We arrived in Madrid travel-smelly, sleep-deprived and cranky. We took the metro from the airport to a station in downtown Madrid with no phone, essentially no money, and only a vague idea of where our rental place was actually located (read: a vague Euro-style address, and the name of the nearest metro station. Not the stuff of Tom-Tom dreams).
Doesn’t that sound like a promising start? We also couldn’t look at the public map once we got to the metro station because a homeless person was sleeping in front of it. It was a pretty overwhelming welcome, let me tell you.
Madrid is beautiful, you guys, but it took me a full 24 hours to really believe that. I spent the majority of our first day-and-night there tired and grouchy, looking for a fight, and suddenly hyper-aware of my inability to speak Spanish with any basic level of comprehension (said I confidently on the plane, “We’ll be fine!” – famous last words).
But the next day dawned sunny, perfectly temperate, and with a small amount of creepy facial hair (not me…please see above). My parents arrived that morning, and as a we’re-all-jet-lagged-and-aren’t-feeling-ambitious exercise, we decided to hop on one of those red touristy buses.
Can I tell you what was the best idea ever? Taking that bus. We got to see all of the basic sights in downtown Madrid, feel the wind whipping through our hair, get some sun, and not really talk to each other, which was probably good because we were all experiencing quite the afternoon fade-out.
[I took a lot of pictures in Spain that were directly into the sun. It’s just really tempting there. There’s a lot of sun. But this is a large structure in the middle of a traffic circle. Isn’t it nice?]
Madrid feels so traditionally Spanish to me, in a very large-scale way (before now, I had only been to very small Spanish cities – “quaint” would be a good word to describe the vast majority of them). I loved how bustling the city was at 1 or 2 AM on any night of the week – adorable elderly couples go out walking together late at night, and little children run around playing, and everyone is just having fun drinking and eating tapas. And it’s like, the middle of the night. I don’t really get it, but I definitely dig it.
We spent our third day in that area visiting Smaller Smags (my little sister) in the ancient Spanish town where she is studying this semester, Alcalá. She was unfortunately not feeling well, which made the day a bit less successful since we spent several hours at her host family’s house attempting to communicate with one another while Karla slept in her room. That was totes awk. But her host mother made some slammin’ paella, so it’s all okay. Also, it wasn’t my sister’s fault. I think she would probably want me to point that out.
By pure chance, we ended up in Alcalá on the weekend of Cervantes’ birthday, which is the five-day period for a massive festival every year. All of downtown Alcalá was decked out in completely outrageous medieval garb/decorations/food, and we ate some and drank some and took some pictures. It was pretty dope.
One thing I feel really comfortable saying is that our time in Madrid gave us a few days to get really, really proficient in eating patatas bravas (fried or roasted potatoes with a delish spicy sauce), chorizo, iberian ham, and drinking cervezas and tinto de verano. We spent our last night eating in a restaurant in this here alley, and did a really good job inhaling all of those things. For approximately the third time that day.
Although we spent six days away from Madrid and traveling around the rest of Spain, we were lucky enough to get another 16 hours the following weekend – we ate these churros approximately 20 minutes before getting in a cab to go to the airport to go home. But never fear, dear reader! There was so much more to our trip.
I’ll do separate follow-up posts for Valencia, Barcelona and the Canary Islands so you guys won’t have to feel like you’ve over-indulged in my vacation. Also, I am trying to stretch this out as long as possible in the hopes that I will have another vacation booked by the time I’ve finally blogged about all of them (cough: unlikely).
One day, I will post again. Until that time comes, please accept my apologies for being a flakey ditz of a human who cannot seem to update her blog despite a consistently lacking social life and penchant for over-Facebooking. I don’t get it either.