|Puerta de Sol|
Daredevil rush to the train station
Initially, I would not have chosen to have the taxi driver bring me to the wrong train station just because I said its name in Valencian (WHICH was what it said on my ticket), wander around a bit then jump into another taxi to bring me across town to the right one. However, it proved for me that a)any attempt of mine to travel stress-free is like trying to make coca-cola healthy - imposible - and b)although I will always be a walking accident, things turn out alright in the end. I got on my train and found a travel buddy, Carlos, who talked to me for 6 hours and didn't let me disappear into the station when we had to make a simple change. Essentially as long as I continue to smile a lot, people will take pity on me and help me. Penelope Pitstop ftw.
Visiting my beloved people
|Con Luca y Maite|
I was lucky enough to see some of the best people I know, who are painfully apart from me, all in Madrid! And I got to see my favourite adorable Spanish toddler dance to 'Gangnam Style'.
Seeing a protest
This particular protest was about public healthcare. I read the other day that there's been a sharp increase in the number of indignados in Spain, especially at the recent claims about corrupt politicians and on a lot of the banks you can see graffiti-ed scrawls about liars and thieves. I was really pleased to get the chance to see an actual protest rather than just signs of the brewing rancor in the capital city of one of the world's most affected countries.
Eat my weight in tapas
This is the only photo I managed to get of tapas in Madrid because, while still very tasty, it was the least delicious meal we had. The others were devoured much too quickly - although the raciones were so large we had to take food breaks. I hate to leave food on a plate, especially delicious Spanish food soo this happened:
You can't eat art, right? My boyfriend and I reckon we ate at least four squid between us in those five days, as well as paella, bravas, gambas al ajillo...and a lot of places ply you with free tapas and even free beers! I am well on my way to pleasing my family and 'fattening up like a churro'. It's disappointing that Valencian places seem less likely to give you free food but probably better for my cholesterol.
Lucky for me churros are available all over Spain. We went to the famous Chocolatería San Gines for the best churros con chocolate of my life - and they do good hot chocolate in Russia! If like me you don't have much of a sweet tooth it's better off to share one as the portions are massive; and better not to go with a chocoholic.
The capital's thriving gay scene, Chueca is a vibrant area with a lot of rainbow flags and adverts with very muscly men on them. We did a walking tour in the guide book starting from this area, but I had to stop off at this cute juice bar/café for some fresh orange juice after that chocolate overload. It would be perfect in Camden or Hampstead Heath as it has a lot of mismatched, brightly-coloured furniture, but as it walks the border between quirky and twee, it's not too douchey for me to enjoy. And I saw three whole oranges go into my juice which pleases Valencian me greatly.
New cultural experiencesThis is the wonderful Cine d'Ore, as we were waiting for the lights to go down. We paid a ridiculous 2.50 euros (2 for me with my student card) to see the incredible Goldfinger! Although initially disappointed at the lack of hilarious dubbing, the subtitles were wonderful as we got to really appreciate the film in its original glory AND our mother tongue. Plus the seats are big plush armchairs and there were a lot of Star Wars films showing at the moment. I am incredibly jealous.
We visited the Reina Sofia on my first evening in Madrid and saw the incredible Guernica as well as a number of Cubist and Civil War works and propaganda. The above photo is a church near the Museo del Prado but in both cases I was much too excited to remember to take photos. The Prado is beautiful, modern and full of works by Goya, Velásquez and many more. However, after months of being spoiled by the Hermitage and the Russian museum, the soft grey interior felt quite underwhelming compared to the friezes and gold-encrusted palaces we were used to.
There's not so many of these in Valencia and it was a lovely reminder of London. Fortunately for my boyfriend, I don't see so good and I can be very gullible so I was great entertainment trying to figure out which were real statues and how they did it. Also, I got to see a Spongebob and a Mickey Mouse having an off-duty chat through the little holes in their costumes.
|This guy was hilarious|
MarketsLord knows I love me a good market. The above photo is in Mercado de San Miguel, the upmarket, glass-walled beauty that sells tapas and drinks along with fresh produce. The photo below is the Mercado del Rastro, the flea market that attracts throngs of people on a Sunday morning. I was hoping for more battered old furniture, but the handmade pieces and artworks are really interesting if you don't mind a steep walk up the hill on the way home.
Exploring Madrid on foot
|El Parque del Retiro|
I genuinely think that, after the experiences I've had in Valencia and now in Madrid, I would be happy to move to Spain as soon as the economic situation makes it viable. In the meantime I have my eye on Chago and beyond.