When you think about post-pandemic travel, is Madrid on your bucket list? We think it should be. And he's how to travel like a non-tourist with our favorite fictional couple Bella & Wayne.
“Mucho gusto. Dónde está el baño? Habla inglés?” Wayne smiles to himself and reaches for his coffee. “Cuánto cuesta? Yo soy vegetariano.” He turns to Bella. “Not bad, eh?”
Bella smiles. “Very impressive, but when did you become a vegetarian?” She laughs and takes a bite of toast, liberally smeared with Seville marmalade. “Can you do it without the guidebook though?”
Wayne flips through the guidebook and frowns. “Vegetarian? I thought it meant fewer vegetables … Hmm. You know we’re not all gifted like you, Darling.”
Bella winks. “There’s one phrase you might like to remember before we go into the city.”
Wayne raises his eyebrows. “What’s that?”
“Estoy perdida.” Bella beams. “It means I'm lost.” She giggles.
“I only got myself lost once. On vacation anyway.” Wayne crosses his arms. “In my defense it was a large airport and the signs were all in Japanese.”
“I know. I love you.” Bella smiles. “I’m just glad they found you before the flight left.”
Wayne rolls his eyes. “Honestly, I don’t know how you’re so good with languages. Everywhere we go, you seem to be able to talk with the locals. Even our last trip to Minsk. How do you do it?”
Bella laughs and pats Wayne’s hand. “You married a brilliant woman. What can I say?”
Wayne leans over and kisses his wife on the cheek. “I married a beautiful woman, too.”
“Aww Honey.” Bella blushes and nods as the waitress pours more coffee. “Gracias.” The waitress smiles and walks to the next table. Bella looks at her watch and lets out a yelp. “Oh no! Wayne, we’re running late. We promised Marv and Francine we’d meet them at the Puerta del Sol in fifteen minutes!”
Finishing his coffee with one hand, while Bella pulls on the other, Wayne gulps, wipes his mouth with a napkin, and follows his wife out of the crowded hotel dining room.
Francine and Marv wave as Bella and Wayne come out from the shadows, running across the street. “Hi! Sorry, we’re late. We had a long breakfast.” The four haven’t seen each other since their last trip together.
“How was Debbie’s wedding?” Bella asks Francine.
“It was beautiful! The church was gorgeous! Alex is getting married next month. That’s the last of the grandchildren.” She shakes her head. “It will be great-grandchildren next!”
Wayne snaps his fingers. “The church! Yes! There’s a funny little church I read about. Clown noses on the saints and things. Rubber ducks! I really want to see it.” He looks around, and everyone raises their eyebrows. “Why not?” Wayne smiles and pulls out his guidebook. “Allons-y!”
“Wayne, Honey, that’s French for let’s go, not Spanish.” Everybody laughs, and they head off to the Iglesia Patólica.
“Built as part of an initiative from the popular comic Leo Bassi and styled as if a church, this space instead offers a unique take on religion through parody. Churchgoers at the Iglesia Patólica worship a rubber duck (yes, really). Sunday mass is celebrated every week, and you can even get married here (which won’t be legally binding, though).” Liligo
The group leaves the church an hour later, talking excitedly. “That was some church!” Marv nods his head. “I can’t wait to tell Father Murphy back home!”
Francine and Bella look over the guidebook together, nodding and exchanging comments. Marv turns to Wayne. “Don’t look know, buddy, but I think we’re about to be taken on a shopping detour.”
Wayne and Marv walk up to their wives and clear their throats. “Ahem, ladies? We sense a shopping detour brewing.”
Francine and Bella are too busy talking to register their husband’s concern. “Paco Rabanne, Prada, Mango, Desigual – they’re all Spanish fashion icons.” Francine excitedly tells Bella. “Debbie was telling me that one in every ten brides orders a Spanish bridal gown. I can’t wait to see what they have here. The guidebook says you get a discount coupon if you visit this museum too.”
Marv outwardly blanches. “Oh Franci, you have enough clothes, and our suitcases are already bursting at the seams. Unlike my wallet!” Everybody laughs, except Marv.
“Come on, Marv!” Francine pulls her reluctant husband towards the museum. “I promise I’ll only buy a scarf.”
Bella and Wayne exchange glances. “Is scarf Spanish for wardrobe?” Wayne winks at his wife.
“A museum trip and a spot of retail therapy in one experience. That sure sounds touristy. Except, Arts Meet Fashion at the Golden Triangle’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza is an altogether different experience. Art-loving fashionistas can then take all that inspiration (and a handy discount) over to the designer boutiques of Las Rozas Village. Be sure to save some of that holiday money; this is a true hidden gem in Madrid!” Tigets
Marv reads from the guidebook as Francine looks over his shoulder. “Sobrino de Botín was founded in 1725 and holds the Guinness Record for being the world’s oldest restaurant.”
Francine shakes her head. “I don’t know, Marv. I want something small and to go for lunch. These hotel breakfasts are killing me.” Bella nods, and the two women look down at their waistlines.
Wayne and Marv exchange glances. “You girls look incredible, right, Marv?” Marv nods and kisses Francine’s cheek. “You’ve never looked better.”
The women let out hoots of delight. “Oh great! That’s good to know that we looked this bad in our twenties!” Bella and Francine laugh loudly. Wayne and Marv frown. “It’s okay, you two. We got the compliment.”
Francine points to a sign above a small but crowded cafe at the market corner. “How about that place? Calamari, I can carry in my hand.” She turns to Bella. “What do you think?” Bella nods. “Calamari sounds perfect.” She turns to the men. “Shall we?I could really go for some calamari.” The two shrug their shoulders and follow their wives, Wayne and Marv hurrying to catch up.
A few minutes later, the four travelers have their hands wrapped around the delicious sandwiches for which Madrid is so famous - the bocadillo de calamares, or fried squid sandwich. The traditional sandwich consists of fresh, crusty bread filled with deep-fried rings of squid and nothing else. Tomato and paprika puree or garlic mayonnaise is optional.
“Mmmmmm!” All four let out the same satisfying sounds of pleasure as they devour their lunch. “Delicious!”
“How about some Churros for dessert?” Wayne has his eyes on a neighboring stand. “Looks like deep-fried, curly french fries served with chocolate.”
“I have a better idea.” Bella shakes her head. “I just ate enough deep-fried food for today, but I could go for some chocolate. Besides, I promised Katrin we’d bring her some. Madrid’s famous for the stuff. We can walk through the city and work off our lunch at the same time.”
“After Barcelona, Madrid is Spain’s Chocolate Capital! Chocolate tasting is one of the best unique things to do in Madrid. Besides the super famous Spanish chocolaterías “Valor” or “San Ginés”, there is a charming and small shop next to Plaza Mayor called Chocolala Belga which sells delicious Belgian chocolate products.” Paulina on the Road
After a nightcap at the hotel, the two couples have said goodnight and parted for the evening, promising to meet in the morning for a less adventurous day sitting around the hotel pool. “Oof! I’m stuffed!” Wayne pats his stomach as he looks out the hotel room window.
“We did eat a lot, but we got in some good walking exercise, too.” Bella looks at her husband and smiles. “It was a nice day. Thank you for the bathing suit, too. I can’t wait to wear it to the pool.”
“Every day I get with you is a nice day, Bella. You’ll be the prettiest one on a deck chair this side of the Atlantic.” Wayne turns to his wife and smiles. “Te Amo, Darling.”
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