Madrid During Christmas

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Backpacking France & Spain: Day 20 (25-Dec-2017)

La comida del mundo

On the day of Christmas, everything remained closed in Madrid. 

I had my breakfast at the hostel. I was feeling very lazy to go anywhere and  that was when Karim messaged me. Ghita and he were exploring Madrid on this day and he wished to meet me for lunch as I had proposed when I left Barcelona. We met near the Botanical garden but that was closed.  I was glad to see them again. There is a vertical garden very close to the park. After viewing that, we walked to the Cibeles fountain. It is very impressive. 

Every place remained closed so, we decided to go to a restaurant and relax for a while. Karim had found this famous place close to Sol and he wanted to try food there. This place was crowded and people grabbed quick snacks and ate outside. Every other place had reservations. I tried the cheese nuggets. While walking around the main plaza we saw these talented musicians perform on the street. 

I wanted to have a proper lunch somewhere so I suggested that they take me to a Moroccan restaurant and introduce me to their cuisine. Based on Google review, we chose Al-Aman. They were excited about the idea. It is a small family run restaurant and as we entered the siblings connected well with the young owner and spoke to him in Arabic. He treated us like their guest and served a lot of mint tea and bread. Ghita recommended some vegetarian food for me. I loved the bread with humus and Zaalouk (made of Aubergine). My Couscous was delicious. The Tagines are delicious but I tasted just the sauce in which a lot of herbs that are added had released interesting flavours. 

Over lunch, we discussed a lot about the cultures we represent. I loved the fact that I was speaking so much in French. Infact, it is funny to note that I had spoken in French more in Spain than in France. They explained to me how their Mother cooks couscous at home in an earthen pot with multiple layers or stages. Their dad always told that the real taste of couscous is judged by tasting the soup that accumulates below, which collects the flavour from the vegetables and the couscous. The soup indeed was rich in flavour and very tasty. For desserts, we tried some delicious baklavas. What was surprising is that the owner reduced the pay from 12 Euro to 10 Euro for his countrymen. That was very generous. 

They were planning on going to the wax museum which I did not wish to visit so, I parted from them promising to meet them at an Indian restaurant for dinner. I thought that they should get a feel of our cuisine as well. I went back to the hotel and packed my bags. I was heading back to India the next day. I relaxed for a while at the lobby. Ho and I had some conversation about India and the religion we followed. There were free Tapas at Hostel that evening but I had to meet my Moroccan friends for dinner. So, I promised to meet Ho after I return and headed towards the Indian restaurant called Aroma that had good reviews, specially by Indians. 

Karim and Ghita loved Indian cuisine. They were extremley impressed by Mango lassi, Butter chicken, Veg Kadai and Biryani that they had. The only set back was the rude servers. They did not smile or behave friendly. In fact, one of them cut us off in between our conversation to ask us what language we were speaking and when told that it was French, he seemed surprised as he thought it was Turkish and he declared that perhaps it was because we had a different accent. Does that even make sense? Moreover, since Karim was particular about the meat he was eating, I asked for Halal meat and he told me that everything was halal meat except for mutton due to obvious reasons. I am not really sure why that should be obvious. I did not bother to ask. The other servers too were weird, they would be in a hurry to remove our plates. Apart from that, the experience was great. 

We discussed about Indian culture and food. Karim and Ghita were extremely happy with the food and desired to explore more of Indian cuisine when they returned back to France. I realised that day how food connects people.

While leaving, one of the servers walked up to me and asked where I was from and he introduced himself as Vinod from Bangladesh. I informed my friends that it was not really an Indian restaurant but anyways since we were all part of the same country once, the cuisine remains same. I bid them farewell and walked back to the hostel. The city was in festive mood and families united to celebrate. For me though, the trip was coming to an end soon.

Back in the hostel, I messaged Ho and we met at the roof top bar. Over a beer, we discussed about his lifestyle. I was curious to know how friendships and relationships worked in HK. After chatting for a while, we bid farewell. There was big group of travellers there who spoke in French. When I wished them good night in French they were impressed. A couple from the same group actually were staying at my room. When they came down, we chatted for a while. They were quite impressed with my knowledge of the language. 

They were from a small village in Switzerland and 18 of them were heading on a vacation to Costa rico. They were the sweetest people I have ever met on this trip. They seemed genuine and extremely polite. They wished me a safe travel several times. It was already midnight so, I decided to catch a few hours of sleep before waking up for my early morning flight.

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