And the bad news? It turned out that Candy Lee had the most appalling hangover. Her bravado of the night before had considerably exceeded her capacity for red wine. She had overslept and was suitably contrite and apologetic; nevertheless it was plain to see that she would be indisposed for some considerable time while remedial treatment as applied. It was therefore agreed that we would leave her in peace and come back for her at 14.30.
Rod and I, relieved at having a resolution to the mystery of the missing American, now turned our attention to revising our respective day-plans. My earlier resolve to take in some high culture, which was not overwhelming to begin with, had somewhat dissipated after the dramatic start to the day. We mulled over our options for a few minutes before coming up with the universal solution to men’s dilemmas – we decided to have a few beers. “We should go to Plaza Mayor”, said Rod. “It’s the ideal place to sit and watch the world go by”. The sun, shining down in its early spring-time splendour, lent its appeal to his proposition and we set off satisfied that we had made the right decision. “Perhaps it’s too early for beer” I said presently, eying the deserted rows of chairs outside the cafes in Plaza Mayor, but we had drunk our fill of coffee so we ordered beer anyway and took grandstand seats. We watched as demonstrators with banners began to gather around a temporary stage at the opposite side of the square and a helicopter passed overhead. After a while they started to play pop music through the loudspeakers and some spectators drifted in. Just nearby a pot-bellied character in a Spiderman costume appeared, placed his plastic shopping bag on some steps and proceeded to wander around in aimless circles as if bored.
About half way through our second glass the music ceased and the speeches began; Spiderman was joined by Mickey Mouse and the two of them began to look more purposeful as tourists appeared with their cameras. By then, however, the unintelligible speeches blaring across the plaza were beginning to grate on our ears so we called for our bill. As we left, Spiderman was taking a break, sitting on a step and smoking a cigarette. I guess he was going to be there for the day. We retreated to a more peaceful (and less expensive) side-street where we found the ideal place to continue our leisurely enjoyment of Madrid. Rod recommended a local speciality, bocadillo calamari, which he remembered savouring on his visit years earlier. He was right again - it was delicious.
But the time had come for us to rendezvous with Candy Lee and she was ready this time, looking as though nothing had happened, bags packed and ready to go. Both she and Rod had to find other accommodation for that night while I, reluctantly, was off to catch the Metro to the airport. I envied them their continuing stay in Madrid for we had only scratched the surface. (Hey! Wasn’t that one of those phrases we had to explain to our Spanish friends back at La Alberca?). Rod had a mind to travel on to San Sebastian before returning to Canada, Candy Lee had to get back to Florida and I to Manchester. Nobody said “See you later!” but we all wanted to.