A few years ago, we had just arrived in Madrid where we were planning to spend the whole summer. Although we were exhausted from the flight from the United States, we decided to re-set our jetlagged internal clock by staying awake.
Right after we had moved into our Airbnb apartment in downtown Madrid, we decided to go to the exhibit of the Dutch artist, MC Escher, at the Palacio Gaviria on its last day. Since I didn’t want to risk not being able to attend if our flight had been delayed, we arrived without reservations so we lined up outside the Palace two hours before its closing time at 5 pm.
The line for non-ticket holders moved slowly because of the controlled capacity of the beautiful downtown palace. At 4 pm, a box-office person came outside, counted the number of people waiting, and designated who would be able to enter, and who would be denied entrance.
Along with another twenty or so people, we were in the group who, although we had been waiting at least an hour, were told that we could not visit the exhibit. I immediately went into begging mode, explaining that we had been up all night on the flight and why we had not purchased tickets in advance. After checking with her supervisor, she obviously took pity on us because they allowed us to enter the show.
It was an excellent exhibit, and the stunning architecture of the old palace made it even more special. As we left, my wife said to me, “Let’s see if we can find that Chinese restaurant that we read about.”
You see, Chinese food has a mysterious curative effect on my wife, Meryl. If, for any reason, she is feeling stressed or low, just the whispering of the words “Chinese food” has an immediate therapeutic response.
Before leaving the US, we had bookmarked the name of the restaurant which we had found on the internet, and put it into our Google Maps app. Thankfully it told us that it was only about 1 km away and it mapped out an easy route for us.
Less than fifteen minutes later, from my pocket, I heard the familiar words, “You have arrived.” We stood there confused in the middle of the enormous Plaza de España with its monument to Cervantes. There was no restaurant in sight. We turned around, walked a few feet in both directions, and our GPS kept on saying that we were in the right place!
After asking a few passersby if they knew where the restaurant was, we left the Plaza discouraged. One person told us that there were several other Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood, thankfully in the direction of our apartment.
It turned out to be fortuitous. We chose a very busy Chinese restaurant where we were seated right next to a young Chinese woman and man. We knew it had to be authentic since there were many other young-looking Chinese students and the prices were right, even for an expensive town like Madrid.
The Chinese woman was in fact a doctor who had attended medical school in Cuba and the man was her brother who was studying computer engineering in Spain. She was enrolled in a cardiology residency in Madrid and we communicated well together in Spanish. For the rest of our stay, we enjoyed meeting her at least once a week so that we could have Chinese food with her at her favorite places in the city.
When we returned to our apartment, we attempted to figure out where we had gone wrong in our search for the original restaurant at the Plaza de España. After going back to the original bookmarked site, we read through many reviews and discovered that the restaurant was actually located beneath the Plaza de España in a row of shops adjacent to the subterranean municipal parking garage.
We were right on top of the restaurant when we heard “You have arrived”
This explained why when we were standing directly on top of the restaurant, it informed us that we “had arrived.” It wound up being our go-to place where we frequently went to for our favorite sweet potato noodles and pork rib dumplings.
Now back at home, whenever we use our GPS, we always question how accurate its directions are. When we hear the words, “You have arrived,” we begin to salivate for that delicious Chinese food, in of all places, the capital city of Spain.