James Went To Madrid

Gosh was it really 2 weeks ago?  Erm…gosh was it really 4 weeks ago?  That is assuming I actually finish this post tonight.  5 weeks…OK 6 weeks ago.  Definitely finishing it this time.

Can I actually remember any of Madrid?  Oh yeah, I went with my family.

The Why

My father suggested a family holiday a while back, in celebration of his retirement.  I think I was probably 16, maybe 17 when I last went on holiday with my family, and I stated that I would never again go on holiday with my family.

Well, I’ve gone back on quite a few things that I said when I was young.  I may not have been the source of genius and wisdom that I am now.

My Dad’s initial suggestion was Florence, but I was a bit hesitant as I’ve done Italy so much (I’ve since been told by several people that I really do have to go to Florence) and wanted to try going to different countries.

Like, erm, Spain.

I’m not quite sure how we settled on Madrid – I don’t think I suggested it, maybe I did, but I’ve long wanted to go there…at least since they renamed a square after Margaret Thatcher.

The Journey

Myself and my sister flew from Harrod’s airport, also known as Heathrow Terminal 5 with its array of super-expensive shops that common folk like me cannot even afford to step inside.

Curiously our flight wasn’t listed on the boards, though we were assured that the flight was on, just a little delayed.  So we settled down for a beer and a £10 sausage sandwich.  Yes £10 for a fucking sausage sandwich, I shit you not.  Though it came with a free cup of tea.  I don’t drink tea.

Our flight still didn’t display, but we eventually worked out that it was listed to fly 30 minutes later with a different airline and slightly different flight number, but at the expected time.  Cue a slight rush.

And an upgrade – we had booked with British Airways (or so I thought) but flew with Iberia, on a proper long-haul jumbo with super-comfortable seats, loads of space – and the best thing – €3.00 beers.

The Apartment

We were staying in an Airbnb.  Quite impressed that my parents were comfortable on not only Airbnb but also using Uber.  I booked the Airbnb.  Myself and my sister booked the Ubers.

The apartment itself was just a decently respectable place – albeit no plug for the sink.  Drama.

However it had a little sun-trap of a patio which was just beautiful to sit outside in.

The Start

We just looked for somewhere near our apartment to grab a bite to eat, and the small bars nearby were closed – it was mid-afternoon.

But we found this cheap and tacky locals place, sat in the sunshine and had some beer, and the world’s largest chorizo sandwich.  I was relaxed.  I was happy.

The City

I didn’t know what to expect as I was far too busy in the run-up to do any research at all.

What I found was a really busy city – lots of traffic for sure!  Everywhere there were lots of people, lots going on – people were excited.

Of course we were in some of the most tourist-central zones and it was not short of tourists, especially in the squares.  We also found ourselves there on Madrid marathon weekend, Spanish Cup Final weekend, and a fairly sizeable protest about justice.  It was so busy.

Which I love.  I love Spain anyway, but there was just such a good vibe, a real buzz about the place.

The Weather

We of course went to Madrid when it was much hotter back in England – at times we had warm sunshine, but not always.  On the Saturday, when we had our guided tour of Madrid, it was decidedly chilly – I was in Spain, and I was cold.  Yes, I was wearing shorts.

The Tour

Easily one of the highlights of the holiday was having a guided tour of Madrid.  Having done one in Sevilla, I now don’t think that I’ll ever go anywhere and not have a guided tour – and the one I semi-randomly selected, as there were almost as many tours as tourists, was brilliant.

Our guide imparted lots of history – especially with regards the previous kings of Spain, he was funny, with great historical facts and unusual anecdotes – a really well-designed tour.

I really felt like I got to know Madrid, and Spain itself.

The Taste Of Hell

On Sunday we went to this small version of hell, which was thousands of market stalls and millions of people.  Like a large version of Blackpool market – punctuated by a scattering of hot Spanish women.  Rosa – why the hell did you recommend that to me?!  What did I say to upset you?!!

The Food

Food was a bit hit and miss.  I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t like tapas as much as I thought.  Though on the first night we went to an excellent tapas place – guided by my personal Spanish tour guide.  The last night too, I had an awesome steak – and a real, proper restaurant experience.  I moan so often about the 12.5% service charge in London just for bringing my meal…this place was the definition of how to serve customers.  The steak itself was excellent, but it was all the extras that really made the experience.

At other places though, we had some distinctly average tapas.  And I had a disappointing meal one night too – for some reason I chose mini-burgers, and I don’t normally do burgers.  The bread was stale and I wasn’t amused.

The People

One of the reasons I love Spain so much is the people.  I remember when I went to Ibiza in 2004, DJ Mag had printed an Ibiza special issue, with an article “what annoys you most about Ibiza”.  Someone had said, “the fucking Spanish”.  I spent a fair amount of time watching someone go through 3 pallets worth of magazines, cutting the offending corner of said page out.  He finished by the end of our holiday – I gave him a little round of applause.

I, of course, love Spanish women.  I can listen to them roll their r’s all day and night.  But in general, I just love the passion and the friendliness of Spanish people – their excitement and lust for life.

One of my dearest friends happened to have moved to Madrid, and she introduced me to lots of her friends, who were all such nice and interesting people – proper well-rounded people that had stories to tell, yet were just genuinely lovely people.  And spoke English to me – I felt so humbled.

The Return?

Madrid was the kind of place, like London, where I could visit repeatedly.  I just enjoyed the vibe and the feel of the place.  There isn’t masses of things that you have to do, like say London or Paris, it is more just a place to go and enjoy life.  I could even live in Madrid – albeit not in July and August.

Of course, having a close friend there means there is extra reason to go visit – alas, I am not very good at visiting my friends…mainly due to financial constraints.  I’m sure I’ll get that pay rise one year.

And yes, I might even go on a family holiday again one time.

Next up – Vienna

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