Out of the two weeks I’ve spent in Spain so far, yesterday was by far my absolute favorite. I didn’t go out partying, I didn’t meet a famous Spanish singer who took me for a ride in his private jet and then let me swim in his billion dollar pool, I didn’t get engaged, and I didn’t do anything spectacular like skydiving or bungee jumping.
So what did I do? I spent the day by myself, exploring. First, I treated myself to a cheap, local-favorite cafe and enjoyed porras con chocolate (in other words: super fat churros) for breakfast, and then I took a long walk to nowhere, and had lunch at the oldest restaurant in the world: Restaurant Botin.
Since I arrived, I’ve just been adding and adding to my Spain Bucketlist as I learn about new foods, markets, restaurants, parks, etc., and about a week ago I decided to put Restaurant Botin at the top. I don’t know if it’s because among all the famous literature authors my tour guide mentioned I only heard, “Earnest Hemmingway finished his last two books here,” or “Scott Fitzgerald ate here as well,” but I was beyond eager to cross it off my list.
At first, I was a bit shy to the idea of going by myself. It’s not something I thought I’d ever do in my own home-town, or state (however, you’ll see why that’s a foolish thought to have because I’ll surely be doing this more often when I return). I asked a girl who is au pairing here in Madrid if she fancies the idea of going, but she wasn’t as eager as me, and I didn’t feel like waiting. So, I didn’t search any further after her. I decided I was going on a date with me, myself, and I.
I woke up bright and early (not that early…I still hit my snooze button for an extra 10). I decided to wear my new black t-shirt dress, braid my hair, put on a little extra make up, and slide on my favorite orange gladiator sandals.My host family does not have any full length mirrors so I was forced to trust that my upper torso and face were good enough indicators that I looked just fine. To be honest, I like that there are no full length mirrors. I don’t feel as vain, and it boosts my self confidence because in all reality: no one really cares as much as me.
I hopped on the bus, not knowing where I was going. It was 9:30, and I had plenty of time to spare until my 13:30 reservation for lunch. So, I did what any American would think to do…find that cool cafe for breakfast and eat fat churros!!!
Still not knowing where I was going, I got off at my Metro stop (I say ‘my’ because it’s the one I use most), and searched for the place. To my dismay, my phone refused to budge faster than 3G-speed allowance, and even failed on me more than once. Eventually, I conducted my own investigation with both a tourist and metro map, and created a route. It was a bit tricky, as this hotspot was off the beaten path, but it was so worth it when I finally found it.
Welcome to the tiniest, most randomly-located cafe: Chocolat
I ordered my breakfast in a way only a confident local-Madrileno would – trying to hide that my native language is English. The guy smiled approvingly at my Spanish, so I mean, I thought I was safe.
I was safe for a second, until I sabotaged my under-cover identity and whipped out my phone. I took pictures and videos of my chubby churros, snapchatted them, and then I really got to business. I dipped the porras into chocolate with only the upmost I’ve-done-this-a-million-times-before gracefulness…
…and then I really pulled the string. Confirming any last doubts questioning my American-ness, I dipped my porras into the whip cream of my coffee.
YES, YES, I KNOW. HOW DARE I? CHURROS ARE FOR CHOCOLATE, NO? But alas, I can assert this was the best idea I ever had!!! I have no shame, and I will dip my churro into whip cream again in the future. That is all.
After my meal, I was happily pregnant with chubby churros (food babies are the best babies). And I say confidently that I was the cutest Churro Mama walking down the street.
I spent over an hour at this little cafe. Granted, my phone ran out of energy faster than my churros got dipped into whip cream, so I charged up and texted my Mom to pass the time.
Soon enough, I paid the churro-maker, and he was all smiles trying to impress me with his broken English. By then it was only 12:30 and had no where in particular to go so I just picked a direction, and took it. To my surprise, I quickly found where I was without the help of my map. I walked in a nice big circle and before I knew it my FitBit was vibrating a celebration of 10,000 steps. That surely walked off the porras. Now I can happily walk toward my reserved lunch…
“La mesa para una persona, por favor!” I told the well dressed host. He smiled and led me upstairs.
“La mesa para una persona, por favor!” I repeated to the waiter greeting me at the top of the steps.
“Una persona?” he asked, confused. “Imposible!”
“Ahhh, it’s possible!” I replied.
Shit, I thought, I revealed myself again.
Another kind waiter took me to my table, cleared it of the unncessary set up for person number two, and asked if I wanted an English menu.
“Si!” I said a little too quickly. My identity might have been revealed earlier than I wanted, but I still ordered my meal in the best Spanish I could muster.
Sitting at that table alone seemed quiet at first, but I entertained myself by people watching while I nibbled on my fresh bread and drank my ice-cold water. The couple at the table next to me were English. It was clear the guy was not as concerned about how he and his girlfriend were going to make it to their evening flight after a day’s fill of last- minute activites. I laughed to myself when I noticed his attempts to fill in a moment’s silence with a new topic for conversation. He just wanted to know if they could have ice cream afterward.
On the other side was a couple with two young kids. The youngsters were so not meant for top notch restaurant life. They had dropped two forks and a spoon since I had gotten there, and there was bread and crumbs laying everywhere. (That was a good time to think about whether I want kids one day or not…). I focused my attention on different conversations all over the room, whether spoken in English or not. Everything i could hear and see, no matter how meaningless, facinated me.
When I wasn’t people-watching, I sat in deep thought to myself. Even with the outside noise, I was able to sit and reflect in peace. I thought about a million things: my host family, the English “lessons” with the twins, the Spanish culture, the foods, the history, the streets, my upcoming trip to Barcelona; I thought about my family back at home, my friends, whether they’d like the snapchat story I posted on my day’s adventures, what I was going to blog about when I got back home, etc. It was blissful because nothing felt rushed. To complement that feeling I refused to look at the time on my phone. I felt like it almost didn’t exist; as if it was in my pocket, hidden, with no possibility of disturbing my peace.
I enjoyed every single nanosecond of my own company.
My meal went beyond expectation. I guess this is where I can admit I was slightly worried because I had read a few reviews. One of which had mentioned that Restaurant Botin was nothing special and they (the authors of the review) had better, cheaper Roasted Suckling Pig elsewhere. As a traveler on a slight budget, I questioned if this meal was going to be worth the cost. But to each his own, right? I convinced myself the experience would be priceless, and I was right…
The Rioja Style Salad consisted of lettuce, tomato, asparagus, artichoke, roasted peppers, an egg, a generous bit of dressing made of olive oil and wine…and olives. Believe it or not, I hate olives! But since coming to Spain, I’m slowly aquiring a taste for them. My Mama would be so proud of me because I happily ate them all!
Don’t ask me about this dish. All I know is that it was probably the most delicious meal I’ve ever had. The pig meat and the sauce was sooo flavorful, and the crunch from the skin was the perfect complementing texture. Not to mention the perfectly cooked potatoes! Oh my gosh, so soft! And they too had a slightly crunchy skin. It seems very simple, but it was grand.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Restaurant Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world. According to Sabrina’s Book of World Records, this is her new top favorite in the world.
After my meal, I was offered dessert. Of course I considered it, but I decided to pass, given the porras I devoured for breakfast. I had coffee to end my meal instead.
While I waited for that to arrive, I went to the ladies room. There’s this thing that I started doing, as it serves as my own personal souvenir, but what I like to do is take bathroom selfies in places that I want to remember. But in essence, who would walk out of the oldest restaurant in the world without taking a mirror-selfie? Probably a lot of people, but not me!
My pretty coffee was waiting for me when I returned. It was very strong, but I didn’t complain. I sat for a little longer, and thought about the meal I just ate. I was happily pregnant again with a little roasted pig!!
Right before I was about to ask for my check, a new waiter (a very cute one, might I add) came up to my table with a shot glass and poured a familiar looking light brown liquid. As soon as I looked up at him, realizing this was a sweet chocolate liqueur that I’ve tried before (and thoroughly enjoy), he said “try it!” and winked at me as he walked away. No need to tell me twice!
Now that was the perfect way to end my meal.
In conlusion, this is my advice; the real big picture I wanted to paint for you:
I know I turned this into more of a story or a diary entry, if you will, but I really wanted to express the beauty of being able to go out by yourself and enjoy your own company. Although I highly recommend doing this at least once during your travels, whether it’s in a different state or a different country, you can still do it in the comfort of your own home-town area. There is something so liberating, so peaceful, and so beautiful about treating yourself; And I mean wholly, genuinely, confidently, and charismatically treating yourself. Don’t do it mindlessly, actually plan this out. Set aside a day where you have absolutely nothing to do. And if you have to, turn off your phone. Dedicate this day soley to yourself and don’t let anything distract you.
The steps I recommend are as follows: Get dolled up. Put on some make-up (if that’s what makes you feel good), fix your hair, throw on an outfit that makes you feel confident, sexy, and comfortable. I want you to feel good in your own skin. Take yourself on a little adventure, somewhere small. It could be a walk through a nice park, or a fancy street, or by a river walk in your downtown area. If you can, allow yourself to get lost. You will find your way eventually and it will only spark more confidence in you. Find a little cafe where you can sit in peace. Order something small, whatever you want. If you’re in Madrid like me, eat a gosh-darn serving of chubby churros and dip those babies in chocolate and whip cream. Go for another walk. Take yourself out to a restaurant that is sure to mark it’s spot in your memory. People watch, as that is the most humbling way to realize that our daily worries are the most meaningless, self-sabotaging bugs that need to be squashed and thrown away. Reflect on your day, your week, your life, and thank God for where he has brought you and where he plans to take you. Trust in Him. Thank the Universe for bringing you to that very moment in which time doesn’t exist. It’s in your pocket, unable to disturb you. Order a meal that is sure to make your dopamine levels rise. Savor each and every bite. Don’t forget to take pictures! They’re the best ways to remember certain moments in time. Ask the waiter to take a picture of you. Notice how much you’re glowing, how happy you are living in the moment. You can end your trip with another walk, you can go back home to write in a journal and reflect some more about your day and how you felt, and how you’re feeling now. You can treat yourself some more if you wish! Do whatever it is that your heart desires. Remember, this day is entirely in your control. Do with it what you will, but whatever you do, enjoy each and every second of it, and yourself. ❤
I hope your day is as spectacular as you are. Caio for now!