Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thoughts on Madrid

Busy, but not like London. But the usual organised convention of walking down a street or mall is thrown out the window in Madrid. The Spanish like to strrrrolllll.... And right across in front of you. At any moment, you have to dodge, duck, dive, weave Or just stop because you can't keep walking. Anywoo...

Smoke. Everyone smokes in Madrid, i mean everyone. Policia, road workers, school teachers taking their class on a weekend excursion. I swear i saw a little shitsu lighting up a Camel on the walk from Sol to Opera. It's quite incredible, though i guess a sign of my age as my fellow elder travellers probably remember a day and age when such levels of tobacco consumption were commonplace in Sydney and indeed London. I assume it's a European thing, have been told Paris is no better. Ho hum.

Dogs. Speaking of canines, they're everywhere! Not only did i see a smoking dog, but there was one as a guard on the Metro!! I mean he could've been a guard if he could speak Spanish. I confused him for a guard at first because he was dressed. The dogs are dressed in Spain. And the people like to dress more formally too. Tourists stick out like abnormally large dogs bollocks because we dress so casually. Everyday Spanish folk like slacks and jackets, blouses and heels. Odd. And it clearly gets hot in Madrid, we were wondering around in 23C and the only ones in shorts and t-shirts.

It was lively at night in our area (Opera/Puerta del Sol). Plaza Mayor was nice, great architecture. Food was a little more than i was expecting in price, though we don't usually go out for meals in London and i think i was overestimating the Euro so it wasn't that bad. Paella is really just a risotto bunged in the oven at the end to crisp up the top. Though i had a good one at lunch on our last day. Our first lunch consisted of some excellent Tapas, though i think it was just some share plates of food not unlike i'd seen before, maybe done a little differently, i'm yet to see what Tapas actually is....

Beer. Spanish beer is outstanding, each one i had just hit the spot. Crisp, light, cold and bloody good. Craps on London beer. The only English beer i like (so far) are northern dark ales like Newcastle Brown Ale and Theakston's Old Peculier. Irish beer is great of course, Guinness, Kilkenny and Caffrey's. I think the Spanish beers are mostly Pilsners, perfect for quenching a tourist's thirst.

Toledo was excellent, pity we only had a few hours up there. 2 nights would have been great to get all around. Spain is a very Jesus-y country, he's gotta be making some serious dough on the merchandising rights... We found it slightly amusing that we were drinking German beer, in an Irish pub in Spain. The narrow streets Beth tells me, could easily have you believe you were in Italy. Same for Madrid, little restaurants and shops hidden away from the main drag.

El Escorial (photos up soon) was great too. We went through the grand royal palace, though weren't allowed into the actual royal part of it. We saw King Philip's bedroom where he died (charming) and the rooms full of tapestry (more Jesus-y) and the paintings (yep, alllllll Jesus-y) but when we tried to follow the steps down into the interesting stuff, we were called back up. The language barrier got the best of us and we left. Shame. We walked around the grounds and gardens and i got some ok shots there, but we were a bit disappointed. Luckily we beat a group of 6,000 Boy (some girl) Scouts back to the train.

We found a huge park a little east of our Hostel. Probably the largest park i've been in ever actually, it had a lake where we could hire a boat to row. We did that on Bethie's birthday which was fun (dodgy mobile-phone photos to come) and happened to be in the background of a film at the same time. If you seen a Spanish film where this guy clobbers this woman with an oar and she falls into the water, look out for the bright yellow/orange t-shirt in the background. Ahh the hilarity...

On the walk back from this park we came across the Prado and Thyssen museums and thought we would use our last day in Spain to visit those. No dice mac, closed on Mondays. DOH! Guess we'll have to go back to Madrid...

I'll add any other bits i've forgotten, but that was pretty much our time in Madrid. Most folks were friendly and were patient with our broken Spanish. Some knew English but i do advise learning a few words. Manuel sends his regards...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pictures of Spain

I'll write a bit of an essay on Spain soon, but here's some images that i've processed so far. I've got nearly 200 that i'm pleased with, i won't post all of them here though.

Enjoy. We did.

Opera, Madrid.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid.

Sol, Madrid.

The Royal Palace, Madrid.


German beer, in an Irish pub, in Spain!

Amigos in Puerta del Sol, Madrid.

B1 and B2

B... 1, i guess ;)

Old home, El Escorial. Though it feels very Led Zeppelin IV... "If there's a bustle in your hedgrow, don't be alarmed now. It's just a spring clean for the May Queen..."

Thanks for checking these out. More to come, stay tuned :)