I headed east today, my goal to walk north on Paseo del Prado to Plaza de Colon and return south on Calle de Serrano (like the chile, I kept saying to myself). It was ridiculously perfect - a balance of sunshine and shade, crowds and space to move freely, architecture and gardens. I kept looking around, stunned at how wonderful I found the city when I expected it to be much like others I'd visited in Europe.
And perhaps it is similar, I decided as I passed the building that holds some of the greatest art in the world. I had, after all, planned this trip quite differently, arriving on a Saturday and taking the weekend to reacclimate and wander around before working on Monday. So far, the results are stunning. My headache yesterday was moderate. I'm sleeping very well. And I feel good - not sad or unsettled or queasy or sore. In short, I'm taking to Madrid like a duck in the Parque del Retiro to water.
I'm wildly boring on days like today, though utterly content to wander and look and idly think thoughts. But it's hard to find write interesting text when I spoke only to the man at the newstand for postcards and water and the woman in the park for another water. I walk and smile at people. I pause to capture images on my memory card and continue on to look at the decorative details outside old buildings or peer at art hanging on perfectly lit walls.
I did congratulate myself on a couple of travel tips. First, I had breakfast at the hotel (mostly because it was included with my room as an apology for yesterday's unpleasantness) and enjoyed the croissant and ham and cheese, slurping coffee to try to snap myself awake when I briefly considered returning to my room for a nice nap not 30 minutes after waking up.
I also carried my mini hipster from Vera Bradley and find it a perfect little travel bag. Credit cards and cash go inside. Lip gloss, coins and hotel key in the front zipper pocket. Map and water or camera go in the back pouch for easy access. The strap goes across my body and I tend to keep it slightly in front of me so it's protected from random thieves (which I've never seen but are always mentioned in my travel books). (Plus, my mom has this odd fear that someone is going to "get me" so I assure her that I'm very careful.)
I did, however, curse myself for attempting the giant Parque del Retiro. I predicted I'd get lost and decided the day was too lovely to mind such things. But after a couple of hours of wandering and watching, I wanted to leave and went isquierda when I should have went derecha and my sore, blistered feet ended up on the exact wrong side of the park, leaving me to whimper and retrace my steps to cross the lovely paths once again.
After extremely careful consultation of my map, I took a shortcut and returned to my hotel to once again strip, shower and download photos. I do have dinner plans with a colleague tonight - perhaps something more bloggable will happen then.