Thursday, November 24, 2011

Retiro Retreat.

In the middle of Madrid sits a well manicured park called Retiro (which in Spanish means ‘retreat’). It’s several blocks long with a duck-filled lake in the center. On any given day dozens of love birds can be seen paddling out on this lake in rented boats, drinking up the beauty.

Each season of the year the park is beautiful, but the Fall brings a vibrant softness to it that is absolutely breathtaking.

As I strolled through its trimmed hedges, crunching orange leaves under my steps, my heart beat a little slower; my breathing slowed as well. The park lives up to its name. It’s a true retreat!

Among the sporadic joggers and baby strollers, sat gray-haired men in wrinkled suits reading the newspaper.

Crisp November light filtered through the autumn trees. Dogs ran and barked. Pigeons cooed and whirred. 

On this particular day, one side of the lake was being used to film a movie. Actors dressed in vintage clothing stood by idly while a beauty in a green hat rehearsed her lines. What film was it? I didn’t ask. Who were these stars? I didn’t recognize them. But it was fun nevertheless to watch the cameras roll and the paparazzi clicked off picture after picture.

As I moved on through the park I found a smaller pond with black swans swimming to the jazzy tunes of off-key trumpet players. Beside them sat a Mexican artist selling jewelry. His stuff was lovely but not to my taste; it was all too bulky.

Nevertheless, I wanted to buy something to remember this day and I hesitated over a ring. As we chatted, I complained my fingers were too big and he offered to make me a ring to order. I loved this idea and promptly drew out a design I had in my head. Five minutes later, this creative man made it into a reality.

The Mexican artist who made my ring.
I waved goodbye and headed off happily to eat on the monument steps. My sandwich was great but my cake attracted wildlife. A dozen sparrows and one shy pigeon approached cautiously to see if I would share.

They were so familiar with humans I was able to feed them by hand. Watching them perch on my fingertips to get more cake was delightful. But once it was gone, they were not nearly as interested in my apple.

In the end I didn’t stay long; the afternoon shadows were growing long.

So, I gathered my coat and bags and headed for the metro only to meet up with a handful of squirrels. Some were as friendly as the sparrows and sauntered right up to my toes in search of goodies.

One little fellow was particularly bold and after sizing me up decided to climb my leg. He clung to my jeans with determination while fixing his hazel-brown eyes squarely on mine. When he saw no nuts, he ran away as fast as he’d come.

The day in the park was wonderfully restful. What an excellent retreat!

And tonight I take the night train to Paris. Pray I have no snorers on my wagon! Thanks.