It’s incredible how an attitude towards a city completely changes between arriving and leaving. Upon arriving in Madrid, the stark contradiction to Cádiz, felt slightly colder and less friendly. But upon wheeling my suitcase to the train station, it felt like leaving a second home. Madrid was full of delights, beauty, culture, half-reasonable coffee and history.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, and largest city has impressive culture and architecture, filled with plazas, palaces, museums, monuments, but to be honest the most impressive landmarks were the parks. Walking through the parks made me question why parks such as Central Park are so famous when El Parque Retiro remains unfamiliar to most. Parque de El Retiro was HUGE, with the crystal palace, rose garden and pond where you can hire boats and paddle with the music playing in the air. It was so beautiful I returned later that afternoon during a run and witnessed more rollerskaters I have seen in my life practising, learning, teaching. It was a stunning little community vibe with people from all walks of life, doing all sorts of activities, it was awesome. I didn’t necessarily do a lot of the touristy stuff in Madrid, I enjoyed wandering and getting completely lost, finding small narrow streets, vintage and original stores, unique cafes and hidden greenery in the grand city.
El Templo de Debod was an ancient Egyptian monument located in the centre of Madrid. Unfortunately, it was closed for construction, but it’s still beautiful from the outside, and an incredible spot to watch the sunset from! There was a duet playing music for about two hours straight, including a bit of Vance Joy, a well-received taste from home! Afterwards I dragged some friends from the hostel along to dinner, which happened to be at 11pm (will never get over this), at a lovely restaurant called “Ástor Gastronomy”. It was here that I had my first taste of Vermut, and one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Spain too- plus it was super cheap! I have already, and will continue, to highly recommend!
Next day, Palacio Real Madrid, simply the most incredible Royal Palace of Madrid! I was unable to take a lot of shots inside the Palace, but it was absolutely incredible, with each room decorated to the nines!
When I arrived in Madrid, I was hard-craving vegemite. I have no idea why, potentially mild homesickness, potentially too much alcohol over the last month. But I got on the web and looked up on the “Aussies in Madrid” blogs, that the main international food store (other than the asian grocers) stocked VEGEMITE. So. I had a look at the map, and as I had been on a train for four hours, decided that a stroll through town (1.5hour stroll) would take me there. BUT. Shock horror, they did NOT stock vegemite, and to my utter dismay, I left empty handed. (To be honest I should have bought some peanut butter or something, because I cannot for the life of me find any other condiments that are not sweet in Spain!!!) I DID however, stumble (and by stumble I mean typing into google “Australian Café, Madrid”) across the café “Federal Café”, where I spent a couple of hours recovering from a late night whilst drinking coffee and drawing. BUT GUESS WHAT!? They had VEGEMITE!!! So I satisfied my cravings briefly with some vegemite toast. Happy little Vegemite.
Along my gigantic walk, I did get to see La Plaza del Toros, or the bull fighting ring! No, I did not go to a bullfight, I don’t believe watching bulls tortured and slaughtered in front of me is my cup of tea, but it is an interesting part of the Spanish culture nonetheless. I did navigate the public transport system to return to the hostel, which was super user-friendly!
Calle Gran Vía, or the shopping street, was packed with people and shops, including a very overwhelming FIVE STOREY PRIMARK. I stepped foot in for approximately five seconds and swiftly left. I simply HAD to stop in at Chocolatería de San Gines, the place where CHURROS WERE INVENTED!!! And I actually got a different treat called purras, essentially giant churros, and didn’t even feel a little bit guilty, just a little sick after too much chocolate.
As a serious coffee lover, there was no question of finding and enjoying a coffee in the oldest cafe in Madrid! On my last day, I was sitting in “Cafe Comercial”, which was established over 130 years ago, BEFORE Australia was declared an official country. I simply could NOT comprehend it. But the coffee was damn good.
With my sneaky un-expired Australian student card, I gained discounted entry to the Museo del Prado. Which was awesome, but at the same time had me asking, ‘who decides what deserves to be in here, on which walls. Who decides what is classified as art, let alone good art?’. There were plenty of Goya, Velázquez, El Greco paintings (which were all a little creepy and distorted), but my favourites were some of the Mariano Fortuny paintings; “Painter’s children in the Japanese room”, “Th Garden of the Fortuny residence”, the Martin Rico paintings; “The Riva Degli Schiavoni in Venice”, “Doorway of a house in Toledo”, and some of the Genero Pérez Villamil and Juan Bautista Maino pieces. They were of course paintings with more colour and vibrancy compared to some of the other traditional, religious pieces. I have learnt that Rubens absolutely loves his nudes and baby angels and while they claim to have works by Caravaggio, they actually only have one. Interestingly, amongst the Goya paintings in the upstairs section, hangs a painting by the name of “Blind Man’s Buff”, where you can see the smaller initial sketch of the larger painting (which was still amazing), but you can see alterations in the official painting, where Goya removes one of the characters; you can still see the face he decided to erase in the finished piece. You can see some of the pieces if you’re super interested on the website of the museum here: https://www.museodelprado.es/en.
Madrid was incredible, and I’m lucky that I get to return a few times here and there in the next few months!!!