Madrid: A tales of tapas and frozen peas.
With Lindsey, once more, with feeling.
Organizing a trip for two is not one of my best skills.
I'm so used to travel by myself that the whole "coordinated-actions" thing between two people is quite mysterious. Fortunately Lindsey knew me, so we were up and packed in time to get almost as early as I wanted (I'd rather get to airports/stations 6 hours before the departure, at least I can relax/sleep/read).
After saying goodbye to my good flat mate Rob, and printing some last minute documents for his short film, we soon got on the tube and then to Heathrow.
After a disgustingly overpriced breakfast (I wonder if those people at the airport making up the prices for a sandwich know the reality) we boarded our plane on our way to Madrid.
As soon as we landed in the great Barajas Airport just outside Madrid, I realized how hot the weather was around me. While Lindsey, being used to a much hotter South African climate, barely noticed, I found myself already thinking that the only summer shorts I had were those that I was wearing. Fortunately I had enough underwear and socks change for 3 days. Not many t-shirts though. This is way in the pictures taken in Spain I'm always wearing the same shorts.
The tube was not far away, and getting to our Hostel was quite easy.
Obviously after the luxury of Cornwall the hostel option was a bit of a letdown, but it was booked in advance. The hostels around the world usually are weird places: you meet people staying there months because they can't be bothered of finding another place to stay (like in London), you meet smelly people, weirdoes, artyfarty, poor eastern European tourists (or Italians pretending to be too poor to live the experience) and generally you stay in mixed rooms, girls and boys together.
So it was a surprise to me that actually the Barbieri Hostel was one of the better I've ever been. Probably it was because of the low expectation, or my past experience, but the hostel was in the centre of the town without being too pricey (20 minutes walk from everything), was incredibly clean, had great shower/bathroom facilities, a nice living room, and no curfew.
Compare it to any hostel in Bayswater and you wonder how come that London beat Madrid and Paris to host the 2012 Olympics Games.
After unpacking in a 6 beds room (with 3 girls, and a Peruvian) we walked to explore the area, around Chueca tube station. The sun was mercilessly beating on our heads, and for a while I thought I had some hallucinations seeing so many guys wearing campo outfit and kissing or hugging each other. Soon I realized that we were in the middle of the gay area.
Like any other alpha male I know, my response to the acts around us was to run away with Lindsey, steadily holding her hand to strongly define my sexuality and kissing her at every corner and get as far as possible.
We arrived at the Plaza Mayor, where we had our first experience with the Madrid tapas. They were a bit pricey, but the portion, compared to the ones I had in Barcelona, were so big that we barely finished the food. The food was spoiled by the terrible singer trying to raise some money by destroying the only songs she knew: La Bamba, Volare and the Gipsy Kings hits...
With our bellies fully packed, we walked randomly and we reached the Almudena Cathedral and the Spanish version of Buckingham Palace: the Palacio Real. The flag was up so I assumed that the king was home. Or maybe they have different customs.
The sun was slowly starting to say goodbye, creating long shadows giving the whole place a strange feeling.
We quickly got back to the hostel, and then explored the bars around the area. This is one of the few advantages of being in the gay area: you know the bars are going to be cool. And with a girl with me, I didn't feel too uncomfortable ordering some cocktails.