far too much writing, far too many photos

Two things seen around the neighborhood (keeping in mind this neighborhood is Chueca, the Greenwich Village of Madrid):

The sign over the entrance to a wine bar:

Vinos y Licores

Stop Madrid

I’m really not sure what they’re getting at with that.

On another street, immediately next door to a haircutter/beauty shop with a garish, extravagantly-overdone front window is a beer joint. The name over the door:

Bar Primp

Coincidence? Ironic commentary? Low humor? You be the judge.

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During the walk back home after Spanish class today, I followed an impulse to investigate a bar/restaurant I noticed down a side street. A menú del día sign announcing the available courses stood out on the sidewalk, flanked by some modest potted palms. Something about the place feltgood and I walked inside.

It was a small establishment — a front room with a small bar and 4 or 5 stools, and a small room back from that with four tables, 2 two-tops, 2 fout-tops. And stairs going down to a kitchen, restrooms (’servicios’ or ‘aseos’). A man and woman stood at the bar talking when I walked in, along with the owner, a 40-something guy with bushy, longish hair and a slightly moon-like face, wearing an apron. I was the first arrival for lunch — I grabbed a seat in the dining room and he disappeared downstairs to grab his daughter, who was waiting tables.

The place had Spanish tiles all around the walls and, in the small dining room, many old, framed photoraphs. Old as in early 1900s, late 1800s. Photos of people, photos of Madrid. Flamenco played on a stereo. The place felt great.

The owner reappeared and slipped behind the bar to tend to customers. His daughter, a slender, intent, wild-haired, bleached-blonde with a great face, appeared and took my order.

The woman standing by the bar when I entered had two children with her, a little boy, maybe 3, and a sweet-faced little girl, a bit younger. The day outside was absolutely beautiful in a mild autumnal way, the entrance to the street was completely open letting in light and air and permitting people (and kids) to wander in and out. Other people walked in, one with a cocker spaniel who roamed around, sniffing everything and keeping a wary eye cocked at the kids. The kids’ mother went downstairs to the aseos, and when the little girl realized Mom had disappeared she looked outside, didn’t see her, came back inside, and people in the bar began taking care of her. They let her know where her mother was, assured her everything was fine, and kept her occupied friendly, interested talk. The place felt comfortable, safe, and had a sense of something I can only describe as community.

Three young 20-somethings entered as I began hoovering up a delicious (and generous) first course of fresh, thick gazpacho. They sat down to my left as I ate, got glasses of wine, and talked, happily as far as I could tell. The owner’s daughter reappeared with a plate of tapas and offered them (gratis) to everyone in the bar who was working on some kind of drink. A few minutes later she did the same thing with another, different plate of tapas.

The little girl had decided to go downstairs and hunt up her mother. They both reappeared and the scene in the bar grew a bit louder and busier.

The daughter of the owner brought my second course, a perfectly done plate of a half a roast chicken and pureed potatos, garnished with tomatoes and green pepper.

I watched and listened to everything, feeling very good in the middle of it all as I finished up my meal and dessert (natillas — a kind of custard/pudding, its flavor a combo of vanilla and coconut, topped with cinnamon). When I paid the owner, the simple friendliness he radiated, the flamenco playing on the stereo, the overall feel of the place sent me out the door smiling into the radiant late September weather.

I don’t know, it might be boring to read a dispatch like this. But the fact is, there are times when a day or a part of a day or a visit to a place feels perfect, charmed, with everything in balance, everything falling gently into place. This was one of those.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — I love Madrid.

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