4 days in Madrid
29.09.2009 - 03.10.2009 23 °C
I had stayed the night in Madrid once and seen Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia museum and I had used the airport as a start to seeing points west. We had changed planes there en route to Lima. That was it though - and the desire to see more of Madrid was growing on me.
Add to that a flight from Liverpool return for under £50 and how could I have turned down the opportunity? I know that I am not a city animal and I took the trouble to discover how to have a day out in the country. Then I obtained advice from friends on what I should definitely see, what I should try to see and what to forget.
In short: the first day I spent largely getting an overall impression by hopping on and off the Madrid Vision tourist buses. It was pleasing to get half price as an ancient - I think they called it something a bit more polite. I wish they would change there name for the disadvantaged - I guess they don't know the impression non-Spanish people get from the term 'menos validos.'
I found it difficult to relate Madrid to other European capitals I had seen. For some reason it seemed mor like London than do Paris, Rome, Brussels, Stockholm, Helsinki, Lisbon, Prague or Oslo. Possibly it is the squares that are more reminiscent of London squares - but in the end it is Madrid. I don't want to get into the rather arid debate of which is best of Barcelona and Madrid - I suspect it would always be the one I had seen most recently - but it would seem odd if the capital of Spain were a city in which Castillian Spanish was not the native language.
I'll have more to say about specific places on other pages but I make two general remarks here.
1. Let's get the bad one (from a visitor's perspective) out of the way first. Obviously roads have to be repaired and, equally obviously, that is bad for traffic. However the volume of obras in the centre of Madrid was far and away greater than anything I have seen anywhere else - ever! Do they avoid them in the blazing hot and freezing cold months or was it just a historical curiosity.
2. Now for the unexpected good thing. I was amazed by the attitude towards myself that I found in bars crowded with young people. I ave more than once been made mightily unwelcome and felt the need to leave quickly in this country. There I was found a seat - nearly as rare as hens' teeth! - without ever asking - in more than one bar and real people in their 20s and 30s were more than ready to converse.