UNITED STATES—There is a saying, loosely translated: from Madrid to the stars. And finding the movie lovers bookstore right off the bat proved it. Our little party, the Ecuadorian, the Colombian, the Californian, accompanied by the indefatigable Carmen, kept on a southward course through a clean and stately neighborhood. The afternoon was pleasantly muggy. Some would say it was hot, and I suppose the ability to complain of hot and cold is a vehicle to preserve a modicum of humanity.
Relief was provided by a grove of trees atop a promontory around the Temple of Debod, a gift from the Egyptian people. It looks to be a foreboding crypt held by regal stone columns. Thought not immediately obvious, there was a long line of people waiting to view the inside of the Egyptian temple. The tourists and Spaniards stood away from the entrance, to not obscure the pathway along the side.
The temple, dating back to the 2nd century BC, was transported stone by stone to Madrid and opened to the public in 1972. The pagan temple was a gift to Spain by the Egyptian government, in thanks for aiding the restoration of other ancient temples. Thus Egypt saved this architectural jewel from inundation that would follow the construction of the great Aswan Dam.
Anyhow, we weren’t for lines; instead we retreated to the grass and the shade, where plenty of people were enjoying the park to the utmost. We first beheld a panorama from the stone railing. In front a quarter mile was a deep green rectangle of El Retiro park. It would be the scene of discovery that you can buy wine from a park establishment that also sells ice cream to park visitors and that one can walk around the streets in Madrid with a cup of wine.
There we all lay down on the shaded grass and sleep came soon. On one side, a German couple, he was reading and she held his shoulder. On the bench across the way, two elder Americans shod in athletic-shoed hip American parents talked to their red-bearded son, who must be studying abroad. The American is in their restrained body language and the closed-mouth way the son replied to their questions.
The Americans got up and left. The bit of sleep was delicious.
We were ready to go after the visit to the green grassy beach below the elms. The casual beach atmosphere was refreshing. Then Carmen saw us to a taxi cab and saw us off from the claustrophobically crowded Gran Via on this Sunday afternoon and we headed for Las Rozas, the planned development about 20 minutes away from historical Madrid, and our host on Calle Cartegena. To be sure Madrid is full of streets that commemorate all the countries of the American Empire and they have the same cache as names from Spain have festoon cities in Latin American Countries, as Duque de Rivas, the name of a Spanish poet, graces a Guadalajara street.
We met Miriam, Dave’s girlfriend, in her family’s apartment and were shown our quarters under a peaked ceiling in the stuffy, un-airconditioned top of the four-story building where we’d spend the first night. It was a nice apartment at the very top with bed and refrigerator, reached by a hallway in darkness. It gave the top floor a desultory air.
Before, that could set in we were off to a eatery on a reservoir filled by ducks, of to meet friends and callaborators in the bilingual journal we were presenting in Spain.
To be continued…