29 April 2015

Escapades in Madrid

Part 2 (Read Part 1 on Amsterdam here)

Escapades makes this sound as through I had a wild and crazy time in Madrid but half of what I'm referring to here is the epic journey I went through to get there.

So my flight was booked for 6:30am take off on Saturday (the cheapest ticket of course is at a time no one sane wants to fly). But in order to get there in plenty I've time I had to catch a 4am coach from Stratford, which was a 20 minute walk from my house. This meant getting up at 3am. Well me being me, I decided to go for drinks with my friends on Friday night and didn't get home until midnight, and I still hadn't packed. Now if that doesn't sound like an adventure you should probably stop reading now.

On the plane I got turfed out of my seat by a young girl who was desperate to sit by the window and who has started to create a scene. I quickly admitted defeat and gave up my perfect sleeping position. So with the 4 hours sleep that I managed to scrape together, I turned up in Madrid ready for some chica time with one of my best friends from university, Charlotte (a.k.a Sully).

The three day trip started with brunch at a café aptly named Charlotte (apparently it's a chain in Spain) and was quickly followed by a short siesta. Feeling much revived we set out on a short walk around Madrid and ended up going to a tapas café (just a warning we did a lot of eating and drinking in these three days). Here I tried my first tinto de verano (which is basically like cold red wine with lemonade) yum!

After we'd suitably stocked ourselves up with food and drink, Charlotte gave me a walking tour of all Madrid's most important and well-known sights, like the Royal Palace, the Templo de Debod, the Plaza Mayor, Pueto del Sol and the Plaza de Cibeles (the pictures will help here).

Plaza de Españ

Templo de Debod

The Royal Palace

Plaza Mayor

Kilometer 0 - the point from which everywhere in Madrid is measured from

The Statute of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree in Puerta del Sol

Plaza de Cibeles

As you can probably imagine this meant a lot of walking and by the end we had definitely earned more drinks. So we took the Metro back to the area Charlotte lives in and found a bar nearby that was showing the local derby football match Atlético v Real. During this we had what the Spanish call 'copas' which literally translates as spirits but it does actually have a mixer with it. It's served in big wine glasses/tumblers with lots of big ice cubes and is definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.

When the game finished and we'd had more than enough copas, we went to the local supermarket and grabbed enough nachos and toppings to feed a hungry family.

The next day started with a bit of a lie in (got to be done on a Sunday). Then we headed out to El Rastro, which is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid. The weather on this day was absolutely amazing and even though it was packed by the time we got there, it was really nice just to stroll around and browse through all the random things they had. We also saw quite a few performers while we were walking around. Everything in Madrid is so so cheap that I ended up buying loads of random stuff - I got some nice floral espadrilles for €15 and this unusual necklace for €2.50. I probably didn't really need to buy anything but it was fun anyway.

The sign reads: give me a theme and I'll write you a poem

By this point we were hungry and thirsty again so we found another café. This one was in the sun and had those shiny metallic tables and chairs which definitely helped boost the sun tan. In fact I actually managed to burn my scalp along my parting - rookie British mistake of course. We weren't really dressed for sunbathing so we decided to head back to Charlotte's, shed a couple of layers, pick up the left over nachos, some sangria and head to the park (Parque del Retiro).
Snacks and new shoes at the park

When we got there the weirdest thing happened. Two guys came and sat near us with their pet rabbit! They were taking their rabbit for a walk! They didn't have a lead or anything. But they just let it loose to hop about even with dogs walking past (good thing my dog doesn't live in Madrid or that rabbit would have been dead in about 5 seconds). This entertained us for quite a long time - although I'm actually not great with animals (in case you didn't know) so I spent a lot of time thinking it was coming for me.

After this week walked around a really pretty pond at the park and this massive glass building (Palacio de Cristal). Annoyingly the sun was going down really quickly so I didn't get any good pictures of the building but I tried.

Monumento Alfonso XII

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal

Charlotte is not impressed
Then we met up with one of Charlotte's local friends who took us to a traditional tapas bar. I definitely think I was the only tourist there! Apparently the sign of a good place to eat in Spain is that it has a dirty floor because they don't have time to clean it. Well this place had a pretty damn dirty floor. It was hard not to step on some piece of rubbish or dropped food (this seems to happen a lot because no one sits down to eat tapas). It was quite strange being completely surrounded by everyone speaking Spanish, especially as I can hardly understand any of it, but it was really nice to experience some real Spanish culture.


Real Spanish tapas seems to be the weirdest combination of foods, chicken wings with super buttery chips, ham chunks and tomatoes, these small white fish which look like a mix between worms and spaghetti (I did not try them!). Dessert was a weird sort of baked milk thing - I can't remember what it was called - I'm not sure I would try it again. It tasted a bit like a bad crème brûlée.

The business area where Charlotte works.
The next day Charlotte had work unfortunately. I met her for lunch and we went to a place called Montaditos. Montaditos are basically mini baguettes and this chain has over 100 different flavour combinations for fillings. Normally each roll is €1 but on Monday's they're 50c. So we went all out and had 4 each and nachos to share (I starting to get a bit sick of nachos at this point but it was all they had).

Luckily in Spain they get 2 hour lunch breaks, unluckily they have to work until 7pm! So after walking back to Charlotte's work, I went off to explore Madrid with a map she'd lent me. I was trying to find the company I work for's Spanish office. This only took about 15 minutes and I felt I needed to burn off a few more calories so I kept on walking (I was also trying to build up more of a tan). This ended up turning into almost a 2 hour stroll, which I needed the toilet for the last 1.5 hours of (damn bladder).

Grey Spain's Madrid office

Funky artwork by the National Library which I found on my long walk

Sadly after this it was time to pack, shower and get ready to leave at 4am to go straight to work from the airport. Not quite sure how I managed it really but I did.
Landing back in the UK - did I bring the sun back?

Massive massive thank you to Charlotte for having me to stay! It was a great way to use up some of my holiday and chill out. It was really really nice to catch up and see some real Spanish culture. Hopefully I'll be able to visit again some time in the future, maybe even with a group.

The Pig Cup at the park! 

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