Driving from Portugal through to Spain, I noticed a change in the scenery. The land was a little different but mostly it was the housing and building designs that changed the most. Men with pot bellies rode their horses along the roadside past little Spanish farm houses. Large birds of prey circled high in the sky, and cattle grazed beneath them. Fields of wild flowers of vibrant reds, yellows, purples and white were mixed with one another on the side of the road.
Siesta and Fiesta are very much the Spanish way. Shops close in the afternoon for a couple of hours so that the locals can eat, drink, and nap; then after work, a late dinner, more drinks and partying take place. The Spanish also have a saying that means “worry about it tomorrow”, and generally the locals seem merry.
Upon arrival in Madrid we did a quick driving tour through the city with a few main sites and key places to visit pointed out. We checked into our hostel and walked into town for our group dinner. The place we ate dinner at was a bull fighting bar and live bull fights were on the televisions screens. Old black and white photos of photos of bull fighting along with mounted bulls heads lined the walls. Locals sat at the bar and watched the fights while we all averted our eyes from the screens. It really is barbaric, and no more than a slow and painful, torturous death for the Bulls in the arena as people cheer the Matador.
I understand that it is a part of Spanish culture, but at the same time, there needs to be more respect for the Bulls life than what is given currently. As someone who won’t even visit a zoo, it certainly wouldn’t be a restaurant I would support if given the choice.
After dinner a small group of us went to a local bar that has 100 types of sandwiches, and cheap sangria. We had a few Sangrias (which have different ingredients here to Portugal) and then to our hostel bar for their Karaoke night. I learned how to say “No hablo espaniola” (I don’t speak Spanish) and used it quite a lot.
There was a young girl in a traditional Spanish outfit who was there with a group of friends. Most of the karaoke was in Spanish as they danced and sang and it was very lively. I danced with her and chatted briefly, and she told me it was her birthday. It was a fun night and I took myself to bed around 1am.
The next day was very relaxed. A few of us wandered the streets and shops, looking at some of the sights that were pointed out to us, and we jumped on the hop on, hop off bus tour around town. We went to the La Latina district for tapas lunch which was expensive but delicious, and I had the best Pina Colada I’ve ever tasted.
We wandered the food markets and drooled over the delicacies on offer, and I had a Spanish spiced vermouth drink which was very interesting, while the others had a sangria.
We toured some more on the hop on/off bus and then walked up through some of the newer district of Madrid.
We noticed the men were all impeccably dressed all through Madrid, with many being in suits and ties. Also that the Spanish are in love with ice cream and frozen yoghurt, with shops for both everywhere, and always busy. A lot of beggars were still on the streets, many of whom were disfigured in some way, or women of Asian/middle eastern descent. There were a large number of illegal “market” sellers with their items for sale on a blanket that they bundle up and run with when the police come along. We saw a lot selling, and a few running throughout the course of the day. Street sellers also approach you constantly offering handbags or “designer” sunglasses or other wooden basket like objects. They approach you anywhere but often while you’re eating or drinking in cafes or markets, or stopped in the main square of town. I also noticed there were a lot of blind people around Madrid, walking with canes, or guides (only one with a dog) but that it was an unusually high amount of blind people to see in one city in one day (probably 5 or 6 different people at different times and areas of the city). We were also approached by 2 gypsy thieves, who tried to give us flowers for an upcoming festival in the town square, we refused but they became forceful, trying to shove the flowers in our hands or down our tops, and then ask for money (1c) for it. Really though, they were trying to see what we had in our bags/ where our money was, and use the flower as a distraction to take our belongings. Luckily we knew what they were up to and held onto our things, and managed to get away.
After walking around more and seeing some more local sights, like the local council building with their “welcome refugees” banner hanging proudly, or the Egyptian monument atop the hill that was gifted to Spain as a thanks for their assistance, we then headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. We had intended on rowing boats on the lake but ran out of time wandering around, and opted not to do any of the museums, although that is a main feature of Madrid.
We walked back to the La Latina district to go “Tapasing”, where you bar hop and order a tapas each, share it, and a drink, and then move onto the next bar and do the same. We started this around 8pm which is at the earlier end of dinner time for the Spanish, but after eating at similar times in Portugal, I was beginning to adjust. It was pricey but lovely, and after a couple of places some of the guys had to watch their € while the boys complained it wasn’t enough food, so we split and I finished off with Paella and another cocktail, before meeting back up everyone for a final sangria. Most stayed out to continue shopping, drinking and possibly heading to a nightclub, while one other and I
I found a GF cupcake place along the way and grabbed some to take away with me. I ate them over the next 3 days. The red velvet was the standout winner but they were all good!
Overall it was a relaxed day of beautiful sunshine, great tapas, great cocktails, and great company.