I have been officially unemployed and living in Madrid for nine days now. Scorching hot days slip away to balmy nights, tables on terraces dotting the winding streets filled until the early hours. But despite these endless, spotlessly sunny days, I feel like I’m in a period of transition. I imagined myself using this newfound free time to jump directly into writing. But as I sit here at my boyfriend’s bar, laptop open, several pieces in mind to work on for possible publication, all I can think about is how much this bar stool is hurting my ass.
It occurred to me this past week that not just prison can make a person feel institutionalized. The job I just left had run my life; it dictated when I slept, who I spent time with and how I spent it. Now that I’m free of it, and enthusiastically so, I feel an inexplicable void as I stare down the summer abyss. I had routine, dysfunctional as it was, but it was a semblance of a routine nonetheless. However, much like an inmate who has dreamed of life outside the walls and barbed wire, once he steps through those gates, the absence of a regimented existence is jolting. I need a reintegration program.
Last weekend, I surprised J with a weekend away in Úbeda for his birthday. We picked up the rental car, packed the dog and a suitcase, and headed south to the area aptly named the sartén de España (frying pan of Spain). I wasn’t aware of this nickname and hadn’t bothered to check the temperatures since a heatwave had settled over the entire country. At a certain point, hot is hot is hot.
We stayed at a beautiful casa rural (rural house) in San Bartolome, a tiny village 15 minutes outside of Úbeda called La Caseria de Tito. The seven bedroom guesthouse is run by the man himself, Tito, and his lovely wife Macarena.
Our room was comfortable (made even more so by the AC) and the pool was always clean and inviting in the 104°F/40°C heat. We hardly saw any other guests around which added to the tranquility and feeling we had the place to ourselves.
Úbeda was equally a ghost town. It seemed everyone had retreated to the shadows within the village’s ancient stone buildings to escape the oppressive heat.
As we too stayed to the shady side of the streets, we eventually found a pretty little square, Plaza de Andalucía, to sit outside with the dog and have some cold beers and tapas.
The silence was a welcome change from the blaring horns and hum of conversation seeping from every open doorway in Madrid.
The biggest surprise of the weekend came from Tito’s recommendation to visit a restaurant down the road from the guesthouse called La Recta. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect much from a place in the middle of nowhere. However, once we arrived, we noticed that both the large terrace and dining room were packed. And for good reason.
We had an incredible meal of three courses, fantastic bottle of wine, round of beers, and a couple cocktails (it was a birthday celebration, of course) all for around 68 euros for two people. We were sold and went back for our second and last night to once again close the place out past 1 am.
It was two days of tranquility, that nagging feeling of aimless left miles away in Madrid. But as we entered the city limits, the calm of vacation began to melt away. However, it won’t be long before I’m off again. Next Tuesday, we fly to J’s childhood home of Tenerife for a week staying with his family and roadtripping around the island. We’ve told ourselves that life begins in September; working out, eating healthier, trying to save some money. And after 10.5 months of chaos, a stable routine is a welcome change.