Knowing Madrid

I have recently found that there is a debate as to the difference between travelers and tourists. Travelers have a tendency to immerse themselves in the places they go while tourists view it as though from a train window. Personally, I think that this discussion is made for some people to feel superior by implying that as a “traveler type”, they have a better understanding of the places they go and thus better experiences than tourists. That seems arrogant. Everyone experiences a place differently but perhaps neither travelers nor tourists know the places they go half as well as they think they do. Because to know a place takes time. To know a place implies abundant experiences and an understanding of the complexities of that place. It could take years to know a place, or one may never know it completely. In the case of large and complicated cities, this difficulty is heightened. Everything swirling by has a mind of its own, from the buses to the suits, the gardens or the bikes. Yet everything plays into the resolute, delicate fabric of the city. Knowing a city cannot be done sufficiently in a month, however, one may hope for familiarity.

Over the last few weeks, our group has become familiar with Madrid. We’ve come to recognize the rhythms of the city that we call our temporary home, but we have yet to understand what creates these particular rhythms. We have spent time plenty of time at our project sites and at Simply Market. We have also grabbed moments away from these spaces, reserve moments spent in favorite places.

The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, adjacent to the Prado has paths that wind around beds filled with exotic and common plantings alike, past peonies the size of a basketball and lines of tulips vast as the Dutch beds. There are greenhouses filled with tropical plants and tables topped with succulent bouquets. It’s enough to make any plant enthusiast swoon, wandering around this wonderland for an hour.

Plaza de Olavide is a circular plaza surrounded by tapas restaurants and flocked with children. The buildings frame the sunset in a way that emphasizes the Madrid blue sky and the architecture of Trafalgar. After reviews, we like to walk the eight or so blocks to the plaza to bask in the sun and the knowledge that, for the next few hours, work is on hold.

Without knowing Madrid yet, I would say we have made a good job of becoming familiar with this place. Even if we may be humble touristic travelers.

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