Madrid was the venue for our 4th anniversary celebrations. I'd found cheap flights on Easyjet long before I found out I was pregnant and way before there were any signs that we would ever move back east. That was our last holiday as a couple.
As with any holiday that I plan, I had meticulously researched the city, its sights and nightlife, weeks before to make sure we wouldn't miss out on the things that we were keen on. I'm a fan of Flamenco. I've watched a few Flamenco performances in London and thoroughly enjoyed them. One of my favourites was a performance by Paco Pena and his troupe at the Royal Festival Hall in May 2004. That was the only time I have ever heard 'once again', 'encore', impromptu clapping and whistling in a performance in London. It was that good.
I was on the lookout for an authentic Flamenco experience in Madrid. A lot of googling later, Corral de la Morreria caught my fancy. Though on the pricier side it could count among its patrons the likes of King of Jordan, several American presidents, many representatives from Hollywood etc. So of course, that decided it :). See, I now have something in common with all of them! I booked our places for the Saturday night show. It was our anniversary that day and this was going to be a special treat.
The restaurant cum theatre was a cosy place. The whole concept was for you to enjoy your dinner while watching the performance in the style of the old days of restaurants/bars hosting artists. Every guide book will tell you that the real Spain starts coming alive after 10pm. No self respecting Spaniard (southern) will consider stepping out for dinner before then. The restaurant had two sittings. All keen to experience the real Spain (in one city!) I booked the late sitting hoping that all the 'tourists' would be in bed by then. Again everyone had the same idea :). When we got there it was already brimming with tourists. But hey we were tourists too, so no complaints.
It was a charming little place. I'd expected it to be bigger but it was comfortably cosy. Tables were within touching distance of each other, the hum of chit chat dominated the air. Candles flickered, creating romantic shadows. As we took our seats the singers came on to begin the performance.
The most fascinating thing I find about flamenco is the music. Even though a lot of people will associate Flamenco with the dance, live music is an integral part and it is that that brings the dance to life. Pre-recorded music just doesn't do it. Flamenco is all about melodious singing accompanied by the Spanish guitar and a lot of rhythmic clapping and foot tapping. As the voice of the lead singer soared in the room I knew we were in for a treat. His voice was mesmerising. And he was soon joined by the other three male singers. The rhythm set by their hands and feet.
And then the dancers in their gorgeous costumes.
But at least it gave us a chance to concentrate on the food!
We had almost finished dinner and were thinking about leaving when the second performance of the evening started. Not sure whether we were allowed to watch it a second time and yet too greedy to leave without being shoved out, we decided to risk it. But no one asked us to leave. Instead we just got drawn in to the show again. Though the artists were the same, the songs and dances were different this time.
At last, mindful of my pregnant state, DD suggested we head back to the hotel. It was past one in the morning. There were a couple of cabs waiting outside.
SM: Look, there are cabs waiting outside. Do you think someone has called them or are they just waiting generally?
DD (helpfully): How would I know?
SM (rolling her eyes upward): Let's walk out to the main road and get a cab there. These guys will charge us extra just because they know we came out of this place.
DD: Don't be stupid. You've spent a fortune in there and now you're worried about a few euros. It's late, you're pregnant and we won't get a cab this late that easily.
SM: Humph... OK, then ask him if he'll go.
DD walks up to the cabbie and gives him the name of our hotel. He nods vigorously and we climb in. I'm secretly glad DD didn't agree with me because I am pregnant and a little tired and I'm wearing heels (vanity thy name is woman)! Of course I didn't say any of this to him. As the cab moved off I had a quick look at the meter. The cabbie hadn't switched it on. I nudged DD.
SM: He hasn't switched on the meter. He's going to take us for a ride. Ask him to switch on the meter.
DD: Stop losing it. He'll switch it on.
SM: He still hasn't switched on the cab meter. He will ask us for a ridiculous amount when we get to the hotel. Tell him to switch it on.
DD (again helpfully): What can I do?
SM: Tell him to switch it on!!!
DD: No, you tell him.
SM: You're the guy. You tell him. I'm pregnant. What's the point of you being around? DD, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Very reluctantly DD asks the cabbie to switch on the meter. He promptly complies.
Cabbie: Where are you from? America?
The car comes to a sputtering halt. The cabbie turns around with an apologetic look and says in broken English, "Sorry. Car broken. Cannot go. You leave."
We get out of the cab and start walking. 30 sec later the same cab whizzes past us, takes a U-turn and heads back towards the restaurant. DD and I look at each other and burst out laughing. We've been bumped! By a cabbie in Madrid. This is so filmy! You can expect this to happen in Delhi with the autowallahs or with cabbies in Mumbai but Madrid! We were still grinning a few minutes later. It felt like a mini adventure. Stranded in the middle of the night in a strange city, don't know the language, clearly targets for any bullies, pregnant woman on heels, metro shut down hours ago and hotel a few km away. We start walking as we reminisce about all the bollywood movies where we've seen that happen.
After walking for a bit, DD spots a cab across a square and does an award winning sprint to catch the cab, hops in to it and comes to pick me up at the corner. This time we have a nice cabbie. And the hero and his pregnant wife head back to the comfort of their hotel.
I wonder how different this year's anniversary will be. We will complete 5 years in a few days. And what do we have to show for it?
Squiggles and a lot of wonderful memories.