Thursday, November 28, 2013
(Joined Intrepid Travel's 'Highlights of Southern Spain' tour during Sept.-Oct. 2013, and here are the highlights of the highlights. Hehe ;-D)
First day in Madrid. After unloading my bags in our hotel, Hotel Moderno (which wasn't modern at all!), i went out for an exploratory walk.
Literally ten paces away from the hotel entrance was Puerta del Sol ("Door of the Sun"). This bustling square is located in the center of Madrid, and is considered the symbolic heart of Spain, being kilometro cero (Km. 0) of the network of Spanish roads. As such, it is the scene of New Year's Eve countdown celebrations, AND anti-government rallies and protests.
Ah, here's the de rigueur statue of Charles III.
And here's the symbol of Madrid, which was ubiquitous - it seemed like very lamp post and trash can in the city had it! What is the bear chomping on? I would have guessed cauliflower, but a walking tour guide subsequently informed me it was, in fact, a strawberry tree ("madrone").
Puerta del Sol bustles with people at all hours of the day and night, by virtue of the nearby subway station, and numerous restaurants and shops in the area. It is also the starting point of local walking tour groups. There are many street performers as well, ranging from a magician doing Houdini-like tricks; mimes standing still, waiting for the tourist to take a photo besides them for spare change; etc.
This pair, in particular, arrested my attention. This exotically-turbaned duo sit still for hours, with the guy (shown below giving us the thumbs up sign) holding a wooden pole, with presumably a small seat, for the woman on top to sit on.
I wondered, how do they keep still for so long? There must be a trick somewhere. But after a few minutes of observation, it really looks like the simplest explanation is the right one - they simply can do it. (His right arm must be like Popeye's, underneath his shirt. Haha!)
They do look like they're about to levitate at any moment, no?