Wendy and I deciding to leave Spain is much like any similar decision in life, like leaving a job or a lover. Once you have made the decision, everything we love and hate about Spain is magnified.
I won’t miss the city. Sure, I’ll miss the parks and the massive statues and the atmosphere and the food, but I won’t miss “the city.” I had never lived in a city before Madrid. I have always been a country boy and visits to any city always made me wonder – Why would anyone live here? My brief stays overnight only convinced me more, thanks to the sirens, people screaming at each and traffic noises all night long.
But, Madrid is different. I fell in love with Madrid from the first time I woke up in Wendy’s bed and she took me for a walk and to lunch. Madrid is much more like a village, connected to another village, connected to another village and on and on. It’s just not the same as the newer cities in America. You can’t walk a hundred yards without seeing something older than when our country was founded. There are lots of areas that are fully pedestrian and the little bars and cafes scattered everywhere are so cozy. The place is so clean too. There are always workers out hosing down streets or picking up trash or getting rid of graffiti.
Which is one of the things I won’t miss. I think police should be allowed to shoot to kill anyone they catch spray painting their initials on a wall. I won’t miss the city noises. I won’t miss having to walk twenty minutes to the store, stand in line for ten minutes after shopping, dragging my cart the twenty minutes home and then hauling sixty pounds of groceries up four flights of steps. I won’t miss Thor having to be on a leash all the time. (That dog wouldn’t survive thirty seconds off leash in the city. As Wendy says “I’m going to dash into the road to play with my car friends!”) I won’t miss the beggars and the bums who even come up to you while eating at a restaurant and ask for money. I won’t miss being trapped on the subway when some street musician climbs into the car with a music machine and plays along with his pan flute and then walks around the car with his change purse open. I won’t miss accordions. God, I so will not miss accordions. People who play accordions can be added to the same list as graffiti “artists.”
I will miss the food, the wine the beer, the architecture and the attitude. Wendy and I both firmly believe that “Mahou” is the best beer in the world. And you can’t even buy it in some parts of Spain. It’s very regional to Madrid. The wine here is also something special. You can get an acceptable bottle of wine for under five Euros. And the grapes and variety they have here I think are much better than American wines. Of course, more and more of them are making their way stateside, so, that’s good. The food here is just completely different.
Honestly, I miss American food as much as I’m going to miss Spanish food. They’re just different animals. The steak here cannot be rivaled in the states. I don’t know why but the beef here is just amazing. I will miss the super simple preparation. Steak – no sauce. Razor clams – olive oil and salt. Mushrooms -Olive oil and salt. Fried eggs – olive oil and salt. Cockles – olive oil and salt. Octopus - Olive oil and salt. Oh yeah, and some paprika. An entire platter of goose barnacles, Norwegian lobster, tiger shrimp, two kinds of crab – all just boiled and served cold. For some reason there is mayo on the table but we never use it. Just eat them with nothing. It’s pure flavor unblemished by batter or cocktail sauce.
I’ll miss the casual attitude about drinking here. And I don’t mean that they casually drink to excess, they just don’t see alcohol as the great evil it is viewed at in America. All of Europe is that way actually. It will be depressing to go back to the states where you have special areas at fairs and festivals that are roped off, like we’re bad cows. It will be depressing to go to an outdoor café and not see everyone with a glass of beer or wine enjoying the sun in the middle of the day. It will be odd to go to the butchers and not see him slicing meat with one hand, occasionally sipping a beer with the other while he chats to the little old lady he’s helping. I’ll miss that.
I’ll miss visiting the ocean on weekend trips but I guess I can do that in Vermont as well. One thing I’ll really miss is the double kiss greeting. I like saying hello to my female friends the Spanish way with two quick air kisses on each side of the face. Shaking hands or even just nodding when you meet someone feels impersonal after you get used to the Spanish way.