October last year saw the peak of our Granada days; the sun was still out, beach trips were still a regular thing, and I still had enough pesetas to carry on living la vida loca. Carys and I had decided it was time to be spontaneous again (the haircut thing hadn’t really gone to plan) and felt like a change in scenery would do us good, so we packed our bags and headed to la capital that weekend.
You would think that having been residents in Granada for a couple of months we would have accustomed ourselves to the way things worked in general; i.e. looking at a bus timetable doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be guaranteed a spot on that bus. Yeah, this is how you end up drunk at 1.a.m. on a five hour coach ride.
Venturing out of Andalucía was a bit weird; for one it was somewhere new – granted, I’ve been to Madrid before, but an afternoon spent in a shopping centre while waiting to go to Barajas airport doesn’t really count. Another thing is that a long distance journey on the road, no matter where the destination, will always involve two things: Haribo and insomnia. Arriving in Madrid at six in the morning was bizarre to say the least, and as we split up to get the metro to different friends’ places, exhaustion and sugar-lows hit.
Carys and I, smelly, drained, and delirious, were greeted at Puerta del Angel metro station by fabulous Fifi, our friend from uni at Portsmouth, who was also on placement. Unlike us lot based in Granada, poor Fifi had to get the metro to uni; to the centre; to anywhere which required more than a grocery shop. She and Alex, another of our uni friends, who was teaching English on her year abroad, were sharing a flat with a couple of other Erasmus students. So at half six in the morning us Pompey girls sat down in the kitchen with cuppas (naturally) and discussed how things were going so far for us on the year abroad.
El bueno, el malo y el feo:
- Turns out that people stare at you in Madrid too, in fact, it seems to be a national custom, so deal with it. Since our trip to the city I took a leaf out of Ali’s book: ‘stare right back’ – which made for an interesting experience on the Metro escalators…
- Although Fifi had to travel further for classes, at least she enjoyed them; apparently university in Madrid was organised, helpful, and actually doable, a phenomenon beyond mine and Carys’ comprehension.
- Language barrier was a popular topic – ‘it’s not perfect…I’m getting there…kind of – Booze seems to help.’
- Madrileños are a different type of person – you can’t be using that Andaluz accent round there; drop that ‘s’ and you’ll be losing you’re street cred.
- The Erasmus grant, as excessive as it seems, does not go as far in the capital as it does in the South; in fact, after a couple of days, we started to miss our beloved Granada (and the sound of leftover change).
- Overall we agreed on one thing. Spain>home. Spain IS home.
After our little catch up Carys and I passed out till the afternoon, when we thought it a good idea to actually explore the city a little. Forgetting it was getting on for winter and we were no longer in the sunny south, we found ourselves in the centre, donning summer dresses, complete with tights and jackets. We had clearly been thinking more ‘GIRLS WEEKEND AWAY’ than ‘the rest of Spain might not be as warm in October’.
When in the capital city, expect to pay those prices. Madrid reminded me a lot of London; the tube, the air of being superior; the ‘give-a-monkeys-I’m-better-than-you’ attitude. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as pretentious as I make it out to be, in fact, it has a lot to offer; and I’m not being funny but I’d choose a day out there rather than beating off crazed shoppers in Oxford St any day. Wandering around the Plaza Mayor and taking lots of standard tourist piccies, we noticed we weren’t the only ones. Madrid is important; it has an air of history and prestige about it, and richness in culture that would take more than a few days to truly experience. That’s the thing; it’s so big. We had a vague list of places we wanted to see while there, the Plaza Mayor, ‘that famous boat lake’ (Parque del Retiro), and Primark (you know, only if we were in the vicinity…). Turns out we weren’t, and time didn’t allow it in any case. Returning from our walk-about, we got changed and joined the girls for tapas in the evening, which turned into a night out on the town. Bearing in mind the next day we had a 3K colour run (which required us to be present at 9am), bar hopping may have been a rash shout. Nevertheless the tapas were lovely (if not a little expensive) and tequila always means a fun time…
After four hours sleep, Alex and Carys did the sensible thing and pied off the run, while Fifi and I (#survivors) made the mad decision to go ahead and catch an early (TOO DAMN EARLY) train to the race – which I should mention was nearer to the airport than the centre. In fact, it was on the bloody motorway, in the middle of bloody nowhere, that had been closed just for this event. To say I felt worse for wear was an understatement, but you don’t get to run around covered in paint everyday, so why not? After walking a ridiculous distance from the station to where it was all kicking off, we were given our T-shirts and paint, when we noticed a food/beerstall. I am a strong believer in hair-of-the-dog. Some Spaniards perhaps not, as was obvious from the shade being thrown. There was a bloke there dressed in a bright green Borat thong and a wig , so I figured that would give them something more interesting to look at. The Holi Run in Madrid was the first of its kind to take place in Spain, which made me feel a bit special; it was great fun, and I’d recommend it to anyone, to take place in any kind of event like this, especially if abroad. There was a Zumba workout before the run; music was blared at different stages throughout the race, where buckets of powder paint and people with paint guns sprayed colour everywhere and on anyone passing through. It was amazing, right up to the point where I was choking on paint. Getting home was… well, it looked like everyone had had a go at painting and decorating on the tube. Fifi and I were starving, so we headed towards the centre and found ourselves in a lovely little square. The really posh kind where you judge the price of restaurants by how nice the tables and chairs outside are. Sticking with a decision we sat outside one of them (OMG I REALLY HOPE THIS PAINT DOESN’T STAIN THE CHAIR) and the lady took our orders. Being amongst the masses of fellow runners I was not aware until up to this point of how covered in ALL-THE-FREAKING-COLOURS-OF-THE-RAINBOW-dust as I was. This aside, I didn’t feel too judged; obviously to hungry to care!
That night, despite being not-all-there due to lack of sleep, we carried on with the NON-STOP-GO-MAD-OR-GO-HOME mentality and went out again. The Granada boys who had made the trip to Madrid as well had gone to Kapital, one of the city’s most popular clubs, which, had it not cost 20 bob to go in, I would have gone – apparently they had a booth and vodka by the bottle… NEXT TIME. Instead, we had gone to Calle Huertas, a street lined with bars and ‘clubs’ typical of Madrid nightlife; loud music, crowds and shots. At one point I remember us being in a decent nearby club/bar – the entry was free, the bar was free (tinto and beer, but I’m not complaining!) and there was a Maccy Ds round the corner.
Madrid is beautiful, the night-life great, and the food, quality.
But I’ve been in the south too long. I refuse to PAY FOR TAPAS.