Sunday, 8 April 2012

Seven Spanish Surprises

I have just enjoyed four relaxing (and yet exhausting) days in the Spanish capital, Madrid.  I had never been there before, and one of the delights of going to a new place is to see what surprises you.  Some things are just surprising to us foreigners.  Others are fascinating facts that I will try to remember.

First of all something that would have seemed normal to English visitors to another city, but Madrid residents found it to be a surprise.  It rained some of the time!  Generally speaking it rained rather softly, but on Wednesday morning when the guard was changed outside the splendid Royal Palace it rained in English style.  Still, it was an impressive spectacle.

Madrid - changing the guard, almost London style!

There was so much rain that the roads were awash.

Madrid - unusually rainy!

Second surprise - it is hard to buy bottles of wine with screw tops.  In UK these days it is almost un-necessary to own a corkscrew.  Even in France the standards are changing.  But on holiday in a nice hotel in Madrid, where no such tool is available, there was no point buying a bottle of wine to enjoy in the evening.

Thirdly, architecture built in marzipan, seen in a shop window in Toledo (of which, more below).

Built out of marzipan!

Fourth, on various menus I saw the words 'jamon de york'.  The dictionary was not much help with the word 'york', but I didn't need it to translate jamon as ham.  My host in Toledo, (of which, more below, really!), told me that this was a type of boiled ham, rather than the cured variety, and that 'york' literally meant the place, York.  Having grown up in and around York I was unaware that the city was so famous in Spain, or that the city had a particular tradition with boiled ham.  However, I did notice the similarity between the Spanish pronunciation of 'jamon' (with the j being an h sound produced at the back of the throat), and the English word 'gammon'.

Fifth, was a splendid utilitarian set of double sided pews seen in the cathedral.  I can only assume that one side should be used to face the alter in transept for smaller services, whereas the other would be more appropriate to face the main alter in the centre of the church.

The Cathedral in Madrid - face the other way
if you don't like the sermon perhaps?

On the other hand, if you did not find the sermon to your liking perhaps you could choose to face in the opposite direction - at risk of ex-communication of course.

Sixth was delightful illusion seen in the city.  The guy sat there as though floating in the air with a fascinated crowd around him.  He waved at passers-by - but only with his left hand.  Perhaps that gives you a clue?  I wonder whether he employed someone to hold up a screen while he got on and off the contraption.  It would be a shame to spoil the illusion.

Illusionist floating eerily in mid air. 
He never seemed to wave with his right hand.

And finally, the very best surprise of all was that a dear Spanish friend and her husband collected us from our hotel one evening and drove us to the historic city of Toledo.

Historic Toledo

They showed us around the Christian, Jewish and Islamic influenced areas and then introduced us to a delightful restaurant where they generously entertained us for dinner.

After delicious Spanish cuisine

Nobody could have hoped for better hosts.  Thank you to both of them.  I'm looking forward to attempting to return the favour when they visit England.

I hope it will be soon!

1 comment:

Dobbin said...

Good of them to arrange the weather so you felt at home!