Weekend escape into the heat.
2. – 6. 7. 2016
During my long term stay in Australia I made a lot of international friends, especially during my studies as there is heaps of people coming and going from all over the world. So it happened that one afternoon I spoke on facebook with my Spanish friend Borja whom I met during my first half a year in Melbourne and whom I didn´t see for 3 years! After I learnt he had been in Prague not too long before we spoke, he invited me to come to Madrid for the weekend. Right after that I looked up flight tickets on skyscanner.com, convinced my friend Tereza to come with me and as there were two days of public holidays ahead we were all good to go.
Since we only had carry on suitcases and checked-in in a self managing counter we were in no hurry at the airport. We spent a few hours changing planes in Frankfurt and as I said in my other article, the journey is a destination by its own, so there is always a story behind it. Once I even made a deal with a friend of mine, that each time we would travel somewhere alone, we would come back with some story from a co-traveller we met on the way – I should start collecting those as well! In Frankfurt`s super modern smoking lounge from Camel we had the chance to have quite interesting conversation with this Israeli guy whose name I can`t recall. He was an army pilot so we spoke about the situation over there and we learned from him, that Israel isn`t as frightening as we may think. Tel Aviv is very safe and very much worth seeing. Maybe the next stop? : )
Borja was awaiting us with his car at the Madrid airport to drive us to his parent`s house just a little bit outside Madrid as we gladly accepted the offer to stay there the first night. Just to explain: Economy in Spain isn`t any good and in combination with their strong family bonds, it is very common for young people to stay with their parents until the age of 30 or so. We had a chance to experience this one more time that night as we drove to one of his friends bbq house party in a suburb where we were welcomed with 2 kisses from every single person. Firstly it was a little weird to me, that the youngsters were sitting outside, drinking and chilling while in the kitchen were their parents (aunt, uncle and grandparents?) preparing all sorts of deliciously looking small platers, but then I realized that it was just the way they live. They all were there together with great smiles, dancing here and there, laughing, eating and constantly mingeling some Spanish words I didn`t understant. It was a great insight into traditions of a Spanish family. From there we went to the city centre to see the final party of a month long gay parade. I must say that it was a really epic show in the streets. Thre was a massive stage with some travesti show and the whole boullevard was filled with unicorns. : )
The following morning we moved to Hostel Bermejo on Calle de Atocha. This was very interesting because almost everywhere in the city centre you can find hostels that are in regular buildings apparently made into hostels from separated units. Our hostel was in a building with a plenty of other hostels on different floors. When we entered the building following a small dirty sign announcing the name of our hostel we had to go on the second floor and ring a bell on a door that looked to me like an entrance to a single apartment. Anyway here was a reception with an old hot blooded lady that didn´t speak a single word English. So we used fragments of our Spanish and in a combination with legs and hands we discussed our room number and the amount that was to be paid. Then she walked us through a hallway to the back of the place passing by numbers of rooms that I would have never guessed could ever squeeze in. Our room was perfect in size, with aircon and our own tiny bathroom and all this in a complete centre for about 35 euro / per room per night! Would reccommend it any time.
In the afternon we walked through the centre along the Opera House on Pl. de Isabel II. to the Palacio Real and I was just ecstatic about the Spanish atmosphere and architecture that is so perfect and mainly not overly decorated. Simple but colorful facades with clean lines and wooden window blinds just stole my heart. We continued along the Jardines de Sabatini to the Park de la Montana and because it was so hot, we had to take couple breaks in a shade and stick our feet into fountains in the parks. Unfortunately because of some electricity issues we couldn´t get into the Templo de Debod and could only walk around it. It was build around 200 BC in Egypt from where it was moved and rebuild in Madrid in 1970’s when Spain got it as a present from the Egyptian government. We actually spotted one carving in the stones of the typical Egyptian figures with both feet left. : ) From here we walked back to the centre where we found this awesome marketplace on Pl. San Miguel. It was like true oasis with drinks, fruits and tapas of all sorts in separatre stands. We bought couple of small platters with seafood from one lady who was selling them for 1 euro each. We also bought some olives, pickled fish and a wakame salad with calamari. It was a little pricy but definitely worth going and tasting spanish flavours. I would also recommend trying gazpacho – Spanish cold soup made from cucumbers and tomatoes. You can buy it in almost every single restaurant or even a food store in a box (same as a juice box) from which it still tastes delicious.
In the evening we went out to a rooftop bar called the Hat which is also a hostel on C.C.Imperial street close to Plaza Mayor.. It’s design is very new and fresh but it is also popular so we had to wait quite a while on a reception until we were let in to go upstairs with a lift. I must say it is not worth waiting. It’s apretty small area surrounded by buildings so you don’t even have a nice view. From there we went for a walk to area called La Latina which is a ’new age hipster’ district as we learned from our Spanish friend. It is filled with nice little bars and outdoor bars you can hang out. There was one with seatings and a basketball court where young people were playing games. Another one there was some type of event with live music and some fast food stands. After a while of walking we sat in one oddly looking restaurant with a chubby Spanish chap with a great smile behind a bar.It is quite usual to get with your drink a free tapas platter, which was a surprise to me! And so they did here. So I order my typical Cuba Libre (white rum with coke and a lime) and I get a platter of Patatas Brava which are roasted potatoes with slightly spicy sauce on top of it. It was delicious! Another funny thing was that they poured the rum into my glass from a bottle on our table without measuring the shit that goes in it so I ended up with my glass filled in ⅔ only with rum! The staff obviously liked it so they pumped up the music. : )
Following morning we headed straight to Prado Gallery – my dream came true! As expected there was a queue, but when we tried to buy tickets online to avoid it there was only a year option so we had to wait. Compare to Louvre this line wasn’t that bad as we got stuck in it only for about 45 minutes. From there it was a pure paradise for me and I finally got to see Las Meninas from Diego Vélazquez. We were that lucky that we also got the chance to see a current exhibition of Hieronimus Bosch. A small advice: in Prado it is same as in all other great galleries. Firstly, it is important to realize that to see every single peace is above human’s capacity so you gotta go through it selectively. Secondly, you spend quite some time in here anyway and eventually you get hungry. There is obviously restaurants and caffeterias but they are very pricey so I recommend to have a big brekky beforehand and pack some snacks with you if you don’t want to leave the gallery grumpy and overwhelmed with visual expecience. Take it easy!
From Prado we walked onto Gran Via where I bought a beautiful photography depicting old streets of Madrid. Tragically it was thrown away by a cleaner at our hostel when I left it stupidly in a plastic bag so she thought it was garbage. On Gran Via we also did some compulsory Primark shopping and I must say this one was massive! As expected the queques were too long at the fitting rooms so we left empty handed. If you craving some nice viewing spots one can be found on Plaza de la Cibeles where you can pay 3 euros to go up on a roof of the local city hall. Another spot with a nice view for free is in a shopping mall El Corte Inglés in the middle of Gran Via (corner with Pl. Callao). You go upstairs into a caffeteria and you can either have a drink or just a quick peak at the city from their windows.
In the evening we went for a walk and ended up in Dubliner’s Irish Pub on Calle Espoz Y Mina where is many other pubs, bars and restaurants all around this area. From there we continued onto Sol where we bought some canned beer and sat on the ground watching local break dancers. They were very talented and with combination of many other people enjoying the vibe it had a great atmosphere. After the show everyone left quite quickly but we stayed sitting on the ground that was still warm from the sun during the day. Within couple minutes one very young girl with blue hair came to us asking whether she could join us as there is some guys hitting on her. She looked like a scared fawn so we couldn’t say no. Straight away she started to talk and smile – very cute, until I noticed all the guys around starting to be getting closer and closer and I though: ”It’s not gonna be as easy to protect this little lolita as I expected.” All of a sudden one teenage Pub Crawl hunter came over, exchanged two words with her and then they started kissing! I mean very passionately. I carefully tapped her leg asking if she knew him…she giggled and said: ”Yeah from yesterday, from the gay pride”. I felt old… And it was only the beginning because she pulled out speakers and in this tiny little ‘butt naked’ shorts started twerking! Full on butt cheek shaking! It was shocking yeah…we questioned our orientation….yep we did, for a second until her parents came over and dragged her home. : )
The last day we decided to take it easy. We started with a breakfast at a churros place on Pl. Jacinto Benavente. After that we walked to Atocha and from there to Parque del Buen Retiro. Massive and beautiful gardens with little pathways, fountains and architectural objects. There is a georgeous Monumento a Alfonso XII. by a lake where you can hire a little boat and enjoy the day in the sun. We also visited Palacio de Vélazquez and Palacio de Cristal where there were free exhibitions of current Spanish artists. In the afternoon we bought a bottle of Spanish wine, baguette, gazpacho, olives, pickled fish and much more yummy stuff from a local market and enjoyed our last night in a style at our hostel room.