The last sentence in that last entry? Not completely accurate. On the other hand, not an exaggeration either.
I woke up alone in a small hotel room in an unfamiliar city. Tired, knowing little of the language. Late afternoon, mid-February.
If you glance at a map of Europe, you may notice the mess made by unknown persons when they drew up the time-zones. In the States, it's fairly straightforward -- the demarcations run north and south in mostly logical fashion. Whoever did the zone work across the Atlantic must have been heavily into the absinthe, producing delineations that loop all over the place in wild, comically erratic style. With the result that though Madrid is actually a bit to the west of London (if my memory serves me), it's an hour ahead. Which means the sun rises later, sets later. So the mornings start slowly, gather steam at a more leisurely pace than in the States, and the evenings stretch themselves out, the extra hours of natural light making the days seem longer, more expansive.
That first day, post-nap, I got myself up out the door slightly before 6 p.m. The hotel lay situated two blocks from la Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, the center of Madrid, a crossing point for Metro lines, bus routes and other traffic trying to force its way through the streets at the city's core. I wandered through narrow pedestrian ways that led me down to Sol, in the middle of the gathering rivers of people heading home after the work day. The sun had slipped down toward the western horizon, great slanting shadows alternated with shafts of brilliant evening light beneath a February sky at once blue and golden, studded with dramatic clouds. All around the plaza loom multi-storied buildings of classic old Spanish architecture, most windows opening onto small balcones. A large statue of King Carlos III on horseback juts skyward on the north side of the plaza, flanked by two large fountains. Across several lanes of blacktop from all that, on the plaza's south side, stands the building which now houses the municipal government -- a structure that functioned as a center of detention and torture during the Franco dictatorship, then nicknamed La Casa de los Gritos, 'the house of screams.'
I found myself in the middle of all this, a scene with entirely different energy from what I was used to, filled with sunlight, sound, crowds streaming through in all directions. One of a group of teenage kids making their way through the Plaza managed to grab a pigeon, tossing it up into the sky (after pulling out a fistful of feathers) where it joined the explosion upward of its buddies as they fled the young humans.
The people passing through the rush-hour version of the plaza pretty much covered the entire spectrum of western hemisphere types -- all the various hispanic looks, along with faces and bodies that appeared to come from points all over Europe. Some would have appeared right at home in the States, others far less so.
I'm not sure how to describe the effect on me of what felt like a torrent of sensory input except to say my senses and my heart felt full to the point of overflowing.
Do I lapse into purple prose here, over-romanticizing my first lengthy hit of Madrid? What the hell. It's love -- it merits some overwriting.