You know I’m writing this stuff down not just to please you folks, but to get it down before I forget, right? The photos are mostly for your entertainment, though.
Anyway, some random notes as I wind up the week. I may think of another one-topic post over the weekend, but one thing I learned this trip: I am shit at keeping hand-written notes. I find it easier to dictate notes via talk-to-text, with all the screwups that involves. Those authors who write in longhand? My hat, it is doffed.
For now, though, some randomness:
We got our third booster a week before we left, and here’s my confession: I behaved like a guy at an orgy who left his condoms in the car, but doesn’t want to miss any of the fun. Which is to say, I was shamefully mask-less in many venues, although I wore one in others. In my defense, I offer only two weak arguments: First, that when it comes to me and masks, heat is kryptonite. If it’s hot outside, I find it very hard to tolerate even a light, surgical-style mask. And it was plenty warm in both cities while we were there. It wasn’t a problem for outdoor stuff, and most of what we did was outdoors, but in some venues I just said fuck it, I’m taking my chances. The biggest test was when we saw Brian Jonestown Massacre at Sala Apollo in Barcelona. It was a packed, SRO house, and we were right there in the thick of it. No way — for me, anyway — to wear a mask in the press of bodies.
Which leads me to the second reason: Spain seems to have decided Covid is over. We did the same thing we did pre-France, that is, uploaded all our vax records to a government health agency and got the QR code for our phones, but not one venue asked to see them. Hardly anyone was wearing masks, so we followed the crowd, combined with some common sense. Packed subway cars, yes. Museums and airy spaces, no. I saw a man reading a newspaper on a subway train, translated the front-page headline as “Covid cases down” and thought, the vaccination rate here is 85 percent, I’ve got a fresh one in my immune system, let’s see how they work. And they worked fine. We didn’t get Covid.
Although we both got colds. In Madrid. My first since 2020. It slowed me down toward the end of the trip, but my knees were starting to hurt from all the walking, so I’ll take it.
(And if you think the colds may have been post-vax Covid, we tested. Both of us, twice. Negative.)
I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was to be in two cities with excellent public transit, one of the great shames of Detroit (and many other cities). We went everywhere via subway and bus, and rarely had to walk more than 500 meters or so from station to destination. And don’t get me started on the high-speed rail. The driving distance from Barcelona to Madrid is 383 miles; we covered it in a little over three hours. The day trips to Segovia and Toledo, both 55 miles from Madrid? Twenty-seven minutes via rail. There are days when it takes longer to get to downtown Detroit, and I’m inner-ring.
But the U.S. didn’t invest in high-speed rail, because Reasons. Meanwhile, a horror story unfolded in Michigan the same day we took one of those trains: What was supposed to be a 5.5-hour ride from Detroit to Chicago via Amtrak ended up taking 19 hours. The engine broke down, the power went out, the toilets wouldn’t flush and they had no lights. One guy got off at Gary and paid an Uber $200 to take him to his hotel. Others just jumped off and walked to a nearby highway to wait for rides. Unreal. If there were a fast-train link between those cities, it would have taken about 90 minutes.
And a note about shoes: I didn’t make the mistake I made in Paris, i.e., try to be “fashionable” like the locals, and get by with a pair of close-to-the-foot Italian sneakers. I packed Adidas and my Chacos, which, thanks to “Hacks,” I now know are coded lesbian sandals. Don’t care. They saved my aching feet.
Eating. And drinking, of course.
You leave Spain with your belly full, thinking: Tapas. Tapas are the way to eat. Sit down, order two or three, plus a liter of sangria, and just nibble. Still hungry? Order another. The whole small-plates thing has a fan in me.
As for drinking, did you know — I did not — that the gin & tonic is basically the national drink of Spain? They drop the “and,” however, so you just ask for a “gintonic.” I had a misadventure with gin decades ago, and have only slowly been making my way back to it in recent years; even the smell made me nauseous. The Negroni was my first step, and after watching Alan down a few Spanish gintonics, I took the plunge. The experience is very different there; the waiter arrives with a huge balloon glass with two big-ass cubes in it, along with the bottle. S/he pours the gin from the bottle in front of you, then leaves you with your own personal bottle of high-end tonic. The high-end is crucial — no Canada Dry crap, but British-made Schweppes or Fever Tree, made with real sugar and not corn syrup. And damn, but they are so, so good. Cheers:
Note the juniper berries. True connoisseurs find that shit silly.
We’re running long here, so let’s get to the pix then, shall we?
The aqueduct in Segovia. Two thousand years old, built with no mortar. It can still carry water, the guidebooks say. Damn, them Romans knew their shit (although it’s been restored twice):
One for you Buckeyes:
The Sagrada Familia in afternoon light, and some detail from outside. Those are the shepherds, worshiping the Christ child with a lamb and at least one pigeon:
Dogs ride the subway with everyone else:
And with that, I’ll draw the post to a close and wish you all a fine weekend. Back next week.