Still Sunday, still daylight. Still questing after fresh air.
We left El Olivar and headed for Palacio Real. And like the Prado, it felt more like we were checking off something on our to-do list than anything else.
Palacio Real is impressive, especially its gardens.
From there we strolled over to Plaza Mayor to see if the action had picked up any. Still a bit slow, but then we understood that things didn't start swinging until almost midnight.
We found a great tapas place just outside the walls of Plaza Mayor -- Taberna la Posta de Quitapenas. It is at C/ Postas, 15
We enjoyed our first taste of Shannon's current food obsession -- Pimentos Padron! I have to say that I can see how one could become obsessed with these wonderful little fried peppers. They weren't wimpy in their mildness. They have an extraordinary amount of flavor without the singe-the-skin-off-your-mouth heat from some of Mexico's typical pepper dishes.
We came back here twice more during our short stay in Madrid. But, the first visit was the best. Mostly because of the great conversation we had with our young Cuban waiter (with an economics degree).
Tomas was eager to engage in a political discussion with us because we were Americans. He said that there is an almost electric air of anticipation in Cuba waiting for "Papa" to die.
Many, many Cubans (most of them from inside the government) are laying the groundwork to rapidly turn Cuba into a premier tourism destination. They have silent partners in Miami who are quietly accumulating the capital to invest in the thousands of tiny islands around Cuba.
We asked him how long the government would be able to keep Castro's death a secret. He thinks perhaps as long as a year. But they will be doing it more to position as many of themselves for the financial boom, than to preserve the political system.
We asked him if Castro's brother would be able to hold power. He said absolutely not, that the people were fed up and there would be a free-for-all power struggle. The only sure thing was that capitalism of some sort would win and Cuba would be a tourist powerhouse in less than a decade.
It was fun to see his excitement and anticipation. It was sad to realize that the Cuba we have been long wishing to visit -- legally, is almost history. I just hope they can keep Disney out of there!!!
There were street performers everywhere. Most of them the typical statue types. The musicians were also typically mediocre. I do have two exceptions to report.
First was the "Late Business Man". Most statues drape themselves in green or brown and paint their faces. Then they sit still waiting for your money. This guy was amazing with his wired clothing to look like he was facing a strong wind. We were standing next to two couples taking bets on how long he could balance on just the toes of one foot and the heal of the other. The losing couple had to double whatever tip the winning couple put in his collection box.
I have to say that the guy was a real trooper. We put our 2 euro in and left after over five minutes. I hope he earned an entire evening's worth of tips from those people!
The second impressive street performance was a group of six musicians. They were world class, and I'm sure they were moonlighting from the National Symphony. We stood there in a very large group and listened for almost a half-hour. Most of their tips were of the folding money variety...and it was a bargain!
This blogging is moving along much too slowly. So, I've made a decision to put an end to the Madrid portion of our trip.
My justification is two fold:
First, there is plenty of information out there about Madrid. From people who are much more qualified to talk about it. My notes aren't going to add anything significant to the global knowledge base.
Second, we just weren't thrilled with the city, and don't want to offer additional negative feedback, considering that bias. It wouldn't be representational.
Much better to have the Madrid lovers tell you all the great reasons to visit, that to have me poison you against it just because I have no interest in returning.
SO..next blog entry will satisfy Colleen's request for an accounting of the Renault car purchase alternative to long term rental. And then we will continue with our drive from Madrid to Galicia.