We were sitting in a cafe last night about 11 pm having a little pastry before bed (because in Madrid you can do that, and because when you're on vacation, calorie counting is sacrilege) and my daughter asked me what the most memorable part of the day had been for me.
I had to think about it. I'd had very little sleep in the last 48 hours so my brain felt fuzzy and even the sugar wasn't helping. Or maybe it was the tinto de verano we'd had at the last tapas place.
At any rate, it took me a minute. We'd seen and done so much and it had been less than 12 hours since I arrived in Spain. Already we'd walked for miles and seen gorgeous architecture, eaten at the oldest known restaurant in the world, and even bought some leather shoes (because, well…some things you have to get out of the way fairly immediately).
But I have to say, my favorite part of the day was being stuck in the Renfé office at Atocha for over two hours with her, waiting with dozens of others to get some crucial information and to see if our rail passes could, in fact, be validated. We had taken a number that was 70 numbers away from the current ticket holder being helped. At first it was brutal. We were wasting crucial exploring time stuck underground waiting to plan the rest of our trip.
But then I realized that part of our “no plan” vacation plan was to attempt to assimilate into the culture a bit. Spend time with the locals and not just blindly step from one tourist attraction to another. We wanted to dig a little deeper. Get a feel for the people and their lives.
Turns out the train station was a perfect venue.
There was a little old couple sitting on a bench across from us. Their skin was wrinkled and somewhat leathered by time and the sun. The man wore a grey wool overcoat, a hat, and had a cane set between his knees. The woman had a pretty orange scarf and a shopping bag. They talked easily, laughed occasionally at their own private jokes, and exchanged glances that told the story of their love. They didn't seem bothered by the wait. After all, they were together and this was just a part of their life.
Just being there in the midst of all the people was incredible. A train station is a great leveler of humanity, and I was having a fabulous time encountering it all. After a while we decided to stop complaining about the long wait. We stopped talking about our trip and what we wanted to do for the rest of the week, or even the rest of that day.
We started to ask one another about the deep things of life.
Relationships, goals, plans, and how we've each been coping with the recent changes our lives had brought. She asked me some hard questions and I answered as honestly as I could. The only thing missing was some comfortable leather furniture, a cup of really strong coffee, and maybe a cozy blanket for my legs and feet, which hadn't really gotten warm yet since my arrival.
By the time our number was called we had talked and laughed and chilled out considerably. When we finally found the Plaza Mayor a couple of hours later we just sat down in the sun on the cobblestoned ground like the rest of the locals and hung out for a while, enjoying the frescos and the warmth and continuing some of those amazing conversations that began at the rail station.
After all, we were together and this was just a part of our life…