In Madrid, Pre-Roma – UPDATED

Our trip to Rome began with a layover in Madrid (frequent flier miles, remember!) that was so long we extended it to about 23 hours, and saw a little of that beautiful city. We’re not sure what this building is, but we liked it:

At Plaza Mayor, my husband took his favorite sorts of pictures: doorways, windows, patterns…

I admit, I like this stuff, too:

Then we walked through the narrow medieval streets until we reached a restaurant called Botin, which is in the record books as the oldest continually-running restaurant in the world.

I expected a disastrous tourist trap, and for all I know, it is considered just that in Spain, but we thought it a charming little restaurant where they roast giant meat in ancient ovens, and feed it to you with gazpacho, which is very reviving after strolling in the heat of the afternoon.

From our table, we could see a waiter carving meat from what looked to be a deer’s leg.

We inquired to discover that this was, in fact, “Iberian Ham,” which the waiter extolled as one of the prides of Spain. As it is cured, rather than cooked, it seems this stuff has only recently been transported beyond Iberia’s boarders, so it is not so well known as is prosciutto.

We asked for a tiny taste. They brought us a plateful:

It was spectacular.

Entering or leaving Madrid involves hoofing it though an airport that seemed excessively huge; has there been a recent Madrid Olympics, or something? There was an abundance of escalators and people-movers leading to turns with more escalators. While I mumbled about Dante and rings of hell, my husband marveled at the ceiling:

Perhaps it is a good thing, after all, that Madrid’s airport is so huge; the city is the site for next year’s World Youth Day 2011, which will attract over a million young Catholics from all over the world; not only will the pope be meeting with the energetic future of the church, I hear he’s arranging to be able to text them all!

Related: Rome; Santa Sabina

All images my own/2010

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About Elizabeth Scalia

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