Sleepless at Siesta

This blog is usually about Poland since I didn’t expect to have the time to doodle/drivel when away on short trips. But so hot is Madrid that we are beaten and pushed back indoors during siesta when the heat is most punishing. 10 years in Poland has turned me into a wimp unable to tolerate real, scorching sunshine.

Usually, before a trip, I read up plenty about a destination. This time with Madrid, I am on the “ignorance is bliss” mode. Well, not totally clueless. Everybody knows about the siesta; Spanish have their dinner late; the tapas/pincho thing. From a previous trip to BCN, a local told me that real paella is from Valencia. From tripadvisor, I clued up on tipping (not expected), tap water (drinkable) and bread basket/olives/finger food brought to the table unbidded (not gratis*). And some key museums to see plus their entry-free hours. OK, and of course, where to eat.

On our arrival day, by the time we checked in and all, it’s almost 9pm. The streets were bustling with lively taberna and cerveceria‘s. Tummy-padded, we promptly forgot the late dinner habit of the Spanish. The next day, we started checking out a list (from the web) on places where the locals eat. Ignorance maybe blissful but in this case, ignorance also translated to unsated hunger. All the places that interested us were shielded up and plastered with a notice “away on vacation from Aug 2 to Aug 30”. We added that, belatedly, to our general knowledge of Madrid – the owners of restaurants serving the locals go on holiday in August.

So, ok, whatever, let’s eat anywhere. Places that were open were, as we Chinese put it, “swatting flies”, i.e. no clients to serve, allowing the bored staff to whack the pesky flies. Fine, we decided, tomorrow we’d do that mid-day snooze so that we could chow late like the natives.

However, just because you’re in Spain, it doesn’t mean you can siesta like the Spanish. With 40 winks not forthcoming, there’s time aplenty to read up Spanish do’s and don’ts, and been-there-done-that tales by tourists who visited Spain before us. Culture & Lifestyle: Spanish Eat Late by La Gatita Gringa is exactly what happened to us. It’s consoling that we’ll never hack the 10pm dinner habit and it’s not a failure; we just have different blood constitution. While at La Gatita Gringa, be sure to read her post about potato chips (crisps) – call me uncouth but my most exciting culinary discovery in Spain this time is you can buy potato chips (crisps) by weight from “artisan” shops. At about 1 euro per 100g. Even discount supermarkets, like Dia, have local brands and not just Lay’s. I’m so lucky I don’t live here long term for such supplies would render me waistline-less. Also read LGG’s hilarious piece on Spanish tortilla. You can get these potato “omelette” in a mini-baguette, that’s like carbs on carbs (mum also served potato omelette with more carbs; not bread but rice).

From the Cat’s blogroll, I was surprised and delighted to find an old friend. He may not called me a friend since he was my teacher in the Netherlands. Kalebeul (nom de plume or an operation id of some sort. I’d ask him but he’s not known for giving straight answers) now lives in BCN and ponders over all things deep and frivolous, like the two schools for separating egg whites from egg yolks.

..more keyboard time to follow…during the next siesta.

* Not quite sure about this – everywhere we went, the nibbles with the beer were FOC.

Finally synching our time to local life cycle.


About kitfchung

Experienced food and travel journalist based in Warsaw, Poland.
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