Thursday, July 29, 2010

Madrid, Spain: Hunger

I hope my first few articles somehow gave you some ideas on how to stretch your travel budget. Now that I have the practical talk out of the way, I hope I can share some thoughts and hopefully provide the inspiration you need to embark on your own journey. On that note, I would like to share a poem written by my niece, Rachelle Cruz – a poem inspired by our trip to Spain.

HUNGER

At La Casa Botin, we suck tentacles stewed in a pocket of hunger.
We learn Hemingway dipped his pen in this hunger.
Duende bird of ink, your house of deepsong and fortress,
where even cats listen, stray from their hunger.
Sevilla, she swirls her mantón around arms, claps,
even dance won’t defy history or Spanish Hunger.
There’s a lover in California folding his dress socks, straightening
his bookshelf, a mouth in absence won’t satisfy hunger.
She tastes her finger of ink from the latticed bowl,
I imagine we are descendants of this hunger.
Each of us experience hunger in a different way. It was not until our trip to Spain that I began to fully understand what I hungered for. Last year, many of my co-workers became a victim of a corporate downsizing. The few of us remaining employees were forced to work overtime and the work demand sucked the life out of me. In the ensuing months, I found myself literally walking into an empty office space. Passing by empty cubicles each day, I yearned to connect with people and started to crave for urban energy. I learned from watching Samantha Brown from the travel channel, that Madrilenos have a zest for life that’s unparalleled. So it would only seem logical for me to choose Madrid for my next vacation destination that fall.  

We arrived in Madrid early in the afternoon. Wandering around Plaza Mayor later that day, we saw a picture of Ernest Hemingway and some memorabilia displayed in the window of a restaurant. I looked up to see the name of the restaurant. To my pleasant surprise, we stumbled upon the oldest restaurant in the world, La Casa Botin. I did not make anything of it being recommended in some travel guide books, more so in the book “1000 Places to See before You Die." Needless to say, I was totally pleased when the restaurant host said that he would be able to accommodate us without a reservation.
Our culinary adventure started off with a pitcher of sangria. We ate artichoke with jamon Iberico for starter, suckling pig with roasted potatoes and vegetables for main course, followed by squid cooked in its own ink for giggles, and washed the ink down with tinto de verano. We erupted in laughter as I had my picture taken with my teeth covered in squid ink. We laughed about this for days.
Of course Madrid was not only about food and eating late, drinking sangria and munching on Serrano hams and lots of olives and dipping churros into a thick curling hot chocolate. It's a city rich in art and architecture. Our eyes were treated to a feast of Goya, Velasquez, El Greco and Picasso’s masterpieces.
Picasso's Guernica


Hungry for more, we took the tour bus to Southern Spain to see the Alhambra, La Mesquita and the Giralda. We soaked in the rain as one traveling companion tried to chase the ghost of Federico Garcia-Lorca in Granada. On the bus to Southern Spain we met people from different corners of the world – Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon, Italy, Minnesota and New Jersey. And it was with the same group of people that I learned how to speak Italian without saying a word and how I longed for peace by tolerating a bigoted woman to speak her mind.

HOLY TOLEDO!
With the seemingly endless view of the olive orchards, the bus ride back to Madrid made me literally hungry. I was excited thinking about trying the paella at "La Barraca" and going back to "La Casa Botin."  But our tour was not over yet, we have yet to visit Toledo. As we arrived in Toledo, we stopped for lunch at a moderately-priced restaurant that was included in the tour. After lunch the tour bus took us to a vantage point where we could see a full view of the city of Toledo. The view was unbelievably amazing. It was so unreal, like a scene from a dream. As we walked and explored the city of Toledo, it occurred to me that the hunger I felt earlier was more than the food at La Casa Botin or expensive restaurant, but the hunger to fulfill my dreams. It was from our trip to Madrid and Southern Spain that I learned about my hunger for life in all its forms.

Travel Tip: Make sure to make a reservation if you're planning on dining at a highly-recommended restaurant as it could get crowded. But if you only have a day or two to spend in a city like Madrid, you may have a good chance of getting in without a reservation by showing up when the restaurant opens. Most restaurants in Madrid start to open at 8:00pm for dinner, but Madrilenos don’t show up for dinner at 8pm.
For more information on Rachelle Cruz's work, please visit http://www.racruzzo.wordpress.com/.

You may also join her on her radio show:
The Blood-Jet Writing Hour" Radio Show
http://www.thebloodjet.wordpress.com/  

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