Somewhere in the highly regal, imperially-clad capital city of Spain, there is inexplicably a Costa Coffee, and in that aesthtically clinical, oddly silent Costa Coffee, I sit. I had always assumed the more refined palates of our European brothers would cringe at the quality of coffee churned out by UK chains, but the fact that the only thing I can see out the front door is a Starbucks (and a chihuahua wearing a hat) would indicate that my assumptions were wrong. But then again, Madrid, in the mere four hours I’ve been here, has already surprised me at pretty much every turn, which is saying something considering I was here literally eight months ago.
I mean, do I start with the fact that stepping into Barajas Airport Terminal 4 is like arriving into the inside of a giant pastry? Maybe that a street performer dressed as Homer Simpson wearing a Real Madrid shirt is running around the Puerta del Sol shouting ‘Vamos Barça’? Or do I top the list with the fact that not only is there a literal doppelganger of Sofia Vergara sat next to me with a cappuccino, but her subsequent doppelganger is on the opposite side of the room drinking a chai latte?
In fact, I’ll opt for neither of those, and go for the truly unique sandwich bar in the city centre I found myself in at about 4pm. With undefined ‘meat’ swinging from every inch of available wall space, I found a small counter with about 20 burly Spanish men, all of whom turned to look at me as I approached, all simultaneously revealing a glass of cava in their hand as they did so. The strangest part? None of them were there together. It was just a casual buncha guys, drinking sparkling wine in the afternoon, surrounded by meat.
I sat on a stool at the bar and ordered a glass of red wine, for which the bartender asked for €0.50(!!!), and noticed a glass cabinet to my right, filled with sandwiches. Once I sussed that sandwiches were only €0.60 each, I jumped to order four at once. Problem is, I understand that ‘queso’ in Spanish means cheese, but am not all that familiar with further culinary vocabulary. What I did notice, however, is that every single sandwich in the cabinet was a mixture of ‘queso’ and another ingredient. Completely at random, my furiously pointing index finger picked out cheese and salami (nice), cheese and tuna (hmm…), cheese and morcilla (yes, that is black pudding), and finally, ‘queso y nueces’. Any Spanish speakers here are already one step ahead of me I’m sure; I had lumbered myself with a cheese and nuts sandwich. Debauchery is not the word.
The first small part of the first leg of my journey is over, but this 12-hour layover is really starting to drag. In fact, despite it dragging to a near-painful degree, I can still sum it up in a way you would understand. I came to Madrid in May with my good friend James to go to the Estadio Vicente Calderón and watch Barcelona win the La Liga title against Atletico Madrid. At one point in the match, then-Barcelona player Pedro took the most spectacular first touch after a long ball from Jordi Alba. Despite it becoming one of my major character flaws, I have spent many a day and night thinking about that touch, yet never found a video of it. So what have I done today? That’s right, I just re-watched the entire match just to find it. I mean, it’s a good touch and all but…
Back to Madrid Airport for the next leg. See y’all later.