Touching down in Madrid after nearly a 7hr bus ride from my humble Lugo in the North, and rolling my luggage around aiming to find the Metro after 9 at night, just a couple days before Xmas, frankly was a pain in the ass. Yes the streets were busy with cars and people, and the hustle of all those traveling to Madrid by bus for the holidays was evident at the station, but the real reason why it sucked, was because I had OVERPACKED!
Who me? Pack a lot for a 2 week trip to another city in España? But it’s not even a trip Abroad, or a long-term trip, or anything like that. Didn’t matter.
Truth is, I had packed more for two weeks in Madrid, than for my two week turned 1 month adventure throughout México. Whoops!
I feared that I wouldn’t be prepared for Madrid’s Cold, or for having to dress up for Xmas Eve, Xmas Day, New Years Eve & New Years Day, and maybe even A NIGHT OUT in the Capital City. I mean shit, I haven’t dressed up much at all in Lugo, as I have mostly tried to survive Autumn’s COLD and a few days of start of Winter, this fog-crazy city that chills my bones in the literal sense.
Anyways, I arrived tired, had too much stuff and the bags were awkward to carry and heavy. . . so I took a TAXI to my destination. I now regret this decision, as I DID NOT REALIZE that the Mendez Álvaro bus station was in the very south of Madrid, and my host’s home in the Absolute North of the City. Add to that holiday traffic on the roads, and you got yourself a 23 EURO taxi ride, about half the cost of my bus ticket to Madrid. OUCH! It hurt. I intended to be on some sort of BUDGET whilst spending the holiday in Madrid, but you know what, it’s all a part of the LEARNING EXPERIENCE. I’m a frequent traveler, but Europe is a whole other world for me. I’m learning the ropes. I’m spending EUROS these days, and what I expect to be affordable like a bus ticket or cheese, are surprisingly more expensive than I remember (I was last here in 2008). And something like coffee and alcohol are generally CHEAP here. . . so bring on the Caffeine and a good Siesta/Anytime Buzz!
Times have changed, but I’m not sure MADRID has changed much from the way I remember it. Here are a few of my observations:
MADRID IS SOCIAL!
Sí claro/But of course. What do I mean by this? A meal eaten, una caña (beer) o copa de vino bebida without the accompaniment of the Laughter and Gossip of friends and family in your pub/cafe/cervezería of choice, maybe even paseando por la noche to appreciate all of Madrid’s Magic as the city’s calles and plazas are completely LIT UP with a Holiday Gusto, ALL FEEL A BIT LACKING WITHOUT SOMEONE TO SHARE THESE MOMENTS WITH.
I did the best I could, flying SOLO in the city (except for the holidays 24th-25th and 31st-1st which I spent with an amazing FAMILIA ESPAÑOLA. . . I’ll explain later). I even contacted some friends of friends to make tentative plans for a meal, drinks, or a night out, and most of these plans fell through. People are busy with family and friends during these times; its completely understandable. The biggest bummer of my whole trip was not getting to see my SEÑORA ESPERANZA, my Spanish Mamá from when I studied here in 2008. We had talked just before I was to take a bus to Madrid and we were going to get together during my stay. I was to call her once in town. I called her almost daily, and received her voicemail each time. I know she planned to do some traveling with friends just after Christmas, so we likely just missed each other this time around. SAD!!!! I wanted so much to see her and reminisce a bit about years past and my youth as a 20 year old in MADRID with bright eyes for Europe. I wanted to hear about her adventures in the recent years, as she’s retired now and is quite a traveler herself. I had hoped to re-connect. I will just have to return to see her in Madrid in the coming months. Venga! Ala!
CHRISTMAS SEASON MEANS PACKED STREETS, TONS OF TOURISTS & TOO MUCH SHOPPING
Since I was rediscovering Madrid all over again, getting re-acquainted with the METRO (public transport which I love),
trying to find diverse/unique cafes, juice bars, pastelerías, restaurants and shops, I found myself getting swallowed often by the waves of people (both local Madrileños y extranjeros) who were rushing around to see the sites and spend PASTA (slang here in España for Money), mucha PASTA! I didn’t mind being one head in a sea of people, but when entering some stores, it felt more like I was going to war. Quick movements of limbs hitting me from all sides, I really couldn’t protect myself or my personal space. . . and then there were the long lines of warriors heading into battle (toward the Register to pay), and me trying to escape to the nearest exit. I didn’t know Europe was as bad as the U.S.A. during this time. I avoid shops in California for weeks before Xmas, notoriously packed and all around UNPLEASANT TO BE IN during the holidays. I will say, Madrid, you are up there with the best of the worst of them. I opted to retreat to every and any Local Café or Bar during the holiday in this city.
That HECTIC energy of a Desperate Shopper is not my cup of tea, nor does it put me in the Holiday Spirit. But people-watching in cute barrios like CHUECA, TRIBUNAL & MALASAÑA does, a Mecca of endless cafés and the like revealed.
Visit the café/bar CHARLOTTE in Tribunal/Gran Via area for yummy coffee or a stiff drink, or a Combo of both. I couldn’t pass up the Irish coffee they offered. They even lit mine on fire in the process. Slurp!
In Chueca, I highly recommend FIT FOOD for all things Healthy including juices, desserts, teas, etc. . . . a great selection of healthy products you can purchase to-go also, like Coconut Oil, chia seeds (I could go on forever like a Nerd about this, sorry I get excited about these things). I stocked up on Tea Packages to take back with me to Lugo.
If its American or Mexican products you wish for, TASTE OF AMERICA might be your jam, also in Chueca. This place sells cereals, candies, and a bunch of other “american” products not readily found in Spain. I only looked on from the window with a LONGING for all things that make my tongue burn and nose run from the PICANTE. Aye! Too bad it was closed when I passed by. I wanted to return to buy some CHOLULA Salsa, but alas, never made it back. Next time!
I enjoyed a yummy Tarta de Manzana a la mode with Vanilla Ice Cream at MÉRIMÉE in Tribunal. . . and Wifi and Wine at the trendy BICICLETA CAFÉ in Malasaña. I went there for coffee on a late night and was bummed they were no longer serving any. But that’s one interesting thing about Madrid/España; Cafes are also bars that are also cafes that are also places for tapas/food. Get used to it. It’s just how they do things here. Instead of coffee, I had white wine and a vegan dessert in this crowded spot, with Bicycle Aficionados and “guay” Madrileños who need to drink. I dug it. I can return to try their coffee next time. Maybe I’d even rent a bike in the city and return in style (many public bike rental spots now exist throughout Central Madrid! Exciting and I will have to ride one).
***SIDE NOTE: Nobody is giving me anything to TALK ABOUT these spots in Madrid (Although they are welcome to. A girl needs to eat!)
In fact, I’m not even telling you to go to these places that were my choices and discoveries. What I am telling you is to EXPLORE!
Get lost and find places!! Most of my favorite places in Madrid were found by wandering the streets and stopping in. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
THE CHARM OF QUAINTER STREETS, ALLEYS AND A LESSER KNOWN MUSEUM WAS PREFERABLE
Architecture talks here. The ironwork, touches of color on classic-style buildings, and of course, Nature interacting with its ominous branches and Autumn painted leaves hoping to fall soon had me snapping my camera. CHARM CHARM & LOVELY SIGHTS TO SEE.
I had much more fun looking around and taking it all in than any minute spent in those crowded shops. I especially liked how the bare or brown-leafed trees helped reflect the season. Remember folks, much of Southern California where I’m from remains noticeably unchanged during the autumn/winter months. This was a treat for me!! I also happened upon the Museo de Historia de Madrid in Tribunal, where I spent a few hours learning about this city’s complex history stemming back centuries. This museum was FREE, there was NO LINE & I really think it was a treat. If you like history it’s got plenty for you. Here’s a teaser photo of the boy that stole the show in my opinion . . .
VISITA EL PARQUE DEL BUEN RETIRO, EXPLORATION & STREET ART
“El arte duerme en los museos. Los artistas sobreviven en la calle.” – MADRID STREET ARTIST
The first place I set out to see in Madrid on my own, on a lovely DOMINGO (Sunday), was the ever popular PARQUE DEL BUEN RETIRO. You really cannot go wrong if you visit. If the sun is out and for the most part it was this day, then people fill the park with their energy. Families, couples, locals, foreigners, visitors, artists, musicians, vendors (selling mainly those cursed Selfie sticks) all come together here in this gorgeous park to pass the time, exercise & explore. I was inspired to photograph mainly in black and white, which I never do. I love color; I live for it. Though, Black and White is so classic and allowed me to experiment this day. In black & white I saw the people better somehow. I saw scenes play out. . . and saw people whose stories I could imagine at will.
Y AHORA, MADRID EN COLOR!!
Just for fun: A THROWBACK TO MY ROOMIES AND I VISITING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2008
THE WORLD RENOWNED MUSEO DEL PRADO WON ME OVER IN THE END
It’s not a big shocker that this Museum kind of stole my heart, at times. Diego Velazaquez’s works especially moved me and some of Goya’s pieces too. NO FOTOS allowed inside though so you’ll just have to go and see them for yourself. I am going to write a separate Post with information on the 2 MUSEUMS I visited in Madrid, some of their treasures (in my opinion) and also a few limited exhibitions that were inspiring to me. I will also show you some of the other neighborhoods where I saw a bit more touristy things and some of the Tapas I tried in the city.
UNTIL THE NEXT ONE, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016!
More to come on Madrid and an unexpected trip to Málaga for New Year’s Eve/Day.