There is an art to hanging out. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I certainly know my way around an outdoor café on a lazy summer day, a steaming cup of strong coffee in one hand, a long, juicy novel in the other. In a world where everyone is rushing around, stressed, multi-tasking, trying to take over the world, here’s my vote for a lot more purpose-free “hanging out.”
In my opinion, the Plaza Mayor in the center of Madrid, Spain, is a particularly great place to hang out. Once the center of Old Madrid, the square was first built in the late 16th century during the reign of Philip III. It’s certainly seen its fair share of history, suffering three major fires over the years and multiple reconstructions. Today, the Plaza is characterized by the uniformity of its architecture, with each three-story building featuring an inward-facing balcony. In the center of the square stands the equestrian statue of Phillip III, placed in 1848. Once the site of executions, the Plaza Mayor is a much calmer place these days — the location of an annual Christmas fair as well as a weekly stamp and collecting market. It has even hosted bullfights and soccer games.
As I sit at my café table (after completing a successful Dr. Clue Madrid Treasure Hunt) in the heart of the Plaza Mayor, sipping my Americano, I pause to appreciate the exquisite scene all around me. Directly opposite my table is the Case de la Panaderia (the “Bakery House”), a building covered with beautiful mythological frescos by artist Carlos Franco. Characters like Cybele, Prosperine, Bacchus and Cupid interweave with the history of Madrid and the Plaza. In the square itself, people lounge, talk, kiss, take selfies – all at a relaxed, Spanish pace. Although there is MUCH to see in Madrid and I could certainly be running around, checking items off my bucket list, I feel content to simply relax here in the Plaza, sipping my coffee, people watching, and contemplating the rich history of my surroundings.
(Where do you go to unplug? You would think that technology would make life more efficient and less hurried, but the reality is, with the capacity to do more, we in fact try to do more. Much more. That’s why it’s important to counter-program your day – to carve out a calm space to “defrag” your mind. Meditation, yoga, jogging – whatever. Put away your screens – stop reading this post! Go “hang out” for a few minutes. Do it now.)