Friday, January 12, 2007

Madrid monologue

The Goo-roo is one of the most generous and hospitable men I have ever met. A sweetheart, as She Who Must Not be Named would say. Peace be upon her flocks too, and blessings upon her store, for introducing me to the Goo-roo over the Net. My stolen weekend in London was about to vanish and I was planning Madrid instead (quite unaware how bitter cold it can get even in this Iberian city). She (WMNBN, take that as read) promptly rubbed out all plans for a London blog-meet and imperiously wafted the Goo-roo and me together in cyber-space. We chatted. We messaged. We phoned. We liked. Madrid was on.

Not without hitches, though. As I checked in at Calcutta, I realized that my visa didn’t kick in until the day after I was scheduled to land in Europe. Would I be stopped at the barrier? Packed off on the next flight to nowhere? The worry could have ruined the pleasure of an upgrade, except that a Lufthansa upgrade isn’t much of an upgrade anyway. For the first time in my life, I grew wistful about British Airways. At least they have full reclining beds in the fancy classes. Lufthansa gave me a ‘calf-rest’. And Attitude, from large Teutonic Valkyries with Popeye forearms. I had to screw up my courage to ask for a second drink – they seemed so ready to smack me along the head and bundle me into the hold if I stepped out of line. After two glasses of bubbly and two vodka Camparis, I no longer gave a damn, but I could only sleep for three hours.

How does one while away 6 hours of a 9-hr. flight when Somnus goes AWOL? I marched up and down the aisle. I did surreptitious stretches in the space between the galley and the loo. Counted rows. A benediction upon Shahani, Queen of all her tribe, who took pity upon me and plied me with coffee and conversation, from the skies above Ashgabat till we began the long glide down into Frankfurt.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about the mistimed visa. Frankfurt immigration evidently couldn’t give a damn. And I never met immigration at Madrid.

The plain in Spain as espied from the plane. Those stippled patches are olive plantations.

Disembarking at Barajas, I followed an endless succession of signs that pointed to “Salle des equipajes” (an approximation, Senors et Senoras, a mere approximation) only to find myself miles away, possibly near the French border. As unshaven bandidos snapped their bandanas at the Banderas (sorry, that just came), I was informed that I was in the SpanAir luggage hall. In a different terminal! The long trudge back had its compensations. First I found the Goo-roo lounging (in an attitude at once alert yet morose, quite a feat) outside the Arrivals gate, then I found myself beside my suitcase and outside the barrier. Without ever passing through immigration. Voila! I was free!

So it came about that at midnight on a Saturday I found myself outside Café Patas and also outside a boatload of tapas, the latter conjured up by Gustavo who runs the “Juana la Loca”(1). Gustavo is Uruguayan. He wreaks his revenge upon the descendants of the colonists by alluring them with his viands and then pauperizing them with his demands. Myth has it that if he served meals instead of just tapas, two Michelin stars would be his for the asking.

The tapas bar was truly a revelation. (Vegetarians, please avert your eyes.) A 25-yr.-old white wine (good, but I’d reely druther hev a Pimms, thenk yew sow metch). Fish in a delicate butter sauce. Squid. Crusty bread with herb butter. Fried cod with a piquant dip. Oxtail that flaked apart when touched with a fork. Afterwards, an exquisite Tokaji – Tokay to you and me – that even a Philistine like me could appreciate, especially with a cigarillo that sneered at the Cuban genre. And just before we stepped out into the cold, a bill that would have housed and fed a family for a week. My insides curled into a ball and whimpered at the sight; the Goo-roo, cool investment banker that he is, took the tab and even left Gustavo a bribe for future delectation. (Such is wealth, but it does not always come with such spontaneous generosity.)

By this time I was light-headed from wine and fatigue, I had gone almost 48 hours with about 3 hours of sleep. There is, however, no performance at the Café Patas on Sunday evenings. Since I was to fly out on Monday, it was Saturday night or not at all if I wanted to catch some flamenco. So we walked a circuitous route through bright avenues – the Goo-roo is paranoid about getting mugged, also about expiry dates on food, but more of that later – until we reached the mouth of a little cobbled alley lined with brooding houses and curlicued balconies, like moustached Senoritas who suspected we wanted to ravish their infantas. Two doors from the mouth of the alley a small crowd smoked intently outside a brightly lit doorway. The Fundacion de Flamenco y Conservatorio de Café Patas.

More of which later, because I also need to work.

(1) The Goo-roo tells me that Juana of Castile was the last of her line. The Spanish equivalent of naming a Mughlai eatery "Bahadur Shah Zafar".

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She Who Must Not Be Named said...

The Goo-Roo shall thusly be notified. The Grey and The Bald. Thoughts for a movie anyone?

she who saw the hat and recoiled said...

With that hat, I believe you could ravish an infant. Or two.

pedantic goo-roo said...

The white wine was a Rioja - Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva 1981. doesnt like this too much either and complains about the 85 vintage too.

The dessert wine was a Chateau Pajzos 1993 Tokaji.

You win some, lose some.

Gustavo is Uruguayan. The Queen is Joanna of Castile.

And thanks for all those random kind remarks! And everyone should be afraid of expired food and mugging.

km said...

You do know tht we are all just *waiting* to read about your second career as a matador, JAP.

(LOL@ Bahadur Shah Zafar :))

janaki said...

None of your Tapas had ham? I thought the madrillenos couldnt live without it.
I am a vegetarian and I spent a couple of weeks in Madrid and did have a tough time with the glares I got when I said sin piscada, sin carne and sin jamon

Anonymous said...

I was in Madrid this summer with my husband and I think that immigration paranoia only reigns supreme in the US. In Europe I waltzed through immigration (cursory formality) at Barajas and just (in case) carried my passport for trips to Lisbon and Paris. JC(my husband) didn't even bother with that 'cos he's spaniard and only needed his residency card!
Your post was a good read.
I had problems getting used to lunch at 3pm and dinner at 11. Also, did you happen to notice people spitting out olive seeds on the floors of bars. Happened at plenty bars on the Gran Via stretch. Yuck.

thalassa_mikra said...

JAPda, look who's going places! I went to Madrid from Athens, and upon landing, searched frantically for an immigration counter. Upon not finding one, I nervously approached a policeman who after listening to me said - "Aren't you here to see Madrid? Just go!"

And I went. Ooo aren't the tapas yummy? And I think they taste better with beer rather than wine. Also I really liked the Spaniard appreciation of a post-meal sweet wine like Tokay.

Prerona said...

Nice pics :)

crab said...

And those immigration hounds at Heathrow are no longer a part of ze European World, people??

crab said...

To JAP: Apologies for the random comment supra. I've been reading your blog posts for some time now and could not resist the urge to comment here today (or have I done so once more before, a long long time ago? ... I dont recall now!), a lil off-key as it is. Tis good to see you resume writing again. Thanks for those Spanish vignettes. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

crap. now i miss spain. and rioja. do good in barca for me, wouldja?