On my final day in Spain, Maria treated me to a home game of her beloved soccer team, the Madrid Atletico. Actually, it was Maria and Carlos who treated me because they have two season tickets and Carlos gave me his seat for the day. I’m still trying to get my head around soccer (futbol!) and to understand why it’s so popular everywhere in the world except here. I’m even naive enough to make suggestions for how to improve the game, such as making the goal twice as big to increase scoring. These ideas are usually met with the same incredulity as are my suggestions for improving baseball by disallowing a pitcher change during an inning… “Are you nuts!??” Soccer is so popular in Spain that many cities have multiple teams. In the capital, the “Real Madrid” are probably the most famous team, internationally. But fans of the Atletico have a special disdain for the Real. It’s a lot like the Yankees and Mets here… the tendency to like one is usually paired with a dislike for the other. So, while I’m still working on understanding and appreciating the rules and strategies of soccer, fan behavior is pretty much the same as everywhere else.
Sunday morning, after breakfast, Maria Sr. gave me her Atletico jersey to wear for the game and snapped this photo before we left home (she gave it to me as a going away present that evening.)
Maria Sr. drove Maria and I to the El Rastro neighborhood near central Madrid where we enjoyed browsing through the year-round, Sunday morning flea market. Many streets are closed off in a very large area as vendors set up their wares offering about anything you could possibly want, including clothing, antiques, housewares, food…. you name it. It’s a fun activity on a nice day and the weather was perfect during our visit.
After browsing through the market for a while (neither of us is an avid shopper) we stopped for lunch. In order to introduce me to some more local specialties we went to two different “bars.” The first one, Javier Martin’s Croquetas & Cafe, is famous for it’s croquetas. Earlier in the week Maria Sr. had prepared croquetas at home and taught me the basics of how to do it myself. These fried treats can be made with many different fillings and we tried several at this restaurant.
For the second half of our lunch, we visited a restaurant called Taberna Txakolina where we enjoyed pinchos, small snacks especially popular in the northern Basque country near the border with France.
After lunch, we headed for the stadium for the Atletico game. I found it great fun to watch in person… the ability to see everything that’s happening at any place on the field made it more interesting than watching on TV.
That evening, Carlos and his wife came for dinner, bringing along the zarajos (marinated lamb intestines rolled on a stick) below: probably an item that many wouldn’t like but I found them tasty and had several :-). Although I was happy to know that my long, two-month journey would soon end and I would be back with my wonderful wife in our wonderful home, it was sad to leave Maria and her family.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR EVERYTHING, MARIA, MARIA, AND CARLOS!!