Meeting with friends part 1
It is so easy to make friends in Madrid. In this case, I was meeting up with someone I already knew. Sergio Laita was our exchange student my senior year at Lee-Davis High School. I hadn't seen him in 3 years when I came to Madrid in 1990. I rung him a week after I got there (the first week, I was catching up from my late arrival or I was in the Lisbon area the previous weekend.) I told Sergio to guess where I was calling him from. He guessed, "Mechanicsville." I told him he wasn't even close, I was talking to him from beautiful downtown Madrid near the Argüelles metro stop. That evening, Sergio, his girlfriend Elsa, and I went to the Royal palace. My photos taken there didn't turn out that well because we went there when the sun was fixing to set.
Feria del Libro (Books Fair)
La Feria del Libro is one of the most important cultural events of the year in Madrid, an as the event takes place in my familiar and nearby Retiro park, I could not resist the temptation of visiting the fair several times during the couple of weeks that it usually last.
Here you could buy books with an interesting discount, enjoy the general ambience or simply admire the way in wich famous writers fatten up his/her egos by receiving the adulation of his/her public. Trust me; it’s an indispensable visit!
Each bullfight comprises six bulls and three matadors, each of whom fights two bulls. The bulls are specially bred fighting
bulls, usually from the same bloodline and are not less than four years old with a weight somewhere between 500 and
800 kilos. They must never have faced a man on foot before they enter the bullring. The reason being that if this is the
case, they may charge the man, instead of the cape. The selection of bulls is determined by drawing lots on the morning
of the corrida. The toreros perform in order of seniority with the senior matador going first and fourth, the
second-ranked matador second and fifth and the least experienced fighting third and sixth. If a matador is gored and
unable to continue, the senior matador must take his place and complete the fight. Each bullfight is divided into three
stages of thirds and lasts for around 20 minutes. A corrida starts with a parade of all the contestants and bailiffs
dressed in 17th century costume, who salute the president of the fight. The president is an important official who
controls the fight and can award trophies to a matador who performs well. A trumpet is blown to announce the first fight
when the matador and his team enter the ring, and to signal the end of each stage. The bailiffs receive the key to the
gate which is thrown to them by the president of the bullfight, through which the bulls enter the ring. The president
then waves a white handkerchief to signal the entrance of the first bull into the ring.
U.S. citizens are entitled to a US $400 duty-free exemption after being away for 48 hours. Your allowance may include one quart of liquor per adult. In addition to your exemption, you have the privilege of mailing gift parcels to friends and relatives limited to US $50 per day.
The shopping in Spain is outstanding, with leather goods, ceramics, Lladro sculpture, linens, brass, and copper. Business hours are Mon-Sat 9:30 am-1:30 pm and 4:30-7:30 pm. Most stores close for a siesta during early to mid-afternoon. In Spain, shoppers may feel comfortable bargaining with street vendors, but in shops and boutiques it would not be appropriate. While most stores accept credit cards, some will only accept cash.
The government requires that a 6-percent Value Added Tax be charged to consumer products. Tourists may obtain a partial refund from stores that participate in the Europe Tax-Free Shopping program. Visitors obtain cash refunds at the airport upon departure. Ask the store manager for the proper documentation when you make a purchase. HANDICRAFTS
Pottery and ceramics are popular in the Andalusia area where ceramic tiles from Toledo, Seville, and Granada have earned well-deserved fame ever since the middle ages. Other materials, such as glass or wood, also make unique products to collect while traveling in Spain. Collectors consider glassware from Madrid and Granada to be great finds. Handcarved woodwork and furniture rank among Spain’s most outstanding products. In Toledo, look for the age-old art of damascene (metal inlaid with gold thread) and products of steel. Toledo’s industry perfected the craft of producing weapons such as swords and knives.
A product of international prestige is tooled leather or cordovan, sometimes gilded to enhance its beauty. Leather apparel to look for includes shoes, bags, briefcases, and accessories. Andalusia is one of the primary regions specializing in this trade.
The Romans influenced Spain’s claim as one of the world’s leading producers of wine with more than 60 different wine-making districts. One of special mention is wine from Rioja, which on the merit of its bouquet, taste, and body, has won international acclaim. Sherry (vino de Jerez) is a fortified Andalusian wine that also enjoys great international prestige.
Whenever I am in the mood to go to a nighclub, Sala SOL will always be my number one choice. The place is simply great, the music always good, and the atmosphere simple and relaxed. No snobish stuck up people are ever around and people are just themselves. No dress code either. No stupid choosy doormen at the entrance either. The club closes at 6:30am.
There is an entrance fee but it includes a drink (can't remember exactly but I believe it's 8 euros per person) and it is highly worth it. Absolutely none!