By Geri L. Dreiling

The sound of a broom sweeping across the sidewalk. It is one of the routine morning noises that I have grown fond of hearing during my stay in Madrid.

Today, as I drank my watered-down espresso, I looked out the open balcony doors and watched an older woman with dark short hair dressed in a black-and-white striped shirt and long jean skirt sweeping in front of a condo building across the street. The trees have been shedding small, greenish-yellow flakes. With a determined push of the brush, she guided the flakes into grates or out into the street. Then she dumped water from her bucket and cleaned the sidewalk again with her broom.

Pug and flakes

I will miss the apartment I’ve called home for the past two weeks. In my other trips to Madrid, I have stayed in areas favored by tourists. This time, we used airbnb to rent a lovely condo in the heart of Madrid inhabited by locals. The bakery clerks now know us — the curious American-Spanish couple — by sight. I can find my way around the small grocery market. I’ve visited the nail salon. And I’ve only had to walk five minutes to get to these places.  

Our flat is not large yet we managed to have a small dinner party on Saturday night with a few of Enrique’s friends: A 2D and 3D animator who has this video that has been making the rounds among students at Stan Winston School; a level-headed, patient woman who works for a call center; and a young man with the heart of a writer who plans to head to business school in the hopes of finding a job in the truly difficult Spanish economy where the official unemployment rate hovers around 25 percent.

Square of Columbus

 Our guests arrived around 7 p.m. and stayed until 3 a.m. That we talked so long is impressive given the fact that, as I mentioned before, my Spanish is limited. Fortunately, our guests had more mastery of English than I had of Spanish. And Enrique is the consummate translator  who is ready to leap in and help when we couldn’t find the right words to say what we wanted.  When our guests left, the metro had already closed for the night and yet they had no qualms about embarking on the 40-minute walk across Madrid to get back home.

And that brings me to one final observation. Living in St. Louis, I know very well what a gunshot ringing out in the middle of the night sounds like.  I have yet to hear that noise in Madrid –a city with about 3.3 million inhabitants and a metro area with about 6.5 million people.  

couples walking

Tomorrow, we leave Madrid, where traditional European architecture abounds, and head by train for Granada, where the Moors left their mark. 

Balconies

Post office