July 18, 2006

Notes from Madrid

We've been in Madrid a week now and a week is about how long it takes before Jenn and I start seeking out comfort food (see previous post). For us that means Mexican or Korean. You would think Mexican food in Madrid would be a no-brainer, but Mexican friends who have tried scores of restaurants report nothing but heartbreak (Part of the problem is that most Spaniards don't have a taste for corn—"Corn is chicken feed," sniffed a Catalan friend—and part of the problem is that spicy food is almost unknown here.) So given this knowledge we decided to seek out a Korean restaurant on the assumption it would be run by Koreans and cater to Korean tourists... We ended up at Han Gang Restaurante Coreana at Calle Atocha, 94 and when we entered at 8:00 (super early by Madrid standards), the place was packed with a Korean bus tour, a good sign. The menu in translation was less promising, (chicken in catsup?), although Jenn said the Korean was correctly rendered. The other issue was the veal which was substituted for both beef and pork throughout the menu. Veal bulgogi? We weren't so brave. Veal mandoo was edible though. Jenn enjoyed her bibimbop and the panchan was normal (although skimpy). The kimchee was decent. I barbecued some chicken at the table which was fine, but not exactly Korean. Nothing was spicy. All in all not terribly authentic, but not the horror it might have been.

Afterwards we shared beers in a pleasant bustling square with my brother Ed and an English friend of his named Briony. Both had lived in Kyoto for several years and both had moved from there to Madrid (my brother now lives in Prague). Both also are died-in-the-wool ex-pats. Jenn and I (both failed ex-pats) had lots of questions primarily about the desire to keep moving versus the desire to nest. Two comments that stuck with me: "It's much more difficult as an ex-pat to go home a resume a 'normal' routine than it is to head off to a new city" and "The thing about being an ex-pat is if you feel depressed or stressed you tend to blame it on the city, it's never about you."

Ed enlightened us as to Czech drinking etiquette. "You don't talk. You drink and you contemplate your unhappiness. When you finish a beer, another is served immediately and you drink again. The Czech always see Americans laughing and talking and think there must be something wrong with them. 'They must be simple,' they think, 'How can they laugh with so much unhappiness in the world.'

Also in Prague never order a salad, especially if you are a man. Men eat meat."


What else? We saw a Moroccan guy with a large knife in his hand running down an alley being chased by a guy with a big stick. That was exciting.

I would complain about the heat but I just checked in and noted the weather in Brooklyn where it is both hotter and infinitely more humid, so I'll keep my mouth shut. Also soon we'll escape to Galicia where it is somewhat cooler. This will be good for me, a hater of heat and for Jenn who is pregnant with our #2 (almost 3 months now). See how I buried the lead?

That's it from here. Goodnight.

posted at 08:03 PM by raul

Filed under: travel


07/19/06 12:12 AM

Mazel tov on #2!

07/19/06 04:59 AM

#2!!! YAY! Congratulations!!!

07/19/06 05:08 AM

Congrats Raul!!

And on this line: "The thing about being an ex-pat is if you feel depressed or stressed you tend to blame it on the city, it's never about you."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

07/19/06 05:45 AM

congrats to you both! i wish you the very best for your growing family!

07/19/06 08:43 AM


07/19/06 09:21 AM


07/19/06 09:27 AM

Congratulations on the new baby.

07/19/06 09:53 AM

R&J -- Congratulations on #2! That's very cool. Boy, Girl, Surprise?

07/19/06 12:09 PM

Congratulations to all of you! I'm sure the 2nd will be as beautiful and curious as the 1st. Thank you for sharing this great news, along with all your wonderful writing and pictures. Best wishes!

07/19/06 12:11 PM

Raul, say hi to Eddie for me. I think I'm an ex-pat at heart, loving to travel, always wondering what the heck is going on with the USA upon returning. My 24 hours in Prague in July '89 didn't allow me the lessons Ed taught you, but I can say that finding affordable lodging for the night was an adventure. Ended up sleeping on a sofa bed in some guy's apartment in a Prague suburb. Spain is on my to do list.

07/19/06 06:04 PM

Felicidades on the new kidlet - I won't say it's easier with the second one, but it's definitley not as traumatic having been through things once already...

07/19/06 08:26 PM


07/20/06 04:41 PM

Congratulations on number 2 from a long time reader.
It's funny we have similar vacation paths. The DR and Spain all within the last year.
My partner and I always have the same problem after travelling, we have intense craving for Chinese, Korean, or Mexican-anything spicy. Usually the first thing we do when returning from the airport is head to Chinatown or Queens. The diversity of ethnic food in NY is one of my favorite things about living here.
Travel Well.

07/20/06 06:55 PM

Congrats on #2! I'm enjoying reading your posts from Madrid, as I enjoy reading all your posts! We just returned from Greece, and it *is* hard to re-enter "normal" everyday life when you have ex-pat yearnings...

07/21/06 05:17 AM

Congratulations on the big news! Sleepless nights and joyful days ahead.

As an ex-pat myself I can only agree with the comments made by your friends. In a similar way you can sometimes feel less responsible for the various political and social problems around you, and back home. It's all an illusion of course.

07/30/06 07:25 PM

Congratulations! Such exciting news.
Coincidentally, just got back to the States last night from Galicia (El Camino de Santiago).
Looking forward to receiving the circulating journal.

Congrats again!

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