Thursday, 18 July 2013

Old Quarter

Today, we went in search of the 'old quarter' in Madrid.  On the way, at the end of Calle Toledo, we found the Puerta de Toledo, which is a victory arch.  It was built by the French to commemorate their victory over Spain in 1808, and it took six years to build.  It was a waste of French taxpayers' money, and made the French look like idiots because, in the end, the French were defeated and expelled from Spain.  The Puerta de Toledo has since been used by the Spanish to commemorate the French expulsion.

After a while of walking through the narrow streets, I overheard a Spanish man talking in English to a small group of people outside a cheese shop.  They might have all been friends, or the group could have been one of these walking tours, available in at least a half a dozen languages, that you hear about here in Madrid.  The group was accompanied by a large, benign-looking black shaggy dog that patiently sat on the pavement in the shade, with his tongue hanging out.  As they all peered into the window, the man explained the qualities and attributes of this cheese and that cheese.  Since the medium was English, I signalled to Jean that we should linger and eavesdrop so that we might learn something.  We soon realised the conversation was boring, and we made to move on.  As we did so, the dog licked my leg.

Further on, after a quick coffee of two euros each (so much cheaper than in Australia) on the Calle Argumosa, we walked on and, passing a statue of the playwright, Tirso de Molina, who was the first person to write of the legendary figure Don Juan, we had lunch at the Taberna de Antonio Sanchez,  the oldest tavern in central Madrid.  Its walls feature pictures of bullfights, and the heads of two large stuffed bulls smile down on diners while they sip their wine and swallow their dinner.

A cousin of mine, Straun, commented on one of my earlier blog posts about cafes in Paris.  He said that cafes charged the customer a higher price for sitting outside on the pavement tables and chairs than for sitting inside the establishment.  We hadn't actually noticed this while in Paris, but we can confirm that it is the case here in Madrid.  Small advertising makes it clearer to the prospective diner that dining outside is dearer than within.  The other day, when we had lunch on the Calle Latoneros, I went inside the restaurant (which charged less inside) after we'd eaten our meal.  The place had excellent air conditioning, a real refuge after a blisteringly hot day.  If only I'd known.  But it also had the most beautiful works of art adorning the walls, good quality, with scenes reminiscent of the paintings in some of the museums we have recently visited.  So, it costs more to sit outside?  Go figure.

Puerta de Toledo
Part of the Old Quarter
Some prices of local fruit

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