Sadly our trip to Madrid has come to a close. We were really spoiled. The sun shone every day. Only in the last 24 hours did we get any rain. For someone who has lived in Ireland and Scotland, I think that is the longest I have ever gone without seeing rain. The reason Scotland and Ireland are very green, is because it rains regularly. I can understand why the ground in Madrid is pretty parched, except where it is evidently continuously watered.
I am a great fan of Slow Travel. With several weeks in one place, you get to really know a city, understand a bit more about it, and relax. You are not packing up every day or two. You are not rushed. You start to get to know the locals around you and at least make eye contact and say Hi (or rather Hola…) You have time to find lovely spaces off the tourist routes, that only locals know about.
It was our 39th wedding anniversary on 7th October. Long service medals to say the least! Our son and daughter-in-law made a quick trip from London to spend the weekend with us. It was great to see them and be able to spend some time with them, because we haven’t seen then since July. Being in Madrid, in such glorious weather, the only certain thing, was that at some stage, tapas would be involved.
We started the day with breakfast in a local cafe, and partook of some churros and chocolate. Delicious if calorific. Churros, for many Madrilenos, are often an early morning snack after a night partying! However as my days of 3am partying are past, they work for breakfast too… After our carb loaded breakfast, we wandered into Puerta del Sol, we gave the ‘kids’ basic directions and sent them off to have a day in Madrid. While it would have been tempting to spend the whole time with them, I wanted them to be able to create their own memories of this lovely city.
Meanwhile we decided we would get a bus across to the west of the city, and wander through the huge Parque del Oeste. So we headed off to get the No 46 bus. It was not to be however, because as we approached the bus stop, we realised there was a demonstration in progress, and all the traffic was stopped. They were demonstrating on behalf of Spanish Unity, in response to the ones taking place in Catalonia in support of independence.
When we all met up again, the ‘kids’ had eaten some tapas, nobody was particularly hungry, so we decided that rather than go out for a major meal, we would go to one of the local cafes and have more tapas! A great idea. As evening fell, we were to be found sitting outside, talking, laughing and sharing Patatas Bravas (my favourite), some lovely cured Iberian jamon, and some croquettes. Not to mention some delicious bread. A lovely memory.
Our final visitors were my husband’s sister and her friend arrived. Her friend is half Italian and an amazing cook, so I knew we would have a couple of great meals ahead of us, and indeed we did! Several nights, we just sat out on the terrace as the sun went down, with some fresh cooked food, some wine and put the world to rights.
The high points of our trip
- we were surprisingly active. My pedometer showed that our daily average of 14,000 steps. (5 miles / 8 km). Very respectable. Even better, on my return, the scales showed that I hadn’t put any weight on. (My husband can’t say the same!)
- Madrid is really easy to get around. Most things are an easy walk away from each other.
- There are many things to do and see. We only did the same things a couple of times, and that was to take our guests around
- The food is amazing. See below one of the many plates of Patatas Bravas consumed by yours truly!
- The locals are all so very friendly.
- We effectively got most of our years entertaining done over the 5 weeks. It was easy for everyone. We all got to experience somewhere new.
Madrid – a city of contrasts
- It is the third city we have spent an extended time in, but it is the first city that we have said (several times) – we could live here. We felt very much at home.
- Madrid has plenty of tourists. However, the difference between Madrid and Barcelona & Nice is that many of the tourists are Spanish. Hence as an English speaker, once I was off the main tourist streets, I heard very little English spoken. It is also off the ‘cruise ship schedule’ being far inland, so the city does not get swamped by vast numbers of tourists who are only there for a few hours
- Shopping is very different. Rather than rows of international shops – on many streets, even tiny ones, there was a real mix of types of shops. You might have a designer shop next to a small bakery or bookshop. Many of the shops were independent, rather than big chains.
- There were many, many parks. From the big El Retiro, to small local parks that we stumbled on. We found several large parks where there were only a few people wandering around. There was one very close to where we stayed, the Plaza Olavide. It had a lovely children’s park, many seats in both shade and sun, a fountain and the park was surrounded by lovely cafes. Something for everyone. The area had a lovely family atmosphere.
- The metro was not busy. Even at what might be considered rush-hour. Virtually none of the squash of a major city underground transport system. Also it was extremely clean. Warning though – the metro is not very wheelchair friendly. Only some of the metro stations have lift access, and there is often a gap between the platform and the train. The buses however are all wheelchair accessible.
- The city is for all ages, and styles. A lot of young families live in the city centre in apartments. Also many older, less able people live in the city. So everywhere you see a variety of ages, from people pushing babies, to people helping (very well dressed) older Madrilenos have tapas in the sun. Older people are evidently treated with respect!
- Time is not so important. All generations are often to be found at a table, making a coffee last an hour, talking, greeting friends as they walk by. Even when people are standing waiting for a table, no-one is rushed away, as would certainly happen in the UK. When we were waiting, just as you would think a table would be coming free, another 4 people arrive to join the group, more chairs are found, the party expands and your hopes of a table are dashed!
- It is a city of lazy starts for some businesses, but early starts for those who need access on narrow streets. The city is alive into the early hours, as even our quiet residential street showed.
- Madrid is obviously a wealthy city in many places. The quality of the shops and the clothes worn by all ages show that. However, there are also a huge number of beggars, and people sleeping rough. There have to be many hundreds, if not thousands. I don’t know the solution….
For me, Madrid would appear to have achieved a lovely balance between busy, bustle, work, leisure, deadlines, all ages living contentedly together. There is even sympathy for those begging, it is the Madrilenos who reach into their pocket and give a few coins to the beggars, the tourists generally ignore them.
A great city, I can’t wait to spend some time there again.
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