If I said to you, “What do you think of when you think of Madrid?” Most people would probably list things like bull fights, flamenco dancing, paella, or soccer. The correct answer is, “ham and sex”.
Ham. I love it — who doesn’t? Even my Jewish friends admit to loving bacon (and eating it on the sly whenever possible). The saying, “bacon makes everything better” was coined for a reason — bacon makes everything better. The Spaniards have taken this to a whole new level. Ham was literally everywhere — ham for breakfast, ham for lunch, ham for dinner, fancy ham, snack ham, ham stores, ham musuems (Museo del Jamon), raw ham, cured ham, dried ham, jerkied ham, ham-themed gifts, ham, ham, ham…..
Day one: “I’m in heaven!” Day two: “Wow, these people really like ham… sure, I’ll have another slice.” Day three: “Ham? No, I think I’ll just have eggs for breakfast. Gracias.” Day four: “Good lord, if I see another piece of ham I’m going to barf!”
Sex: To be fair, Madrid may not have more sexual establishments than any other European city, but being from the US (and being a resident of the deep South’s Bible Belt) I admit being slightly shocked when I pass “adult establishments” in upscale parts of any city. In Madrid they seemed plentiful and admittedly quite nice. Around here we’re used to thinking of “sex shops” as seedy hole-in-the-wall places that reek of stale bodily fluids, smoke and sin. Madrid had an entirely different approach — bright, sophisticated and dare I say, downright welcoming! Sex in Madrid wasn’t just about shopping and voyuerism… one afternoon we ran into a group of bare-chested Abercrombie & Fitch models posing for photos and doing some “public relations” work. That would have caused quite a stir back home; not here. There were girls (and women) surrounding them, all clamoring for a photo and quick kiss before continuing their afternoon errands. There was also a friendly vampire in the Plaza Mayor who had no problem pretending to bite my neck and a Halloween Sex Party (that unfortunately, we’d have no time to attend).
Madrid. Ham. Sex. Life is good.