True Friends, False Friends

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Day Three in Madrid, I think.  Lynn and I arrived at the Royal Palace.  How did we get there?  I can’t remember.  This is one way in which traveling with a friend is different from solo travel.  When I travel alone, I am almost always “on” because it’s all up to me, and I remember every detail.  When I travel with a friend, I don’t recall things as clearly because they take on some of the “navigator” duties.   Actually, Lynn takes on more than her share.

I also don’t take as many photos when I’m with a fellow traveler. I don’t want to be one of those annoying people who says, “Ooh, stop, I want a shot of that!” every 10 feet.

There was no photography allowed in the palace anyway.  The only photo I came away with was this one, out in the plaza.  Lynn and I both fooled around and posed with spidey.

me-n-spidy

The palace was … well, palatial.  It was like a super-sized version of the Co-Cathedral on Malta, the one I wrote was like Donald and Melania’s penthouse.  Everything was gilded and gold plated, and there were actual gold plates set on the table in the dining hall.  I think the table was set for 30 people.  I wondered how many south American Indians had died for each of those gold plates.

There was very little signage.  We were basically herded on a one-way route through a series of rooms where all of exclaimed, “Wow!” in our respective languages. One room was where the king was dressed by his valets. Next was the chapel where he and the queen prayed.  “Chapel” sounds modest but it was as big as any church in my neighborhood. Another room was where he signed official documents.  Next was the throne room where he received official state visitors.  And so on.

The gift shop wasn’t very good, and we weren’t interested in entering the massive cathedral across the plaza.  It was only about 10:30 so we sat on a wall to figure out what to do next.  Lynn, keeper of the map, opened it up.

“I did do some research on each of the cities we’ll be in,” I said, “and the Sarolla Museum stood out to me as something to see.  I think it’s the home of the artist Sarolla.  I don’t know his first name.  I pointed out one of his paintings in the Prado.”

“Oh yes,” replied Lynn.  “The naked boys on the beach?”

“Yep,” I replied, scanning the map to find the house.  “Looks like we could take a bus there if we transfer …” I paused.  “But how about we just grab a taxi?”

“Yes, that’s fine with me!” Lynn replied enthusiastically.

It’s one of the perks of being older and having a bit more money. We had both used mass transit systems all over the world.  We wouldn’t take taxis everywhere in Spain, but figuring out a foreign bus system on the fly had no appeal today.

We got a female cab driver, a first for both of us.  She seemed to be driving in circles. Lynn and I exchanged looks.  A female cabbie could rip you off just as well as a male.  She spoke no English, so I asked in Spanish if this was the most direct route and she said there was a manifestación so she had to take a circuitous route to avoid the crowds.

“Manifestación” is what’s called a “false friend” in language learning, especially related languages. It doesn’t mean manifestation; it means a demonstration—like a street protest.  Some kind of labor dispute.  I knew what manifestación meant, and it made me feel a bit more confident about using my Spanish.

So I asked her if there were many women cabbies, to which she said yes, then let loose a blur of words so rapidly I could only catch about every fifth one.  So I don’t know if I really communicated clearly because I don’t think there are a lot of women cabbies, but who knows?  Maybe Spain is more egalitarian in that regard.

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