wind down in Some Bar Somewhere. Let night’s apparitions seep their way into the smoke.

El Patinete

3 10 2010

There’s no denying that my commute to Tres Cantos is on the lengthy side. However, part of being a Fulbrighter is adapting oneself to unusual and challenging conditions. To this end, I have made a small purchase.

O 25-minute downhill walk from Tres Cantos train station to José Luis Sampedro, prepare thyself: La Reina del Patinete has arrived.

Retiro is my practice arena, and I zip and zoom and generally scoot. It is absurdly exciting to anticipate Tuesday’s commute with ganas.

Motorcycle Expedition to Vallecas

19 09 2010

Today Fausto has promised me a trip by motorcycle to Vallecas, a Madrid neighborhood fairly far to the south where he used to live.

In anticipation, I piece together a moto-ridin’ get-up, the highlight of which is definitely my bitchin’ black boots. Next time I bust them out, I’m definitely getting Em to snap a better-angled photo, but can you imagine a better spot for an outfit shot?? The lines, the colors!

Naturally, by the time we get around to heading out, the sun has warmed the air enough that I have to reconfigure. I switch to red plaid and glorified flip-flops instead, aiming for “sloppy rockabilly.” Emily can tell you if it works or not.

The garbage is nearly overflowing, so we grab it on the way. Unfortunately, the cans on our street don’t emerge until later in the afternoon, so it becomes the third passenger.

Fausto is an extremely calm motorist, commenting that maneuvering the bike gives him a sense of tranquility. I’ve only ever been on motorbike in Bangkok before, and in comparison Madrid traffic does seem extremely ordered. We meander southward, almost imperceptibly ascending in altitude as well.

Fausto calls this “El Parque de las Tetas,” and it’s immediately clear why – it takes the form of two giant mounds, clearly beckoning to be climbed.

It’s very much perspective-changing to view Madrid splayed out in a panorama like this. It can be altogether too easy to submerge oneself in the subway and allow the narrow streets to work as blinders, constantly funneling from destination to destination without any idea of a whole. Seeing the city stretch from one horizon to another gives me a sense of really being here all over again.

Fausto and I sit and absorb. We’re both oddballs of distinct varieties, and our rhythms match well.

Safety first.


16 09 2010

Today is slated as lazy exploration of a few famous Madrileño sites within walking distance of our piso – it’s the final day before I begin work at José Luis Sampedro, and we wouldn’t want me to stress. As such, the first item on the agenda is a picnic lunch in Retiro, the enormous and very well-groomed park about ten minutes away.

Leah and Elena join us for leisurely chats and eats. The Sriracha on my cumin-paprika spiced chicken and semi-cured sheep’s milk cheese bocadillo is blissfully piquant. Everyone digs on the variety of crunchy Taiwanese sesame seed cookies I’ve snagged from the Asian market.

We wander, and it’s immediately obvious that one could quite easily get lost within acre after acre of manicured grounds. Unlike the symmetrical control of the French style, which I find off-putting in its harshness, this Spanish park conveys a sense of tranquility to be found in cooperation with nature. I mean, let’s be honest, it is designed to the nines, but the paths are wandering rather than strict and straight, and interruptions by man-made objects are spaced-out and surprising.

The Spanish sun is particular insistent this afternoon, and we can feel our skulls sizzling in their shells. It’s perversely pleasant – I will forever be a masochistic desert girl – but also quite draining, so we make our way over a few grassy knolls towards the sounds of traffic.

On the way back towards the Atocha metro, a gorgeous church-esque building is far too prominent on a street corner not to explore further. It turns out to be an extremely souped-up mausoleum for several select Spaniards, entombed beneath elaborate statues of gods and owls. Not that hanging around corpses is exactly my scene, but it’s absurdly cool that this kind of stuff is seamlessly intermeshed with the Mercadonas and doner kebabs in this city. In my city.

Elena and Leah are called away to their respective barrios, Emily and I to our Street of Delights. It is well past siesta time, but we make a futile attempt at an hour of rest. The day’s rigors have worn us thin.

Yet we persist in our dogged exploration of Madrid’s finest, particularly because “Prado” rhymes so well with “helado” and the plan just seems divinely proclaimed. Each night from 6-8 PM, the museum opens wide its doors, such that one may view scads upon scads of masterpieces for free. This offer entices plenty of other potential appreciators of the arts, but the line hustles right along.

I remember not being at all into the Prado when I visited it a couple years back with the Earlham Spain program; my memories are tinged with the resentment I felt at being forced to go see “great art” instead of exploring what the backstreets of Madrid had to offer. Today is wholly different. I visit of my own volition, and at leisure – the great art is ten minutes from my house, so Em and I plan to check out only a very small percentage of what’s here today, returning for future visits such that we may give the space its proper due consideration.

Once inside, we head straight for The Garden of Earthly Delights, as I recall loving its hyper-detailed, almost cartoon-like style, so distinct from the majestic portraiture found in many other parts of the museum. It’s still there; it still fascinates. After, we casually make our way towards Goya’s Pinturas Negras, passing a billion representations of Christ and plenty of stunning ancient statue work.

Spending too much time with Goya takes a lot out of a person, especially two that have been subjected to such a brutally stressful afternoon. We require icy cold sweets for dinner to recover.

llaollao, conveniently and mnemonically located just off metro stop Callao, is Fausto’s favorite yogureria in town. There’s only one flavor – natural and tangy-sweet – and plenty of topping options, from fresh fruit to fudge sauce. Fausto highly recommends a specialty concoction called “Sanum,” which Marta and I opt to split.

I know this photo came out blurry, but there’s no way I’m not including it.

I’m just gonna say it straight up – it is better than Pinkberry. This mountain of creamycold yogurt and fruit and granola and chocolate bits drizzled with honey was 3€, and more than enough to split (Fausto devoured his solo).

Yeah. You needed a closer look.

Best dinner in Spain so far.