A Spanish Dunkin’ Donut

Remember the  Belgian churro I had at the Christmas market in Bruges? It was more like a sweet snack. In Spain, however, the churro is a bland pastry to be dunked in your breakfast hot chocolate, like what he’s doing here…you might say it’s a Spanish dunkin’ donut.

On my first full morning in Madrid I have to go find a train ticket for the next day’s side trip. The weather has soured from sunny/cold to bone-chilling rain. So much for my decision to go to Madrid for its milder winter! Anyway, on the way to the Atocha train station, which btw seems to have a rain forest growing in the middle of its courtyard,

I spy tons of locals darting into their neighborhood cafes for a quick bite and drink–and by quick I mean they are all standing around the bar area for a hit of that expresso, white wine (why not!), or zumo (orange juice) and a small piece of toast or pastry before blowing out of there to go to work. I decide on a large pastelería with a busy bar in the back. I elbow my way to a small spot at the bar and am tempted by the goodies…

but when in Spain…

The fresh-squeezed OJ is quite wonderful actually. BTW that’s my favorite Chanel 05A cardigan over a Tory Burch shirt. I always wish for the four seasons in LA so I could wear winter clothes but the truth is, when it’s below freezing outside I can sortof understand why so many snuggies have been sold. OK I don’t, but I could use one right now. It’s hard to look cute in sleet. But where were we? Oh yes, the place is packed so I also rush out of there like those who hurried before me. It’s raining harder now and I really want to get to the train station, but I have to pop into this church for a looksie–plus it’s warm inside:

It’s now well past 11 am and there’s no train station in sight. But I do get to make another pit stop at the Panteón de Hombres Ilustres, a Neo-Byzantine style building

with some of the most amazing marble sculptures I’ve ever seen. They commemorate the lives and deaths of Spanish political powerhouses, most of whom were assassinated for their beliefs.

As I leave this beautiful pantheon it is snowing! Definitely a rarity for Madrid. It’s not quite cold enough for the snow to stick to the ground but the flakes are huge. Flurries give way to pouring rain by the time I reach the train station. My soaked map now looks like this but at least I have the train ticket I wanted:

I mean it is HUGE:

It’s probably 2pm by the time I reach this gate,

and I no longer care for the four seasons. Sunny LA sounds pretty good right about now, but this very moment is the best time to be in Spain. Because the mediodía (after 1 and till 4ish) means it’s time to eat! The mid-day meal is typically the biggest of the day for the Spanish, followed by a more haphazard, lighter dinner (tapas hopping, for instance). Everywhere you go you can find a solid 3-course meal for around 10 euros. Madrid is also full of wonderful, upscale restaurants should you wish to splurge on your taste buds.

I just want to find a place to dry out right now and this restaurant is right across from the gate which I can’t identify for the moment. My waiter doesn’t speak English but he’s patient enough with my Spanish to sort out an all seafood meal for me, including seafood soup, gambas paella, and a local fish dish as my entree–he offers a tart as dessert but I only want the clementines to cleanse my palate:

I think I’ve eaten enough for five people but I’m going to need the calories for the day I’ve yet to finish on my feet.


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