travel back in time

Wednesday 13th October, Madrid, Spain

Yesterday was a public holiday here in Madrid. Since I've been on my computer till 4:00 am some nights, and other days getting up at 4:00 to work, Maria wanted me to take a break. She knew the only way to keep me off the computer for a whole day was to get me out of Madrid, so she grabbed me by the hair and, kicking and screaming all the way, I was dragged to the train station early yesterday morning. Now, you know that's a dirty lie, since Maria's idea of 'early' on a day off is anytime before noon, but the rest of it is true... except the kicking and screaming bit!

Her cousin Nerea lives in a town just about an hour out of Madrid. I'd tell you the name of the town- it's not a secret or anything- but no matter how hard I tried, I could neither pronounce nor remember, our destination. Nerea is the sister of Jarra (pronounced Harra) who was kind enough to let me crash at her place a few weeks ago when I was unexpectedly forced to overnight in Amsterdam on my way to the US. Nerea's hometown was celebrating a medievel festival yesterday, and you know my saying; "you can never go to too many medieval festivals!"

Well the day started of pleasantly enough. The previous night's rain had passed, and Madrid was waking up to a fresh, crisp, lazy autumn morning. We caught Madrid's ever-efficient Metro to Principe Pio, and bought tickets to the-town-whose-name-I-don't-remember. That was when things kind of went awry...

As I said, it was supposed to be a one hour train ride. Unfortunately for us, the train we boarded, although clearly bound for the correct destination, carried us out of the city in a big loop, winding back into Atocha station in Madrid- just a couple of kilometres from where we started, about forty minutes later. It then continued on its merry way to the-town-whose-name-I-don't-remember. Amazing!

Equally amazing was that I forgot to take spare batteries for my camera, in spite of the fact that I bought eight new rechargeable Energizers from Walmart when I was in Tennessee. The Walmart in Carthage, TN- in case you're interested- is the smallest in the country. Wow! or as the Spanish would say Que fuerte!. *Yes, my Spanish lessons are going just great* So the upshot is that after I took one photo (below) the batteries died on me, and the camera spent the rest of the day huddled safely in Maria's handbag.

More Madrid tales to come. I have to do the washing up quickly before the boss gets home!

Back again! Washing up done. Grocery shopping done. Dinner cooked, served and eaten. Boss gave her approval, two thumbs up. Homemade chili con carne, which means chili with meat, for those of you who don't ablo Espanol as bueno as I do! I've cleared the table, and the boss has given me a couple of hours to work on my website. That's if she doesn't decide she wants dessert...


MY MATE CASEY'S COUCHSURFING.COM HAS GROWN BY TEN PERCENT IN THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, NOW WITH ALMOST 5000 MEMBERS IN 102 COUNTRIES! CHECK OUT WWW.COUCHSURFING.COM


Now I was going to tell you about a few of the funny things that have happened around Madrid, and around me, lately. As I said, yesterday was a public holiday. Maria thinks it was to celebrate Christopher Columbus' discovery of the map of Tassie, or something like that. Anyway, there was to be air shows, flyovers and so on. Of course we didn't see them cause we were riding the train from hell most of the day. But the day before- Monday- I was walking the mean streets of Madrid, delivering my books to half a dozen bookshops in about a two kilometre radius, when- out of nowhere- a fighter jet broke the sound barrier about twenty feet above my head. BAM! I thought I'd been shot in the head! I almost dropped to the footpath, and passersby might have been witness to a sudden and colourful display of the English language. For a split second (and I'm ashamed to admit this) all I could think about was a terrorist threat. I was just a few blocks from Atocha train station, the site of one of the deadly bomb attacks in March. Two more jets shattered the sky, and I realized they were just practising for the next day's festivities. I continued my deliveries, slighly shaken.


WORLD NOMADS, THE LEADER IN TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR BACKPACKERS AND INDEPENDENT BUDGET TRAVELLERS, NOW PROVIDES AFFORDABLE COVER FOR RESIDENTS OF FORTY-FIVE COUNTRIEs, FOR TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! SEE IF YOU CAN GET COVER FROM WORLD NOMADS.
Just a few blocks further, I was in for some more excitement. I'm not sure if I've told you about the African guys selling CD's on the street. Okay, picture this. A quiet city street, three black men lined up, each with a bedsheet spread out on the footpath, and covered edge to edge with CD's- pirated of course, and illegal, but at two Euros each or even less, they do a healthy trade. That is, until the undercover cops find them. It's a never-ending game of cat and mouse between the CD sellers and the police, one that I was witness to on Monday. In fact to say I was witness to it doesn't even do the experience justice. More like I was smack bang in the middle of it...

The CD sellers have a piece of string attatched to each corner of their sheet, all joined in the middle. That way, when they see the police coming, or their friends alert them to an approach, they can whisk up their booty in one foul swoop, and be off. It's something I've seen a dozen times or more since I've been in Madrid. Difficult though, when the police are under cover, in plain street clothes, like the guy who was standing to my right as I took a minute to survey the range of music on sale. Also like the guy on my left!

Neither of the men made any move, but the African guy must have twigged that something was up because in a split second, the spread of CDs disappeared into a flurry and he was alreday running. All around me was a blur of movement. Everything seemed to be flying away from me. A retractable baton snapped out from somewhere, and swung down hard at the running black man. My eyes were watching, but my brain was still wondering whether the Eminem Live CD would be any good. The denim jacketed officers struggled with a couple of men, but seemed content just to tear their sheets of them , and scatter their goods all over the footpath. The melee was over as suddenly as it began, but this was the part that interested me most. There were many more Africans, all with bedsheets stuffed with contraband, all standing no more than forty feet from the epicentre, staring and chatting excitedly. Even the ones who had escaped the clutches of Jonny Law so narrowly, were now standing just a stone's throw away from the menacing looking cops, catching their breath. Bystanders picked up the occasional CD, DVD of scarf and handed it back to the Africans. The police took their loot, and left, casting a threatening look over their shoulders. I didn't stay to watch, but I can bet you that the Africans were back to business as usual within minutes- that is, except the unlucky two or three who had all their gear confiscated!



DESIGN YOUR OWN BUSINESS CARDS ONLINE WITH VISTA PRINT FOR FREE! JUST PAY FOR POSTAGE!
Maria just called out from the lounge- which in this tiny apartment is actually three feet from the dining table I'm sitting at!- to tell you that she's really enjoying "Everywhere but Missouri, mate!" She's up to my chapter about New York City, a city stirred, not shaken. Until now, the biggest compliment she's paid my book was to say that "It's not crap". So now my harshest critic has given it her okay, and I can rest easy.


ANY ADVERTISEMENTS I HAVE PLACED ON THIS PAGE ARE FOR BUSINESSES THAT I GENUINELY BELIEVE IN. VISTAPRINT IS THE COMPANY WHERE I GET ALL MY BUSINESS CARDS, AND MY CUSTOM DESIGNED 'SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR, MATE!' STICKERS. WORLD NOMADS IS THE TRAVEL INSURANCE COMPANY THAT I AM INSURED WITH, AS THEY CHARGE ABOUT HAQLF WHAT OTHER INSURANCE COMPANIES DO, BUT PROVIDE ALL THE COVER I NEED. ANY PURCHASE FROM THESE BUSINESSES MADE VIA LINKS ON MY WEBSITE EARN ME A COMMISSION, WHICH KEEPS THE SAVAGE FILES ON THE NET! COUCHSURFING IS NOT A BUSINESS, JUST AN AWESOME CONCEPT, AND A POSSIBLE BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR THE WORLD!
Maria's apartment is in a very trendy, perhaps Bohemian area of Madrid, packed with bars and restaurants. You wouldn't think it possible to have a problem finding somethinig to eat around here, but we can. Just down the street, across from the Hare Krishna restaurant, is an interesting looking Egyptian restaurant. We walked past one day and the menu attracted my attention (the cheap prices caught my eye from a hundred yards away!) Since I returned from the US, I've offered to treat Maria to dinner there- since I know it's cheap- three times. So far it has been closed every time, except the latest time when it was open, but not serving food. The same as the Hare Krishna restaurant when we went there on the weekend- open but not serving food. Huh? The next night, it was also not serving food, because it was closed.

We walked in the rain to the next bar/restaurant. Now there's a lot of Spanish food that I don't much care for, so I need to study the menu carefully, and have Maria translate anything that sounds promising. We asked the unshaven, two toothed Spaniard behind the counter if we could see a menu. He invited us to take a seat, and said he would 'see what he could get' for us to eat. Maria looked at me, and translated. I said no, I wanted a menu. The man insisted that he could get 'something' for us, if only we would take a seat. I refused, and turned to leave. Maria thanked him and apologized, to which he cheerfully replied (in Spanish of course) "It's probably better anyway. The kitchen is closed. The chef has gone home. It's better you come back another time. So we walked further in the rain, past 'Freeway' Australian bar to Calle Fuencarral, and settled on the first restaurant we came across, a Mexican restaurant where the 4-Euro Margaritas came from a slushy machine, and the meals were ingeniously priced at exactly three times what they were worth. But it was nice to be away from the computer for a while. It felt good to be out eating food that someone else prepared, even if by 'prepared' I mean 'opened a can'. At least I didn't have to do the washing up.

The Freeway Australian bar on the corner is another story. Maria and I always laugh at it because it's always so quiet. We rarely see more than one or two people at the bar, even though just around the corner is a Spanish wine bar that gets so full the crowd spills out onto the street, every night of the week. Well, last week Maria and I were sitting at Triskel Irish pub opposite Freeway, when we saw moving shadows through the window- there were at least four people inside. I'd been curious as to what makes an Australian bar in Madrid, and we didn't want to miss this opportunity to catch Freeway at its wildest, so we polished off our Beamish Reds, and sauntered across. Once inside, we discovered that one of the figures was the cigarette vendor, two others were merchandisers from some bar towel company or another, and the fourth was our barmaid, who kept us waiting the best part of ten minutes while she dealt with the salespeople. Finally, Maria and I ordered two small glasses of Fosters- the only indication to us that we were in an Australian bar, apart from the sign that proclaimed it to be one. The barmaid didn't speak English, let alone Australian!

I have discovered that there are two types of bars in Spain. There are bars where you pay for drinks, and you pay for food. Then there are bars where you pay for drinks, and they give you food for free. Guess which ones I like the best? In a side street just off Puerta del Sol, in the very centre of Madrid, we've discovered a Sidreria where a glass of cider comes with a small snack, and costs a miserly 1.20 Euros. Each time you order another drink, it comes with a different snack to the previous one. I intend on becoming a regular there. Yesterday in the-town-I-don't-remember, Maria's cousin Nerea took us to a bar where beers cost two Euros, and come with your choice of a ham and cheese bagel, a calamari roll, or your choice of sandwiches- tuna and salad, chorizo sausage and egg. Then you walk round the corner and pay two or three Euros for a beer, and all you get with it is a coaster! Where's the justice?

When I first started this website, I tried to post any interesting or inspirational quotes whenever I could find them. It's a habit I seem to have fallen out of, maybe I'll get started again. Here's a couple that have come through my inbox this week...

If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.-
Thomas Edison

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.-
Lao Tzu (570-490 BC)

close window