Saturday, 31 March 2018

4 days in Madrid

Before I start. Here's a funny thing. When we arrived in Japan a few months ago. My bags went missing and the airlines had to get them from Helsinki Airport to where we were staying in Takamatsu. Consequently I didn't have any clothes at all and Rachel, through a quirk of random packing, had no underwear and we had a buy a few things to get by for a few days. Move on two months and when we left there and arrived in Madrid I found that whilst I had packed our overflowing bags beautifully I had failed to check all the drawers and lo and behold I had left all of Rachel's underwear back in Japan. It's back to the knicker shop for us and just hope DHL work over Easter.  

So, Madrid. What a great city! Architecturally stunning, vibrant, cultured and busy. But this 4 day break during Easter came as a stark contrast to our lengthy stay in the quiet Spanish mountains and, more so, our sojourn into Japan. Our white-faced badge of difference has gone and we are but one of the many in this cosmopolitan place. Coming from the land of uniformity we are acutely aware of the huge variance of sizes, colours and personal features of the people. We seem to have forgotten how to walk busy streets as westerners. No longer do people flow around one another. Rather, they bump and jar. Attitudes to others are more careless here or rather less obvious. We can sense an underlying tension here that doesn't exist in Japan.  An energy among the thronging crowds that is quite palpable and feel more alive. You can almost taste it. I notice with surprise the many beggars and tramps sleeping in doorways. More than one, ironically, taking a rest from holding out a hand with a begging bowl to holding a large cup of Starbucks takeaway coffee.

Gran Via Madrid
Graffiti is everywhere -  spoiling walls, posts, railings and just about anything big enough to hold a pointless tag left by a thoughtless delinquent - quite frankly I don't give a fuck about whether some oik passed by or that the scrawlings are the 'visual outcry of the repressed'. I have never got graffiti. I do not find it 'cool' but rather it is aggressive, invasive and inconsiderate. To me - Banksy is Wanksy and our cities, underpasses and impossibly precarious patches of walls would be better off without airbrush vandalism.

Litter seems to be very popular in Madrid as well. It is everywhere and again comes as something of a shock after the sanitary streets of Takamatsu where the the 5 second rule could easily be extended to the 1 minute rule without fear of catching anything. But again that very thing that is negative makes the place feel more real. Don't get me wrong it would be better if the streets were cleaner and there was less debris but it sort of fits here.

The Puerto del Sol and the bear statue which is the centre of spain
We loved Madrid. It is a livable size with lots going on. We were near the Palace Real and hereabouts the countryside just suddenly starts. The grey turning suddenly green with the trees stretching away to the mountains in the distance. Still capped with snow and looking all majestic.

As usual we covered countless kilometres mooching about the city. Stopping here and there for a coffee, more often a beer and tapas but, most excitingly, for hot chocolate and churros. The chocolate so thick you were not sure if you were eating or drinking it. We people watched and especially enjoyed a group of prostitutes working a stretch of street - all sporting shiny lipstick, black leggings, huge shoes and, weirdly, never smiling.

I recall once seeing in Venice, whilst travelling by boat down the grand canal, a scaffolded building cloaked with a representation of what an eventually renovated building would look like. I thought that was impressive. But not a patch on the cloaking in Madrid which we encountered a few times. even close up the deception is remarkable. What a good thing though. To maintain the beauty of a place with such clever artifice. Sadly the authorities could do nothing to camouflage the wind damage caused in the city parks a few days earlier. Consequently they were all closed so we didn't get to see these apparently extensive and picturesque areas that make up a large amount of the city area.

Look closely at the picture. 90 percent of the
buildings are a facade

This weekend was Semana Santa (Easter) and therefore the whole city was rammed. We went to see one of the many processions going on in the town on Good Friday. It was in impressive...well, in the tourist brochure it was impressive. We were hundreds of people back from the point where the large religious artefact was carried pass. All we could see of the dozens of attendees dressed in black robes with black pointy ku klux klan stylee headgear was the tops of the hats and the artefact was sadly blocked by a wiggling 4 year old on her dads shoulders in front of me. But there you go. When Mr Jesus is in town on his big day there is bound to be crowds. 

World's most shit picture of a religious procession. You have to do the
'Where's Wally' thing to find the pointy hats of the pious
Besides graffiti and car park charges one of my great hates is queueing and it seemed that anywhere of import had people snaking out of doors and into the far distance. We therefore skipped the palace and the free evening opening of the Prado museum. We did opt for a look around the botanical gardens which had no queue and its not surprising why. Brown and a bit tatty sums it up admirably I think. Rachel likened it to a zoo we went to in India where all the animals were made of plastic. Except this wasn't funny, but then plants rarely are. Although Rachel did tell me a very funny plant joke:

A man walks past a fridge and thinks he hears some onions singing Bee Gee's songs but when he opened the fridge he discovered it was only the chives talkin'

Anyway well done Madrid. loved the tapas and the vibe so keep up the good work.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I went to Madrid and back in a weekend, saw industrial estate, airport and hotel room. Learnt Sabre set though. Rachel's one liner has been added to ADDucation's "best one liners" page with a credit to Rachel :)