After our Real Madrid stop, we headed toward Puerta del Sol where our city tour was to start at 7:00pm. As we had a lot of time before then, we did what the Spanish do and stopped to get coffee at a place called Rodilla right in the plaza. Of course, I got ice cream instead of coffee, but nonetheless it was a good stop. Even though the 2 bolas (scoops) of ice cream cost 3 euros, it seemed really cheap as I paid in all coins. With Euros, there are no bills smaller than 5, but there are both 1 and 2 euro coins. So for small purchases you can pay with coins (and not have to risk being obnoxious because of a fistful of coins).
With a little more time to kill, we went to El Corte Ingles in the next building over. I think I’ve mentioned El Corte in some other posts, but I don’t think I ever really went into detail about how great it is. Essentially, it’s Macy’s, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Publix all rolled into one. The Puerta del Sol location is split between 3 buildings of 5 floors each. Needless to say, the Corte carries a lot of merchandise (breadth and depth). From the same store they sell cell phones with calling plans (highly recommended, a Sagem my-202x with Vodafone’s Targeta Vitamina plan), fine cheese, DVDs, designer clothing, and tomatoes. I could even get a fancy suit if the need ever arose (don’t worry Mom, it won’t). The selection makes El Corte the perfect place to kill some time. This happened to be a trip on which a friend bought DVDs. Then it was off to the tour.
Ray, director of our program, gave us a tour of old Madrid, starting and ending at the Puerta del Sol. In true madrileno fashion, though, we didn’t actually start the 7:00 tour until 7:25. We passed the Royal Palace, countless churches, and the city’s oldest resaturant via tiny cobblestone streets. I posted pictures from the tour along with a little running commentary in the photo section if you’re interested.
The tour lasted about an hour and afterwards we decided to get some more coffee (at 8:30 it was way too early to have dinner). We stopped at a place called, simply, Cafe y Te (Coffee and Tea). I ordered Te Americano and got something that was hardly American and barely qualified as tea to me. It consisted of a bitter tea bag and cinnamon languishing in overheated milk. Quite a misnomer. Since, we’ve encountered many other mis-translations. While some of the errors are rather innocent, like "Touristic Walking Tours" offered by the city (translated from "Turisticas"), some are downright perplexing. Last night (Monday), for instance, a cafe translated "brownie" (Spanish for "brownie", of all things) to "pancake" to make for an interesting-sounding dessert concoction. Hmm.
Off to bed.