Spain is the reason T. and I had a bumpy start to our relationship. Spain in general, Spanish restaurants specifically. But then again, it was Madrid (and its tapas bars) that brought us back together.
See, it was in a Spanish restaurant (in Düsseldorf) that T. during our 4th or 5th date told me he had met a very nice woman a couple of days after we had met, and no, nothing had happened yet but it just might; and we are not committed, are we; so he just wants to be fair and inform me. No, we were not officially committed but I had laid eyes on this man and I was not sharing him, so I staged the one and only Hollywood-ripe scene in my life: I got up without a word (leaving boquerones on the table, can you believe it?), left the restaurant, threw myself into the next cab that came by and didn’t answer his phone calls for a couple of days.
Eventually we talked, of course; I wished him luck and happiness and that was almost it. Couple of weeks later he called to tell me he is taking time off and going to Madrid for a month (yes, the glory of being a freelancer!), freshen up his Spanish. In a half sentence he mentioned that it hadn’t worked out with “the other woman”. During his stay in Madrid I visited some friends in Munich, his hometown, and got nostalgic about a past we might have had together! So I called and left a message on his mailbox about me being in Munich and him not and that I hoped he ate well in Madrid. I wasn’t hoping much, but two weeks later he came back from Madrid, called me and we had breakfast together and etc., etc., etc.; as Yul Brynner would have said… That was exactly 9 years ago.
One summer later, we were officially committed and had already moved to Munich where we rented a flat together and started a company, he finally set out to fulfill his dream (of which I was informed from the first day): Take a year off and travel first around Spain, later across whole South America. And no, he didn’t want me to come with him and actually he wasn’t planning to write or call a lot during that year, either. So he drove away in early June, in his ragtop, to Spain. I know that the friends I started making in Munich didn’t really believe my stories about the boyfriend who supposedly moved to Munich with me and left exactly 6 days later to travel around the world. After a couple of weeks of writing daily emails and multiple short text messages he finally said: “won’t you come to Spain so we can travel around together?”
We traveled around Spain for 3 weeks. The last days we spent in Madrid, where he knew a lot of secret bars and corners. We had the time of our life. I fell in love with Madrid and its tapas bars. I had to go back to Munich, to earn money. But I met him again in South America and we backpacked around 5 countries in 2 months. Then he decided it was time to fly back with me to Munich, fly home only half into his year off. Since then we haven’t spent a night apart except when I was in the hospital for a couple of times (rollerblading is dangerous).
We were in Spain many more times. We re-visited Andalusia, the Basque Country, Barcelona. But somehow we never made it to Madrid again. When we met someone from Madrid, we would talk about our favorite tapas bars and revel in memories. “Oh, the bacalà and croquetas place opposite the el corte ingles in Puerta del Sol” we would go; or “remember the cabrales that was sitting in the shop window under the sun for at least a year?”. So when I finally booked a flight to Madrid, last December, three months ahead of time, I told T. only to take the day off on a certain date as I would be kidnapping him, and that he should pack for a warmer climate. Three weeks ago on Thursday I picked him up at work, we went to the airport and as we reached the display panel with over 60 flights coming up and I told him to guess where we are going, he didn’t skip a beat and said “Madrid”.
It was beautiful. Again. We found all our “secret” places again, and discovered new ones, too. Not a thing had changed, not the food, not the decoration, not the staff.
Go to Madrid. Go out late. Later. Visit these places if you like. Eat and drink well. But don’t forget to find your own “secret” places as well.