Trying to be a tourist on home territory is not easy; trying not to be a photojournalist is even worse. My girlfriend and I tried to do both on this mid week holiday in Madrid on the 11 June 2009.
The 11th June 2009 is Corpus Cristi in Madrid and some other parts of Spain, so being a mid week holiday there isn’t much one can do except hope that the day is over very quickly or take a long weekend break. My girlfriend and I, decided to go to the city centre and spend some quality time together enjoying the centre of Madrid.
Of course, I took the camera with me, but only through force of habit rather than a search for a life time exclusive. This is Madrid on holiday with practically everyone having already left the city for the beach or their ancestral village. I did not expect to file a story today (remember, quality time?) and from the quality of photos I did file it seems that my mind’s photographic eye also took the day off.
Breakfast fit for tourists, 8 Euros
As soon as we arrived at the centre, around twelve noon, we frantically stared looking for a place to have a coffee; this was still pre coffee time. The bus takes us behind Plaza Mayor so I tried to avoid the Plaza for the obvious reason that we looked like tourists.
We therefore decided to go to the terraza behind Plaza Mayor, in Plaza de San Miguel, where the new market is. We ordered a coffee and toast each. Then we asked for the bill and were told eight Euros. My partner was shocked, but a year ago I paid three fifty for a coffee in a terraza near some office buildings in the suburbs of Madrid so I already had the antibodies for such traumatic experiences.
Anyway, I decided to check the menu card whist the waiter got our change; a few weeks back another waiter not far away from where we were made a “mistake” of charging a friend of mine and myself four Euros more than what was on the drinks card. We gently pointed out that we live in Madrid and he apologised for the “mistake.”
The coffee and toast were quite good this morning.
No Photos at Telefonica PhotoEspaña
Being so close to Gan Via, we ambled towards the Telfonica building to see the exhibition by Gerhard Richter which is part of PhotoEspaña2009.
As we entered the door at calle Valverde 2, the side entrance to the Telefonica building, we had to do the security check. I was told to leave the camera at the cloakroom on the THIRD floor for security reasons.
At this point I took out my accreditation card for PhotoEspaña2009 and told them that I might want to do a report on the exhibition. I was dreading this because I could see the quality time disappearing in front of my eyes.
We took the lift to the THIRD floor where the exhibition was located and was told again to leave the camera in the cloakroom. I asked to see the manager in charge of the exhibition to explain that I might want to do a report on the exhibition.
The manager explained that I needed prior permission to take photos because of security reasons. I then pointed out that I was allowed to take photos as an accredited photojournalist at the Reina Sofia Museum.
Of course, I have to respect the norms of this private, or any other institution. But since the issue was security and the person recognised my bona fide status as a photojournalist then, as far as I was concerned, the story ceased to be about the exhibition and became a story about security.
I therefore asked to speak to someone in charge of the press, but was told they were on holiday. I wanted to ask the press officers these three questions:
1) If a bona fide photojournalist could be a security hazard, why allow the general public to go up to the third floor unsupervised? (This was one of the observations I made to the person in charge of the exhibition.)
2) If the Telefonica building might be a security target, as explained to me, why are the general public allowed to go up to the third floor?
3) Why wasn’t I asked if my mobile phone had a camera? It does and has a 5 mega pixels camera on it.
I was not prepared to let go of my camera, although they assured me that it would be safe in the cloakroom. And I was in no doubt that it would have been very safe with the security people. But by this time I had already identified myself as a photojournalist so either the camera stays with me (even without taking photos) or I leave. I decided to leave.
Menu del Dia, but not this Dia
It was time for lunch.
Earlier in the week I saw an ad board with a menu del dia (fixed menu) at an Indian Restaurant behind the Banco de España. As soon as I saw the same ad board on the other side of Calle Alcala I thought that at last something was looking good. I eventually got there, sorry, we eventually got there. The Menu del Dia used to be my hobby once, but now my GP forbids me from engaging in dangerous sports. However, today is a holiday.
We sat down at the Taj Indian Restaurant and immediately looked at the menu del dia. The first bad news was that they only had one main dish (and one starter) and it had cream and yoghurt, which are seriously bad news for me; I’m allergic to lactose and my girlfriend does not like milk.
The second bad news was that the head waiter told us that because today was a holiday there was no menu del dia. But when I pointed out that his ad board in calle Alcala was for a menu del dia he immediately relented and said that he will give us the menu del dia, but only what there was on the menu. Hobson’s choice if ever there was one.
We decided to stay, especially because we thought that the waiter handled my objection professionally and with a grace that there ought to be an award for this sort of thing.
And although the bill was more than what we wanted to spend, the food was really good. We were both surprised with the quality of the food; and the restaurant was also well decorated. I did tell you that things were looking good. When the economic crisis is half way over we intend to go back again.
My first day as a Paparazzi
After lunch, and in one of the terrazas, my girlfriend was sure that she saw a famous Spanish actor with a rather younger “person” with him; Ooops, am I allowed to say that, can I use the word “him”?
I gently tried to point out to her that I do not do Paparazzi. But being more down to Earth than I am she pointed out that in Spain the Paparazzi make a handsome living. I then pointed out to her that this is not a legitimate news story, anyway, since there aren’t even news type rumours about this actor. Assuming of course that this person is who she says they are.
But she insisted and we were supposed to be having quality time together. So I fired the shutter button a few times. The news, as it turns out, is that I won’t be making the Paparazzi grade any time soon. So the feet under the table may or may not be those of a famous Spanish actor.
We decided to make our way to the el Corte Ingles
Lost and found at the el Corte Ingles
We slowly walking towards the el Corte Ingles in calle Preciados to see if they had any bargains and also to buy some cleaning tissues for our glasses and the camera lens (I use a filter).
We were there forty five minutes or so when we had to stop for a rest and have something to drink. Today was also a hot day and after the Indian lunch we were both thinking of siesta time. I mention this because my brain must have already been having a siesta because it took me all this time to realise that I lost our sun hats somewhere in the building. After searching up and down the seven floors in the el Corte Ingles, someone suggested we try the lost and found department.
I didn’t know that they had a lost and found department in the el Corte Ingles, I do now and it is near the clocks and watches department on the ground floor. The young lady at the lost and found department was waiting for us with a big smile on her face. We were so happy to be reunited with our hats that we promised each other we’d spend more money next time we are in the el Corte Ingles.
Coffee and a lucky charm
We needed a coffee by this time so we went to Valor, in Calle del Postigo de San Martin, or behind the el Corte Ingles for you and me. They have decent coffee there and are quite reasonable with tourists. It was three thirty now and the sun was really doing its best to keep us off the streets. We found a table outside, in the shade, and under a parasol.
Whilst we were there sipping our coffee, and contemplating what to do next, my girlfriend decided to go and buy a luck charm from the old LP music shop in front of us. It turned out that the price of the luck charm made the lucky charm unlucky; she came back in a state of financial equilibrium.
Let them eat cake
In reality there was only one more thing we could do, which we had planned anyway from the early hours of the morning (10.30am) and which we knew couldn’t go wrong. The Austrian cake shop in the San Miguel Market. This would be my first time in the market since I did the inauguration story when it was opened.
We were determined that nothing would come between us and those cakes. So we honed in on the market as if there was no tomorrow; at least for the cakes. We weren’t disappointed.
And because we were so please with our day out in the centre of Madrid we also decided to buy some bread rolls for dinner.
Whilst we were waiting for the bus home I tried to be a tourist and took the photo of the windows and balconies in front of us. All the time knowing, of course, that the cakes were in the safe and steady hands of my girlfriend.