Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Madrid: Storytellers in the National Library & Merienda at Embassy

We spent most of the day yesterday trying to get ourselves closer to being ready to call it quits with our apartment. This part of the task is getting pretty dull. We went through things, piled up stuff that is going to the garbage, piled up other stuff to be given away, and packed up the few things that are being kept. We're starting on the kitchen now, but that has the dual challenge of putting things away while at the same time needing to eat for the next week or 10 days that we are still here. We're leaving Ricky's room mostly untouched (at least in ways that he notices) until the very end, trying to give him some sort of sense of normalcy. Ana has placed ads to sell the furniture, and has gotten quick responses. Ricky was terrific all day, playing nicely, watching Charlotte's Web and eating popcorn. He took his scooter around the neighborhood with me, and threw batteries into the battery disposal thing in the base of the bus stop. Then we went to the corner store together and threw old clothes into the donation clothing box, and bought a couple things in the store.

In the late afternoon we went out to the Biblioteca Nacional de España. The National Library, in addition to being a scholarly resource, has lectures and a surprisingly extensive and impressive museum area. The museum covers the history of media in its many forms, and is a beautiful space. There was a temporary exhibition going on about cooking and cookbooks in Spain. As we entered, we were told by one of the guards that there were storytellers who were about to get started. It was unexpected and fortunate! We hurried down the stairs and arrived at the auditorium just in time to file in. The auditorium was nearly full, but we found seats together. Then we noticed that Ricky was going to be unable to see much of the show from where we were sitting. The storytellers found him a fine seat across the auditorium from us. He settled in to his seat and chatted pleasantly with the people around him. He is remarkably social. When the show started, though, he quieted right down and gave his attention to the two storytellers. A woman and a man took turns performing four stories. They were very engaging, singing and playing unusual instruments as they told folk tales from around the world and projecting shadows on a screen. Ricky was entranced. After the show he approached each of the performers and spoke to them at length about the show, asking questions and thanking them. It was a great success. And it was a complete surprise, and it was completely free!

After the storytellers, we went to the exhibit about cooking and cookbooks in Spain. It was very well done, with ancient cookbooks and recipes displayed going back to 16th century, plus old food preparation materials, some of which went all the way back to the Roman era.

Then we went to Embassy. Embassy is a bakery and a tea salon and a bar. It has several locations but the original is the only one with an area to sit down. It is located right on Castellana, and has been there since 1931. It wears its age gracefully, without gross modernization or precious preservation. We walked there from the library, and went inside. The waiter told us that because we had a child with us, we should only sit in the non-smoking section. Ricky told the waiter that his grandparents smoke. The waiter told us to grab whatever table we could when one became available. So we stood for a few minutes and waited, and speculated as to which people were going to leave first. We watched a table with an old man and two old women, all looking very prosperous. The old man paid his bill, and we thought they might be leaving, but then food was brought to the table. Another table opened up, but at the other end of the restaurant, and it was gone before we could take a step toward it. Fortunately, a table right next to us got up to leave, and we sat right down.

The menu was surprisingly broad, offering breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and meriendas. It was about 7:30 p.m., which is outside of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. Fortunately, it was merienda time, which meant we could get small dishes. We had hot sandwiches. I had a little baguette with anchovies, red peppers, tuna, and olives. Ana had a baguette with jamon iberico, cured ham, and tomato. Ricky had an open-faced sandwich of toast, ham, cheese, fried egg, and bacon. Ana had tea and I had a caña and Ricky had a glass of steamed milk. We watched the crowd come and go while we ate. It was very good, the staff was friendly and accomodating. By the time we left, and took the metro back home, Ricky was falling asleep. The town was festively decorated with holiday lights. It had been a good day.

Biblioteca Nacional de España, Pº de Recoletos 20-22. 28071 Madrid.

Embassy, Pº de Castellana, 12. 28046 Madrid.


  1. Your blogs arouse my interests in travelling !

  2. I'm glad! I think travel is one of the great ways of spending time.

  3. Frequently your blog posts just make me want to eat.