Despite the longing and the nostalgic attacks, going back home is not easy. Suddenly you step on the same floor, you sit on the same chairs, you shake the same hands and strive to tell your travels in the most exotic manner. But nothing is the same, and the human obsession of clinging to the past is evident when, in your home town, you feel like a stranger. The truth is that traveling changes you, and the person that left is very different from the one that arrives, and the concept of home is actually something closer to some period of your childhood than no place or coordinate. To return is, at the end of the day, to become a tourist in your own city, in my case, Madrid.
I thought if I had to be a tourist, I would do it with all its consequences. I started to walk around Sol (city center), eat croquetas (typical Spanish snack) and take pictures next to bears (the symbol of Madrid is the bear and the arbutus tree). In this displaced ravings I ran into Madrid Food Tours, an organization that offers guided cultural walks around the capital to discover the "real Spanish food." What is real then? Clearly, there are bars and prices for guiris (our slang for foreigners) and bars and prices for locals. What do they feed those innocent fools who sit in the restaurants in the Plaza Mayor? With all these questions and praying that they wouldn't take us to eat tetra pack paella (just made up that term but I think it's pretty clear) I joined the Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour.
It started precisely in the Plaza Mayor. We are guided by Luke, an English man more enthusiastic about my country than myself, who immediately warns us that we will end up absolutely full. Thank God! After he tells us a little history about Madrid, which before city was a town and only became capital in 1561, we head to the Mallorquina to swallow a chocolate napolitana (pain au chocolat). It turns out that in Madrid, the establishments over 100 years have a plaque on the sidewalk. I have walked on it a million times and had not seen until I was forced to look at it from foreign eyes.
When you travel your senses sharpen, you look up at the amazing traffic lights and a bush may seem a rainforest. How different would our day to day be if we could install this curiosity in our eyes permanently, perhaps we would even read the texts written on the ground of Huertas Street (the street is covered with poems)! Thanks to Madrid Food Tours I bought nun pastries for the first time, I ate turrón (typical Christmas sweets) in April, I have taken a vermouth aperitif and I tried to pour cider (a couple of Australians did better than me).
Yes, we ended up pretty full. I've always been very proud of the Spanish food, and at least now I know why. It has been a humbling lesson about my own habits, about what it means to be from here and respect your own traditions. I recommend Madrid Tours to anyone who is very sure of being 100% Madrilenian.