I recently moved away from my favourite place in Madrid, the Parque del Gran Retiro, a green oasis in the heart of the city.
There were reasons, and some justifications, too. The new apartment was bigger, with nicer floors, and lots of storage space. Those things can eventually become non-negotiable. Plus we got something of a deal on it because my cousin Jaime lived there until he decided to move with his family to Switzerland (that’s another story, and I’ll get to that sometime). Had we not taken it over the rent would have gone up but the point is, it’s a beautiful apartment in an old building in Chamberí, right downtown. Besides, we were ready for a change.
The problem was leaving the Retiro. It’s not like it’s far, you can walk there in 45 minutes from the new place, but it’s not just outside your door, either. At first Miss A and I tried to justify it by saying, ‘we’ll still come here all the time, it’s not that far’ but eventually we stopped pretending. On an average night when we just want to get out of the house we’re not going to the Retiro. We’ll miss having it so close, but that’s how it goes when you move to a different neighbourhood. You prefer some things, and miss others, hopefully in the right proportions.
The Retiro is relaxing not only because it’s a beautiful park with lots of trees and birds and away from the chaotic traffic of downtown Madrid, it’s also relaxing because that’s where other people relax. It’s catchy. There’s the young couple canoodling on the grass near the fountain, the old, well-dressed man reading the paper on the bench, smoking his pipe. On the promenade the inline skaters slalom through tiny pylons on one foot, dogs chase and sniff each other, and senior citizens languidly turn the pedals on stationary bicycles. There are cafés throughout the park, and they’re almost always busy, either with people sitting quietly, maybe reading a book, or groups of friends having beers. Everyone has a great time. It’s hard not to.
Images ©Mike Randolph, All Rights Reserved