Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Siesta is the Best(uh)?

Upon my first arrival in Madrid, Spain, I was swiftly introduced to one of the most magical ideas ever conceived for the working individual, and the most annoying holdups for a traveling traveler: SIESTA. Siesta occurs daily most everywhere in Spain with shops and businesses closing from 2pm - 5pm, and bars and restaurants closing from 4 - 8pm. It is an opportunity for employees to go home for lunch, spend time with family, and overall just take a break from "the grind".  In my experience, it seems like pretty much everyone participates in siesta, leading most establishments to be shutdown between those hours. Which lead us, dear traveler, to a conundrum: whatever does a revved up U.S. tourist do during those 3 hours?

My friends (Ali and Erin) and I dropped into Madrid mid-afternoon, dropped our bags off at our youth hostel (Hostal Casto which was cheap, great location, and felt safe - but don't expect the Ritz! The most recent review is ABOUT RIGHT), and quickly went to work finding a place for a quick bite to eat before hitting up our first tourist destination. The restaurant we found had "succulent" duck and an attentive waitstaff - they were surprisingly happy to continually fuel us with bottles of wine. A little tipsy from lunch, we trolled over to take a tour of the Museo Nacional Del Prado - I'm a dope and totally thought it was called the Prada for most of the day. Inebriation aside, I highly recommend this museum. It houses beautiful pieces of art from well-known Spanish masters such as Goya and El Greco.
Following the Prado we scooted over to the Botanical Gardens, which were nice, but something I would recommend skipping if you visit in mid to late fall. Thus begins our introduction to...drumroll...SIESTA. A mere 15 minutes into our walk around the grounds we were kicked out because it was closing for the afternoon. Not quite ready to call it a day, we started to meander the streets of Madrid in search of something to amuse our little minds...or at least a bar or cafe to prevent the onset of a hangover. Closed door after closed door, we found what must have been the only open bar in Madrid - not surprisingly, we were also the only patrons in this lonely bar. With the exception of the bartender, and the late arrival of Ethan, a friend of Erin's who was studying aboard in Madrid.
Weathering siesta in our new favorite bar in Spain (plus a couple of hours), we were all ready for some dinner. It's reasonable to expect dinner around 7pm, right? WRONG-O! Workers will (actually) go back to work after siesta, which causes the work day to end much later. So, people won't eat dinner until 8 - 9pm. Beware - while I found it extremely fun to bop around Madrid getting my makeup done at some random department store, making late night pit stops for cheap and yummy chicken & fries, and do a little sightseeing:
(ha - nothing like taking pics in front of a monument - Casa de la Panaderia - in the dark, shortly after the chicken & fries).

This isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. Some good alternatives are to simply take advantage of the downtime (write some postcards, rest/freshen up for the long night ahead), take a long walk, OR FIND A BAR TO BOND WITH FRIENDS OVER SHARED SHENANIGANS. 


Prêt à Voyager said...

I could use a siesta right about now!


Molly said...

Life would be a million times easier if I had a 3 hour nap in the middle of the day...I think I was born in the wrong country.

Troy said...

Big debate beginning here in Spain on whether or not to get rid of the siesta and thus put us on "European time." Arguments for: Shortens the actual work day

Arguments against: How are you going to sleep off those glasses of wine with lunch?

Lil' Boozie said...

That's interesting, Troy. I've always thought that Americans (in general) might be more productive & less anxious if we incorporated a siesta [or acceptable glasses of wine with lunch] into our daily routine.

A girl can dream...


Meriel said...

While studying abroad in Spain it took me a while to get used to siesta. And by "get used to" I mean find a bar to hang out in before my last class of the day.

The three hours spent in said bar made it pretty tough to focus during class and resulted in my abroad roomie peeing her pants (I kid you not) before one of our evening classes.

So, if I still lived in Valencia, I'd vote against siesta.

Lil' Boozie said...

That's interesting, Mer. It also raises a counter-argument to my last response on this post. Basically, studying abroad occurs for a lot of Americans prior to turning age 21. Because of this, it's like the training wheels come off prematurely for legally imbibing in public places.. Of course, not for everyone, and I'm sure some people handle this privilege more maturely than others..

However, all in all, studying this "opportunity" more closely in regard to underage Americans consuming alcohol abroad [and how they handle themselves] could be an interesting reason/theory/argument against lowering the drinking age here at home.