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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Mother Hen and First Impressions

Monday, the 6th: The first part of this post’s title refers to my true inner self, today. Matt has taken Adele and Iris to the bus stop to go to their first day at the American School of Madrid. I barely know the school; I don’t know anyone else who goes there, and I don’t have a car with which to drive them, so that I can sort of hover about and see what is what. Meanwhile, Claire is back in Concord and will be leaving for Italy in two days. Aaaargh! Outwardly, I appear a normal mother who has not yet gotten out of her pyjamas:

But inwardly, I feel like a mother hen whose chicks have wandered too far in the barnyard, and she is wanting to gather them in. Claire is actually about to fly out of the barnyard all together. And, oh-my-goodness, she is not a chicken!

Ah well, that is actually all I have to say about myself today. So, I am going to take this opportunity to go backwards a bit and post some of my notes on the trip that Matt and I took to Madrid last July to look at housing. (The benefits of moving gratis of a corporation. Thank You, Oracle)

First Impressions

If you would like to be able to stand about in the aisles of an airplane (whether the seat belt sign is on or not) till well into the night, chatting with friends and drinking sodas (as 20 Spanish teenagers next to me did), then Spain’s Iberian Airline is definitely for you.
Well, I did get this off the internet and it is a little fancier than the meal I had, but
the food is quite good, and I really appreciate that they use real metal utensils.
All quite Spanish as I was to discover. Or perhaps just not American.
In addition, if you would like to enter a European country with someone else’s passport, you really must come to Spain. The customs officials barely glanced at us as they stamped our passports and waved us through with a smile and a greeting.

The airport is an immense, modern affair. It has some of the organic quality that I associate with Gaudi’s architecture. But it was remarkably empty.
 In fact our flight was the only one arriving at all as far as I could tell. This may be due to the severe recession that Spain is experiencing, or maybe because the sun was absolutely blazing hot and anyone with the means to do so was leaving Madrid for the remainder of the summer, and no one in their right minds was arriving. Please, do not plan to visit us in Madrid in late July or August. We don’t plan to be here!

Our First Day

As good Americans, Matt and I had arrived with an agenda and planned to get right to work. We wanted to buy a map and a dictionary, look at the neighborhoods, on the outskirts of the city, where we were most likely to find a house, and go to some stores to see what price differences there are. Our bodies insisted on brief naps, but soon we were off in our rented car. But how strange: the streets were nearly empty and the stores all closed. Plenty of parked cars but no people. We ended up at a mall that was closed, but oddly with the door open. We walked in and used the restrooms. Had the people been teleported?

At 3:00 in the afternoon we were in the nearly empty town center of Aravaca, a suburb of Madrid. The sun was punishing and we were hungry. Fortunately, 3:00 is just in the middle of lunch time here and we found an open restaurant. One of the odd little contradictions in Spain is that they don’t seem to be in a hurry to serve you at restaurants, but once you order it comes almost instantly, and then you are given all the time you want to enjoy it. In fact, as Americans you are given a good deal more time than you actually want. That will be one of my goals, to enjoy meals at a Spanish pace. Another goal is to learn enough Spanish that I know what I am ordering. All in all I really like Spanish food, very fresh, lots of vegetables and fruit. But this was not the first time I had gotten a type of fish that I was not keen to eat.

Okay, this is from the Google Images too. But you get the idea.
Squid, octopus and others unknown are quite popular here.
At 5:30 we were back in the city center where we found a scattering of tourists at a museum. Afterwards we wandered about. The sun was still blazing and we were drawn to the shade of a park. It turned out to be Retiro Park, Madrid’s equivalent to NYC’s Central Park. Here seemed to be all the people we had been wondering about, picnicking below the cool, green canopy,

watching street performers,

One of the dancers, his sign was much enjoyed by the crowd
"Somos solos" -- "We are single"

on blankets kissing (Spain is definitely for lovers), at the lake rowing rented boats,

What better place for a cell phone conversation?

and generally enjoying a day of rest. That will be another of my goals: when it is time to rest, really actually enjoy the rest. Hmm, I don’t know that I want to publicly declare that to be a goal. It will be a tough one.

Postscript: This has been written over the course of a couple of days. Adele and Iris have had two good first days of school, and are safely back in the roost.


  1. Dear Margot,
    thanks for sharing your inner mother hen - I love that drawing! And Claire indeed is a beautiful songbird.

    This is one reader who can't get too much of your "true inner self" - especially in cartoon form. How I would love to draw cartoons of my own inner self. Perhaps I'll try, with your inspiration...

    I love your travel impressions too! Especially the mall with the people teleported away - this reminded me of arriving the afternoon of Christmas Eve in a Brazilian city after a 3-day bus ride. Nothing was open - no restaurants, no stores, nothing. I later learned that Christmas Eve there is the equivalent of Christmas morning around here - no one is working, no one is on the streets. I felt like the Little Match Girl. But I kind of liked it.

  2. Margot,
    It's such a treat to hear your voice and anxieties in this post! It helps me feel like you're not quite so far away. How did the two little chicks like the school? Is Clair already in Italy? Oh my, what a difference just a couple of days make!
    Hugs to you, my dear!

  3. Hi Ebs,
    Thanks for commenting. I always love to hear about your time in Brazil, far from the paths of tourists.
    Many kisses, Margot

  4. Hi Marlowe,
    Thank you so much for commenting. When you have put yourself out there in public as a chicken... well, it helps to know that at least you and Eberle are out there appreciating the metaphor. Not surprisingly, 5th grade is going great and 7th grade is looking a bit like an out take of the mean girls.
    lovin you, Margot