Upon the advice of my dearest friend and a former temporary Spanish resident, Anna (read her blog here!), I packed extremely fashionable and warm-weather-appropriate clothing for my late May trip.
Somehow, Mother Nature got wind of my best-laid plans, and decided that the 70F/21C temps that I had anticipated should instead be replaced by three days of 50F/10C days full of clouds and light spittings of rain. Suddenly, the chiffon blouses, mini-skirts, and maxi dresses were no longer appropriate for my holiday in Spain.
I walked out of the apartment on Wednesday, in a peach chiffon dress and open-toe sandals, to be greeted with a chilly breeze, and immediately turned around and walked back in. I was convinced that my day was ruined, until I realized that the silver lining here is that while at my apartment, I could connect to the Wi-Fi, and look for a cheap clothing store where I could buy sweaters, jeans, and a jacket. I settled on Zara and H&M, and after a quick glance at the map, it seemed they were in a shopping area less than 2 kilometers away.
As you can see, it’s a short, winding walk with lots of route options. Because I visited this area for the shopping, restaurants, and people-watching several times over the next few days, I didn’t always stick to the same blue route – I took several different combinations of roads to get up to the main shopping area. I enjoyed walking up Calle del Mesón de Paredes, which will hereby be known as Calle Ebay China, since not only was every store fashion and/or accessories related, but it was all the stuff I’ve seen on Ebay – hats, dresses, jewelry, wallets – that say “Shipping from: [insert Chinese place], China.” Seriously. Type in “China (some article of clothing)” into an Ebay search. That’s what you’ll see: everything in the stores on the Calle del Mesón de Paredes.
There was a beautiful church on the corner of Calle de Embajadores and Calle Oso. The churches were gorgeous – to be elaborated upon in a future post – and the carvings are so intricate and detailed, the buildings themselves are truly works of art.
As you can see, to get to H&M, I had to walk through the Puerta del Sol. This area was fantastic. It had lots of open area stands (Mercado de Ebay China), dried fruits and foods, slightly higher quality Ebay China items, They also had these super Carnevale masks, but they were so grandiose, I wasn’t sure how I’d get them home in my suitcase.
Despite all the goods and trinkets, I didn’t buy anything. Every time I made my way back through the Puerto del Sol, the stands were closed up, as I had spent my entire day north of the wall. I kept meaning to go back to the dried fruit stand, because it was cheap and had delicious-looking foods (and baklava!) but alas, I never made it back.
Through the archway, there were also some pretty spectacular fountains and statues. I found that every little plaza area had them, and while many of them were men on horses, they were still pretty cool to look at.
The other cool thing was that on this day, the city was still gearing up for the European Champions League Finals. I’ll spare you the boring soccer details, but basically, it encompasses all the Leagues around Europe. The top two teams from all the Premier Leagues play each other in the finals, and this year, they were both from Madrid: Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. The city was positively insane on those nights. I was a bit scared – it was crazier than when the Red Sox won the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. For some reason, I never got the Real Madrid jersey in any of the photos – but they ended up winning 4-1.
The stores around the Puerto del Sol ranged from US-brand to strictly Spanish Mom and Pop shops. They were delightful. People were friendly and welcoming, and there were bright colors and interesting patterns. I tried on lots of shoes and I even purchased a few articles of clothing, and was constantly reminded of what a wonderful place this is.