Malaise in Madrid

I’m too busy lately to smell Madrid and that makes me more than a little nostalgic. It appears that I’ve been here for so long that even my favorite city’s scents seem to be escaping my notice.

Although Madrid is still my numero uno honey, it’s as if the sweetness has worn off a little bit lately. I’m thinking I might have a sappy case of malaise?  Wait, let me Google that word…

Yes! I have malaise a feeling of general discomfort of uneasiness, of being “out of sorts”. It also says that it’s often the first indication of an infection or other disease. Great.

Maybe this malaise is nothing – just the holiday blues? The thing is that I know that I am missing something. The newness of something. I’m missing the learning of a new city with its sights, its people, its moods, its scents and textures. Above all, I miss the inspiration this city used to give me and I want it back. So, if it seems like I am obsessed with smelling Madrid lately, well, I can’t deny it.

I remember my first few weeks living in my new city. Besides smelling the daily concoctions of my new neighbors, I was intrigued by the various aromas wafting throughout the city at any given point in time. Madrid, like any city, certainly has its own distinct essences, and the more I explored them, the more I loved them.

I remember when, a few years ago, everyone’s favorite fashion puss, Victoria Beckham, said that Madrid “smells of garlic”. It made national news. Some people were offended. Some people agreed. Some people pointed out that the olfactory abilities of one who probably hardly ever eats garlic, or even food for that matter, were probably fairly limited.

But, in her little own way, Mrs. Becks was right. The city smells different to different people. Sometimes it depends on your mood or your day. For example, a good mood might have you stopping to smell the roses in Retiro Park or sensually whiffing before sipping your cold cerveza on a blistering hot day.

Of course, it sometimes depends on Madrid’s mood as well.

Try walking through the city after any type of sporting event. Few can deny being bowled over by that dizzying, piss, vomit-ness horror that lurks in all corners of trendy neighborhoods the morning after. This is not the type of smell I am missing lately, trust me.


I’m talking about the breaths of thick grease that smash into you when walking into almost any quality churrería on a weekend morning.

I’m talking about the thick scent of the coffee bean dust that relentlessly grasps onto the air behind the counter of my favorite café con leche place.

I’m talking about the lemony pungence of the dirty water that the elderly ladies use to mop the portals and then splosh on the sidewalk for all us pedestrians to enjoy.

I’m talking about the traveling unctuous air that makes my eyes smile when they bring a plate of freshly fried anything to the table.

Sigh, sigh, poor me. I hope to get out of this malaisy-ness soon. I really need to smell a bit of inspiration soon. So, if you see me sniffing around all over this town, now you’ll know why.



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One Response to Malaise in Madrid

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