We are really enjoying our time in Madrid. This is the third year that we have decided to ‘live like a local’ in a different European city.
2015 was Nice, 2016 it was Barcelona and 2017 Madrid.
The Madrid trip is about halfway though. It has been amazing and fantastic so far. We have done a huge amount of walking. My husband was pickpocketed in Week 2. Thank you Madrid Police for your amazing work! Our third week is about done, and it has been interesting in so many different ways. It would be so easy to make this a travelog, but part of my reason for spending time abroad each year, is to experience what it is to live like a local.
Independence for Catalan
This last week or two, there has been a huge amount of political discussion going on in Spain. I live in Scotland, which has had a few Independence referenda (or referendums) depending on whether you are a latin scholar, or not. As someone of Irish origin, married to someone of English origin, living in Scotland, we thought long and hard about whether we would/could/should support Scottish Independence. Having spent my working life in finance, for me the sums didn’t add up. I could understand the people who voted for independence with their heart, but for those voting with their head, the economics of independence just weren’t there. Maybe they will be in the future – who knows. The other big argument for me was being part of the wider European Community. Scotland’s position, post independence just wasn’t clear. I like being a member of Europe. Which itself has now proved interesting because Britain decided a year ago to exit Europe (Brexit), so one of the main reasons for voting No for independence has evaporated overnight! However, it was an uncomfortable
On October 1st 2017, residents in the Catalan part of Spain were to vote for Independence. Last week – it was declared that the vote would be illegal. Extra police from across the country were drafted in to Catalan (including Barcelona), to ensure people could not get access to the voting stations. To say that the country erupted is putting it mildly. Normally law abiding people occupied voting stations from last Friday on, so that they were in place to vote. They took gates off buildings so they couldn’t be blocked off. Tractors blocked roads. Hundreds of people were hurt in clashes between police and voters. Only 40% of the people were able to vote, and 90% voted for independence. The day before in Madrid, 100,000 people demonstrated to remain united. Being foreigners, and not listening to the spanish news, we weren’t aware of this until we saw huge numbers of people walking along draped in Spanish flags…. On Tuesday October 3rd, a day of action in Catalan was declared. The street where we stayed in Barcelona last year, was totally mobbed with 300,000 people. I was so glad we were not there just now. It would have been scary. Effectively we would just have had to stay indoors. For two nights running we have tried to understand the news on Spanish TV, and the speech initially on Tuesday night from King Felipe VI, and last night from the Catalan president. There have been calls for mediation – I hope they resolve the situation, although there will be no easy answer.
Where we have visited?
Our wonderful trip continues. In the centre of Madrid, there is a square – the Plaza Mayor. In the weeks we have been here it has been transformed several times. When we arrived, it was just a normal square, the 2nd week it was set up as a public concert area, then last week it had been grassed over with a 70m circle of real grass as part of a public art project for 4 days.
We haven’t been there since Sunday to see if it has reverted to normal yet. One of the benefits in living in a lovely climate is that these large outdoor spaces can be used without being concerned with rain!
We have been making use of our bus & metro passes to travel to the edges of the city and work our way back in again. Sometimes there is very little English spoken. We got caught out last week when we got cold tomato soup instead of the salmon as we were expecting (Salmorejo). However we have had some amazing food and well worth trying things outside our comfort zones. Both Madrid and Barcelona have great bread and serve one of my personal favourite dishes Patatas Bravas (Fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce). Best served with beer…. I had my first portion on Sunday – I lasted a whole 2 weeks!
Add into that, one of my favourite shops when I lived in Amsterdam, HEMA, is just up the road and I can satisfy my craving for Dropgums, which are half liquorice, half fruit flavoured gums. Lets just say that my low carb, low sugar diet has vanished. I am trying to limit the quantity and walk loads to offset the damage, or my trip to the hypnotherapist a few weeks ago will not work! (See my post on Bariatric / Gastric Band Surgery). Though strangely enough, I feel within myself that it will, as I feel more in control and not bingeing the way I might have before….
We have been exploiting all the different things we can do for free in Madrid (a subject for a post in its own right). Many museums are free if you choose your times carefully. Given we have 5 weeks in this city, and no demands on our time, we just flex our visits as required. We went to the Palacio Real on Tuesday afternoon after 4pm (free to EU citizens – they ask for ID!) Stunning. No photographs inside. but I took this one of the main stairs, while photographs were still allowed.
So far to date I have taken more than 800 photographs, everywhere I look there is some detail worthy of many photographs. From the lovely decorated tiles showing the street names
to interesting street lights.
They make the most of their space, with this lovely children’s playpark located between two streets right in the city centre.
In several places across the city, we have noticed park benches with pedals attached, to particularly encourage older people to keep moving. There are also wall panels for arm and hand exercises. Simple but effective.
How about this for serious vandalism deterrent. Cast iron barbed wire on a drainpipe at the church, Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida, where Goya is buried, and some of his stunning frescos. (Another free visit)
Our daily walking average is 13,000 steps. Not bad for a pair of retirees!
My Spanish while improving, still leaves a lot to be desired. Today someone disinfecting the building needed keys to something – I know not what – fortunately my neighbour was able to provide them! Google translate on my phone has been most useful! Many years ago when staying in France we had a similar situation. The delivery man wanted to replace the bed. It took quite a bit of work with a dictionary to make him realise he was in the wrong place….
Meanwhile, I am off out to make the most of this lovely weather, this lovely city, and improve my Spanish!
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