|Today's blog topic is one that's been on my mind for a while now. Ever since I've arrived to Spain, I've realized that the way that people move is slower. What I mean by that is that no one seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere. This has become more and more evident as I've been walking the streets and realizing that I'm passing people that are moving in the same direction as I am. I have no time constraints nor do I have any obligations, but here I am blazing past people like I have to catch a bus. As part of a culture shock, I've actually been internally frustrated a few times with how slow things are here, because sometimes I'll catch up to a group of people and they will pretty much form a barrier that I can't get around. Here I am, the American who has to get somewhere in a big hurry for no reason, and I get frustrated that I'm blocked. This mentality is what it is—I'm that way in the United States, but I feel that people move at a much quicker pace in the U.S. than here, and I need to relax a little more and accept that and go with the speed of the Europeans. The French moved a little quicker, but the Spanish have no qualms about taking their time.
It's not only when walking. Servers at restaurants are in no hurry to get to you, and that's okay. Drinks usually come rather fast, but the food may take a few minutes longer than you'd like, and the check comes even later. Along with that, patrons at restaurants take their time with meals and when asking for the check. It's part of the culture that you enjoy the company with whom you're sitting and that you don't rush. That's quite different from the States where restaurants are trying to turn over tables as fast as they can, but that's because time is money there. Here it's not customary to tip much, as servers' pay is greater than what it is in the U.S. You can leave maybe one or two euros, but not much more is expected than that. Paul has repeatedly said that this is the how the Spanish do it, so it's simply the expectation that we slow down, take our time, and enjoy life a little more.
And boy do the Spanish know how to enjoy life! Today I was able to get to El Retiro, which is a huge expanse of park located near where I'm staying. I'd say it's the equivalent to Central Park in New York City, and it has all the features you'd expect to see: gardens, fountains, pond, row boats, people working out, places to eat, and lots and lots of people relaxing on benches and in the grass. It was a great day for tanning, which made me realize that I should have laid off the Starbucks and done more Insanity videos before coming to Spain. But it seems to be the norm that when you have free time that you enjoy it as much as you can, whether that be going for tapas, row boating, biking, or simply laying in the grass. Leisure appears to be a high priority for most people, and that's changing the way I view my own life. I like leisure, a lot, but perhaps I can approach it differently?
For today's adventure, I was able to see La Plaza de los Toros de Ventas this morning, which is where bullfights are held. I debated going in and taking the tour, but it was 14 €, and I wasn't sure it would be worth it. I'm going to ask around and see what the opinion is. I feel like I might do it anyway simply because I don't know that I'll get to see a bullfight, and I really would like to see the inside of the building. I have plenty of time to make a decision on that one. After walking a long distance to find a Lego store, I was famished and needed food. Lunch was in El Retiro where I ate my panini and looked out at the people boating in the pond. It was a great day to be out and about, and I was actually surprised there weren't more people taking advantage of the weather, though I guess some people have jobs to go to during the summer. I managed to see a lot of El Retiro, as I mainly wanted to see the giant pond and the Palacio de Cristal. The latter of the two was really great to see. It's set on a small, natural pond (I think) and is more or less a clear building with a lot of windows. It looks great on the outside as well as the inside. There was some sort of sanctuary exhibit going on inside of the Palacio de Cristal, which I wish hadn't been there. For me it kind of took away some of the views and the magic of the palacio. The park, as a whole, is quite fantastic, and I found myself imagining what it would be like to come there to do school work or just to get away for an evening.
Going back to the topic of bull fights, in the evening as we were riding bikes through La Latina and eating tapa after tapa, we ended up at a place in Plaza Mayor that's dedicated to the bull fights. It felt more like a memorial for the bulls that were in the fights due to the seven or eight bull head placards that had been placed on the wall. Aside from those, there were pictures everywhere showing scenes from bull fights. I was warned before we entered that I'd see some pictures of matadores being gored. The pictures weren't awful—except for one. It showed the bull's horn entering the underside of the matador's chin and coming out his mouth. Upon seeing this, I got a little weak and couldn't dare to look at it again. It was horrific.
Our travel plans to head to Granada on Thursday are all set, and we're getting excited to get away for a few days, and I'm getting pumped to see La Alhambra and taste some great tapas!