Madrid: A city of twists and turns

Well hey there, blog readers! I've been leaving you in the dark for a couple days, that'll happen on a trip like this. I'm on a 4 hour train to Granada from Madrid this morning (finally...more later), so I have some time to sit down and compile all the happenings from Madrid over the past several days.

Now where did we leave off? Oh yea, last you heard, I was inbound to Madrid on a 8:30 a.m., that was a long day. I guess the choice to party til 2-3 a.m. was not the smartest idea lol, but whatever, it happens when doing the hostel thing. So yea, Umayr and I parted ways and I arrived in Madrid around 11 a.m., lugging my backpack through the busy Metro and street of Gran Vía to my hostel. This time, my place was up on the seventh floor of a high rise, with a layout that reminded me of Ars Hostel back in Krakow. No common room again, but maybe that's what I get for going with these smaller hostels. The place also seemed deserted, which was a bit eerie. Anywho, Luciano, the host, was nice enough to give me directions and take my bags since I couldn't check in. So off I went with a few hours sleep!

First up, Puerta del Sol, which I got seriously lost finding following the diagonal streets of Madrid. Amazing, being the navigator that I am and since this plaza is the center of Madrid. Well I made it, finding a giant golden Christmas tree, a few walking cartoon characters (Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson, Papa Smurf, etc...) and a pile of tourists. Ok, next stop: Plaza Mayor. Just down the street, I easily found the square plaza with identical buildings on all sides. Again, not much to see other than some guys trying to sell tiny helicopters like those I saw in Paris and a whole mess of elementary school kids on a field trip.

Actually, I ended up following the same group of kids by accident to my next stop, the Royal Palace. It was an absolutely beautiful site, though it's too bad that they actually enforce the no photos rule (even without a flash). The armory was my favorite, with tons of suits of armor for men as well as horses, not to mention all the different swords and other weapons. The royal chambers were beautiful of course, full of all sorts of colors and fabrics.

A short lunch, then over to the biggest Spanish flag in Madrid (courtesy of Nikki's friend Javier) over in Plaza de Colón and on to the Prado for the free time after 4:00 p.m. I got there at 3:30 p.m. To find that it was the anniversary of the Prado, so the whole day had been free admission! That's okay, 2 ½ hours was more than enough time for me in the museum, sleepy as I was, but still it was very impressive. I especially loved to watch the people painting the reproductions next to famous paintings.

Back to the hostel in the early evening, and only 6 people total in the hostel! That's what off-season and weekdays bring to the hostel world. There was only one person in my 4 bed room, but he wasn't back yet (turns out he was in Toledo for the day), so I just relaxed for a bit, making some calls back home. And wouldn't you know it? Sarah showed up!

Okay, so Sarah was supposed to come with me in the morning on the train to Madrid. However, when she didn't show up in the hostel lobby at 6:30 a.m., we left without her. Turns out, after being out for the same rough night (including banging her head on the ground and maybe getting a concussion), she awoke at 5:00 a.m. to her roommate Matt (there were 3-5 Matt's in the hostel, I forget) telling her that their other roommate Sam, a Brit who just came that day, had peed all over the floor, wall AND out of the window. Out the window, really? That must've taken some skill in that Barcelona hostel. Either way, they had to get up and move their stuff into one of the other rooms and alert the hostel (apparently the maid got seriously pissed; I wouldn't blame her). After the whole fiasco, Sarah went back to sleep and missed our train, then spent the morning in the hostel with Iva just trying to get her bearings. In the end, she got on a later train for Madrid and met me that night at my hostel. Yay!

We ventured out on the chilly streets of Madrid, wandering around talking about everything possible, getting lost and having endless people offer us tickets to shows and free drink cards. For dinner, we ended up at the Mercado de San Miguel, which came recommended by my dad and the hostel. It was awesome, just the tapas experience I was looking for! The place was packed with people scrambling for bite-size meals at every counter, often only costing €1 each. We had our fill, including some sangria from a nice guy who let us even take a picture of us pouring it! It might've been a little more, but his unique mix (so he says) tastes much better, definitely stronger than the sugary versions I had in Barcelona.

We walked and talked a bit more, finishing up at a bakery to round out the night. We parted, planning to meet the next day for sightseeing. Back at the hostel, nobody was still around, so I cleaned up and went to bed. André, my Brazilian roomie, ended up waking me up at 2:00 a.m., but other than that I just passed out.

I blinked awake at 10:00 a.m., realizing I missed my alarm to call Sandy (so sorry!) and meet up with Sarah. Rushing through a quick hostel breakfast, I reached Sarah and we met at Puerta del Sol to start our tour. First up, Parque del Retiro to stroll through the palaces and to see the various statues in this huge park. We then ended up wandering all over the neighborhoods looking for food, ending up first at Dunkin' Coffee (not donuts, guess that's not a European word) for my coffee and later at Wok to Walk for a quick lunch of noodles.

At this point, we split up, Sarah heading to the Prado while I toured the Reina Sofía for a couple hours. I have to say, while the Prado is the pride of the Madrid art museums, this one was my favorite, and not just because I could take pictures. Modern is more my style and that's what the Reina Sofía has. The building is HUGE; its four floors used to be an old hospital. Picasso's Guernica is amazing; I'm just sad I couldn't take a picture.

Back to Starbucks, Sarah and I met up and went on to tour the outside of the palace, the surrounding gardens and we walked to the bridge spanning the nearby river. Finally, we ended up at Príncipe Pío, an old train station turned shopping mall. We decided to call it and head back for dinner, so we grabbed the Metro and went to our hostels. There was STILL nobody home at mine; I had no idea where André was, so Sarah and I met up for tapas, combing La Latina district, which I had heard had pretty good tapas. Sad to say, but on cold weekdays during off-season, most of the restaurants were closed or empty. We ended up at an Indian restaurant across from Sarah's hostel which looked good. This whole time, we talked about the anxiety of solo travel. Evidently, Sarah's hostel was also empty. The loneliness is just something that you have to learn to deal with on a long a trip; I wish I was a little better at it, but it takes practice.

At this point, I also decided to take an earlier train to Toledo along with Sarah, since I was done with Madrid. I truly feel like Barcelona is more interesting. There's nothing wrong with Madrid; it's a nice, clean city with several great attractions and neighborhoods. I'd just say that if you have to choose between spending 2-3 days here vs. 2-3 in Barcelona, Barcelona deserves 3 while Madrid deserves 2. I changed my train ticket (thank God for my Renfe Spain Pass) while chatting with André once I got back to the hostel. As usual, it got way too late and I ran out of time to do anything else (like write hehe) so I decided to just go to sleep.

Little did I know what would happen the next day...

- Mateo

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment