Day 11-13: Madrid

 All there really is to say about our three days in Madrid is that we ate, well. And often. In the past two weeks I’d almost forgotten how good Spanish food is, as camino food is primarily functional. But Madrid is not the camino. Though, you can start there and there is a dedicated square in the center of the old city.

  We also walked too much. So much for resting, we walked 18km, 14km, and 8km on each day. It was a fabulous mental break and I’m uncertain how I’m now meant to go back to another 13 days of trekking. Perhaps, this is why mid hike breaks are unadvised.

 On our first night we dove into one of the hippest tapas bars in the city, located out of city center, Sala de Despices. We went relatively early for a Friday night, 9 pm, and it was already slammed. When we finally got seats we ordered mozzarella, octopus, ox, and lomo. Everything was delicious, and set the tone for the next three days.

 We spent Saturday wandering around the city, walking far too much. We found a cafe (Toma) that we would end up frequenting every day. But the highlight of Saturday was our evening food tour, 7:30pm to midnight. Our guide showed us his favorite places in the city, while mixing in a bit of history. It was one of the best tours we’ve been on. I still maintain discovering a culture or city through food is one of the best possible methods. Plus we ate so much more of what the city offered than we could have possibly on our own. On our tour were two retired Canadian women starting their camino this week as well, though in Sarria, so I won’t run into them. There was also an Irish couple, who happened to be doctors. The woman works at the hospital Alex just rotated through and examined his class, though, not Alex specifically. Small world indeed!

   Sunday we went to the modern art museum, imagining we ought to do something cultural, as well as wandered the main park and palace grounds. Last time I was in Madrid, which was a decade ago I know we went to a few museums, and I vaguely remember wandering Plaza Mayor and in front of the Royal Palace, but it’s incredible how much you can forget after a decade. The city felt entirely new to me.    

 But again, the highlight of the day was food. At the top of El Corte Ingles in the Salamanca neighborhood, where our hotel is we ate at the street food restaurant of a three star Michellin chef, streetxo. The lineup started around 7:30 and doors opened for dinner at 8:30. It was one of the better meals I’ve had recently. We watched everything be prepared in the open kitchen, eating at the bar surrounding it.

 Today, we visited a few shops, buying leather house slippers and baked goods, stopping for coffees and food periodically. And just like that, the weekend was over. It was so hard to get on the train to Leon! I’d again, briefly considered going back and meeting my friends starting a week behind in Burgos. But I’d already committed to this timeline in my head. And I don’t want to rely on a social crutch. I want to do some of this alone. And this timeframe works for me. And really, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Everyone on this trail is so nice, and I’ve felt so incredibly safe, more so than I do weekend nights in Dublin. But there is always that mild fear of loneliness, even if it’s only two weeks.

 So I got on the train, missing Alex, having a part of me wanting to jump on a plane to Dublin instead. But I know I can finish these next two weeks and that it’ll be worth it. And, the view out my window more much of the trip was the Meseta, which essentially looks like central California, I’m not sad to be avoiding it.

 In Leon I caught the last few hours of sunlight and found my hotel, the Parador. Which sits directly on the Camino and is the site of the “fancy” hotel from the movie The Way. Though their rooms were decidedly nicer, mine is pretty cute. Plus the building itself is pretty impressive.

 Tomorrow I walk again! Only 310km to Santiago!


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