Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Newspaper Man of Madrid

The high unemployment rate in Spain- nearly 20 percent- means the buskers around Madrid's Plaza Mayor have had to be extra creative when it comes to new "job" opportunities. I was inspired by this man who turned himself into a a living, breathing newspaper. He creates a new "suit'' each day out of "yesterday's news,'' and then sits on the square perfectly still waiting for people to come by, get their picture taken with him, and put  af few coins in his box. I think he is what we'd call a real news man.

It's been at least 20 years since we last visited Madrid, and almost nothing looks familiar, but in a good way. The subway from the airport into town worked perfectly. No hassles. Our little hotel, the Hostal Luz, is on the third floor (reached via an elevator barely big enough for two) of a building off of a pedestrian street close to the Madrid Opera and Plaza Del Sol. Not bad for 69 euros (about $90). The rooms are small, but everything is newly remodeled including the bathrooms.

The weak dollar ($1.50 to the euro) makes most everything else in Madrid seem expensive. We arrrived just about the time all the restaurants were closing down after lunch around 4 p.m. Open all day, however, is the new Mercado de San Miguel near the Plaza Mayor where I bought two "toasts'' for 1 euro each. One was topped with sardines and goat cheese; the other with a fresh sliver of salmon and dill sauce. The market is in a beautiful iron and glass building built in 1916. Well-dressed locals come here for stand-up lunches of wine and platters of cured Iberian ham. Place an order and a butcher slices it on the spot.

Dinner our first night wasn't a very successful find. We forgot that only tourists try to eat before 9 p.m. Most restaurants don't reopen until that time. We settled for a mediocre paella, a salad and a couple of glasses of wine for 30 euro. Oh well, if our money runs out, I guess I can always dress up as a newspaper and earn some extra cash. Not a bad idea for a Halloween costume come to think of it. 

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