I feel like this weekend was a dream. Sure, part of that is from the lack of sleep, but it’s mostly attributed to being with you in a city with such a different energy from what we were accustomed to: sitting in parks, wandering about verdant gardens and proud boulevards with our arms wrapped around each other’s waists, watching the people pass by our small outdoor table as we sipped carafes of sangria and felt the day turn to night.
Before we knew it, we were in the final days of August and it was time for him to go home. He found a decently priced one-way ticket from Madrid to Miami and took it. The flight itself also only takes about an hour and a half in the air, which is just about half the time it takes to get to Paris. Plus, Casablanca-Madrid flights run very regularly and therefore are generally affordable even at a moment’s notice. We took his departure out of Madrid as an excuse to make a long weekend out of it. After all, this was a significant occasion. We needed to do something to mark the end of our shared two-year Moroccan experience.
We left the house early Friday morning to catch a train to the Mohamed V Airport in Casablanca for our 11 am flight and arrived in Barajas just before 2 pm (Spain is GMT +1). We found a great hostel by Plaza del Sol and after dropping our bags we decided to wander around the neighborhood to find some food, drinks, and a sunny spot to bask.
The first thing we were both struck by was European summer fashion. As we wandered about the city, it only took a pair of shorts, an exposed midriff, or a particularly sheer top to interrupt the flow of conversation. Moroccans don’t really, “dress for the season”. Even in the peak of summer, Moroccans tend to stick to long pants and even wear long sleeved shirts or sweaters (!). Rather than this summer fashion trend being rooted in religious piety, I would argue that it more likely is rooted in their fears of the sun. Moroccans believe that too much sun exposure can make you sick, and as a result, they try to cover their skin as much as possible. After two years of normalizing the lack of western summer dress, it was shocking to see an entire city of locals and tourists alike exposing as much skin as they could muster without anyone taking second glances or tsk-tsking them under their breath.
The days were in the mid-90’s and filled with sunshine and in the evenings after dinner we would buy a box of wine from a local alimentación and sit in a plaza to watch the people pass and to speculate about where they were going to/coming from.
On Saturday, we thought we wanted to go to a museum but it was just too hard to rationalize spending our one full day in Madrid indoors when it was so beautiful out. Instead, we went to Rialto Park, which is basically Madrid’s Central Park. The grounds used to belong to the Spanish king, but have since been converted into a space for public recreation in the heart of the capital city.
As the sun started to set we opted to walk back from the park to Plaza del Sol.
In the country of ham, it can often be difficult to find local restaurants (besides specialty spots that cater to the vegan/health nut crowd) that are vegetarian friendly. On our last night in Madrid we went to dinner at a restaurant called Home, which was recommended to us by one of our good friend who spent a year in Spain teaching English. It’s a chic eco-friendly burger joint that is decorated like a 50’s American diner and serves an outstanding veggie burger.
The next morning we parted ways at Barajas and we headed to our respective gates. Wiping the tears off my face, I looked up to see a large group of the Real Madrid soccer team staring at me.
Passing through Moroccan customs back at the Casablanca airport, I flipped through my passport and scrutinized the spontaneously-placed Moroccan entry and exit stamps that overlapped and crowded one another. Finally, I found the entry stamp from when we first arrived in Rabat to begin our adventure: August 25, 2011. It had been exactly two years.