A great weekend in Madrid, a funny city. It's not especially beautiful, doesn't have a bay, coastline, or grand river, no big mountains looming over it's shoulder, and hosts the ugliest cathedral in Europe. Madrileños are not the warmest bunch and they lack gracia. I don't feel any passion towards the city, nor do I follow much its local politics. Nonetheless, it's a city I find tremendously attractive. We always have fun in Madrid and always leave wanting to return soon. On Saturday the capital was celebrating another noche en blanco, a night of thousands of events scheduled from dusk to dawn. The idea seems to be to see how many millions of people you can get to stay up all night. We didn't do very well, heading home around 1:30. But we had fun - saw a small fireworks show in the Plaza de España, visited the wonderful collection of Goyas at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes, wandered around, listened to music at the Casa del Libro, etc. And of course, some rests along the way. We stopped by La mi venta, a well-known bar next to the Senate building and it was nice to see Daniela chow down a big squid sandwich, a bocadillo de calamares, a real Madrid standard. And of course, we had to have some chocolate y churros, so we satisfied that little urge at Valor, just off the Gran Vía near Callao. Yesterday we had a nice, very long walk all the way from the hotel up on Bravo Murillo down to the center and over to El Retiro, Madrid's big central park. Then we got some lunch at a new restaurant in the Plaza de Neptuno, Estado Puro, another of these tapas de autor places, this one with Paco Roncero as star chef.  The tapas (patatas bravas, buñuelos de bacalao, bombas de carne) were very good, but the arroz negro was out of this world, probably the best rice in squid ink I've ever had. The squid were left sitting on top of the rice and had been sprinkled lightly with pesto. I was skeptical, as it looked rather pretentious and perhaps slightly offensive - the squid looked quite exposed in its bald whiteness, the green of the pesto doing little to hide its nudity, and the black, black rice, looking rich like newly struck oil, seemed to be mocking the light insubstantiality of the squid. Stupid me, still judging books by their covers. Oh, it was truly outstanding. Everything was perfect, the rice with just the slightest hint of crunchiness (my downfall when I do rice!), and the pesto had penetrated the oil exquisitely. Daniela and Asun loved it too and had we known it was going to be so good I think we would have had just that. It was tremendously gratifying to see Daniela doing so well. She assured me again that she loves Madrid and really wants to stay. School finally starts this week, we think. Precise information is a commodity in low supply.It was too bad Alma and Cristina couldn't be there with us. I kept thinking of them as the three of us had such fun wandering around the city. On the other hand, I fear that moment when you think that things can't possibly get any better. If things truly can't get any better, where do you go from there? That could be a tricky one. After some coffee and rest at the apartment, it was time to head back to Malaga. The train is pretty amazing. It leaves the station with Swiss precision and usually pulls in a couple or few minutes before the scheduled time. If it's more than fifteen minutes late, a rare occurrence, they refund 50% of the fare, and if it's more than 30 minutes late, very rare indeed, the refund is 100%. A thought on the train, while reading Galdos' fictionalized account of the events of 1808 and the war with Napolean: altruist - an atheist who does the right thing. (In the photo, the Puerta de Alcalá from behind.)

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