Sunday, December 7, 2008

Madrid Visa Trip Day 2, 12/3/08

Madrid Visa Trip Day 2, 

Madrid Weather
Wind 7-10 mph
+2 c

We arrived late last night at the Hotel Convencion at O´Donnell 53 in downtown Madrid. This morning we went to the Missionary Training Center in the Pavones neighborhood of southwest Madrid. The taxi driver knew it as the Templo Mormones; the big white building with the angel on the top blowing the horn.

As we arrived, we met our friends the Palmers who were in our MTC class and are missionaries in Yekaterinburg. They came to the MTC two weeks ago to renew their visas, but did not have an invitation to return to their mission. It was supposed to be "in the mail", but never arrived. They hope to have it by the end of next week and be able to go home to their mission.

We checked in on the 4th floor and gave our passports to the administrator, brother Arjona, who would get them to the Currier service that will have our new visas ready on Friday between 5 & 6 PM.

The quick tour of the Temple and MTC square goes something like this. The Temple block is southeast of downtown Madrid on a street called Calle Templo in the Pavones district, but that is the name of only one block and no one seems to know it by that name.

As you stand on that street looking west the three buildings on the square make up three sides of the Square facing the center with the open side where you stand. Directly ahead the Temple faces you just beyond a series of three pools that I suppose have some kind of water spray, but it was all turned off this weekend (maybe for the winter). To the left you see the red-brick 6 story building that houses, starting from the street, the Institute classrooms, the Family History Center, the Distribution Center, and the entry to the MTC with its hostel on the 2nd floor, the 3rd floor Temple Missionary housing, the 4th floor MTC offices & classrooms, the 5th floor MTC missionary housing, and the 6th floor cafeteria facility.

Back on the street, to the right is a two-story, red-brick Stake Center with the large meeting room, gym, and classrooms that you would expect. We didn't go into this building because we attended church with the missionaries. In the center quad are trees in red-brick planters and the pansies that the temples all sport in winter.

Wednesday morning, after dropping off our documents, we got on the Metro and headed for downtown where we got on a City Tour bus to ride the Blue Route and get an overview of things and rest our feet. It is a city of broad main streets and avenues festooned with trees and shrubs still beautiful in the early December sun which quickly faded to gray as the clouds gathered and the wind began to blow. We got on the top of the double-decker bus and had the front seats unchallenged by less hearty tourists. At the tour's end we warmed up with a Starbuck's hot chocolate and prepared for our second tour.

Waiting for the light to change to green at the pedestrian crossing I turned around, looked at the building behind me and thought there were people in the windows looking at me and one another. In six windows there were figures standing or frozen in various poses and looking very life-like. It was an antique store. I don't know what the figures represented, but it was interesting.

On our way across the Avenue to the new Red Route bus, we stopped at some stalls in the avenue park-like area and browsed through some scarves and other woven stuff. Sister Bowden bought a knitted hat and scarf, Elder Bowden and I got longer scarfs to double around our necks on the bus, and Sister Cindy just browsed. Eventually the rain came and we broke out the umbrellas during our exploration of the Red Route that took us into some of the neighborhoods with their narrower streets and older homes and businesses. We tried to spot good restaurants for dinner, but lost our bearings after leaving the bus.

After the Red Route adventure, we decided to try to eat around 4:30 pm before it got too dark. We wanted to take the routes again when the city's lights were on. Now, you have to remember that this is Spain and siesta time between 3 and 5 pm is a deeply ingrained institution there. As we moved from restaurant to restaurant we found small groups of people gathered in these restaurants having an intimate meal, clearly not wanting to be disturbed by some Americans looking for an ethnic experience. After 5 pm, we found a small plaza with a handful of restaurants and picked one on based on the recommendation of some young ladies exiting as we read the menu.

We each ordered something we thought might be good, but still ethnic. I ordered stewed Bull's tail and it was wonderful, with potatoes and a wonderful brown gravy; Very Spanish. Here is my plate after the meal. You can see the tail bones on the side and the left-over potatoes & gravy. It was very ethnic and very good. We later found the same dish in many other restaurants under various names so I'm convinced that it is authentic.

The lights of Madrid are now our focus. We found the bus line again and got our front seats again. This time it is not raining, but it is colder than I remembered. In my wisdom I had left my hat in the hotel because this is Madrid, not Novosibirsk, and I probably would not need it; WRONG! I finally wrapped my new scarf around my head in a feeble attempt to preserve some body heat. I was hoping to not be mistaken for a Muslim terrorist with my big bulky coat and cloth-covered head.

The lights of the downtown area are bright and creative. At major intersections there are net trees festooned with lights of various shapes and sizes. Garlands of light hang across every major street, each one having a different pattern. Here are two different ones. I wish I could show all of the pictures that I took, but these will give an indication of the show this city puts on. The video clips below show some of the moving displays. There was one we saw a couple of times that looked like falling stars running down the side of the building; very impressive.

Madrid is a city alive. It is filled with people who are obviously alive emotionally and mentally. People stopped on the street to help us. They greeted one another warmly and conversed openly. On the Metro there was a buzz of conversation with many smiles and some laughter. The lights, the noise, the laughter, the smiles are all indications of a city full of life and light. Although we were strangers and obviously not Spanish, we did not feel shunned or unwelcome. You felt the energy and life of the city and soaked it up, charging our batteries for your return home.

What a nice country.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

We loved all of Spain, and Madrid is just like you say, even when it's not Christmas season. We'd go back to Spain in a heartbeat. In fact, it is probably the nicest country we've visited. Hope you get to go back there again for a Visa update. Marilyn