Madrid was full of looking at amazing food and a walking tour designed to squash as much information as possible into our heads.
Madrid is not full of old, opulent buildings except for the old royal palace. Modelled on Versailles, I can say with assurance it’s very impressive from the outside
We spent a lot of time walking around the city but, after 6 months of museums in my case; 3 weeks for my sister and for my mom 8 weeks free of city crowds, no one felt like visiting a museum (not even a museum of ham)
My sister and I started off by figuring out the bus to town and taking a ride on the gondola from oeste park
it was a fun (and cheap) to ride over the trees ending up in the middle of the largest park in the city. After Barcelona even this touristy attraction felt wonderfully calm. We walked through the park a bit admiring the different trees and trying to spot parakeets and parrots in the foliage.
(these guys have excellent camouflage)
We returned on the gondola to the city for some authentically terrible diner food. I won’t go into too much detail (fries should not taste like fish) but it appears being choosy about where to eat is actually necessary.
We made up for it the next day by buying the best churros con chocolate ever! I’m not joking, amazing. plus the cafe itself was old and fancy (the way all cafes should be)
It may be good that I didn’t stay in Spain any longer. as a vegetarian who loves chocolate staying in a country where ham is in everything would probably have led to some questionable dietary decisions..
For me the highlights of this trip were Casa Batllo (gaudis dragon house); eating tapas with some cool ladies; our last evening of flamenco dancing and churros with chocolate at midnight with those same ladies.
Casa Batllo is a house you almost swim through. Gaudi used the story of st Geordie and the dragon for inspiration. All the walls undulate and natural light enters through the central light well to bounce off stained glass and bright tile.
Compared to other art nouveau styles a lot of elements appear very simple. Here the beauty in the design is in the architectures reflection of nature and the vibrant colours of the tiles an mosaics.
Tapas were just all the time in Barcelona. I’m actually a little tired of tapas. Mostly it’s just challenging when you’re a vegetarian- although patates bravas is delicious it’s one of 3 tapas I can eat.
Oh but the cheese. Montego is a wonderful thing. I think Margaret tried the ham once-tried to convince her to try more to no avail (she did drink a glass of red wine though!).
Through the magic of trip advisor I found flamenco dancing at a small bar for 10 euros. Margaret and I met our trio of new friends there.
Ho man. Talk about amazing.
The guitarist had the fasted fingers and just felt every inch of music he played. At first I was concerned his eye was twitching so much.
Accompanying him the vocalist belted out songs at the top of her lungs.
After two songs the dancer began. I don’t think any of her dance was choreographed, it looked like she just felt the music and fell into it. At a later point the guitarist stopped and the flamenco dancer led.
After five minutes of watching I was thinking to myself “I have to learn this”. It’s the perfect combination of grace, strength and stomping. You just get to dance around the stage stomping and look amazing!
Logically after the show was the perfect time for churros (ha, actually that’s all the time). I’d learned a recommended place on les ramblas was open until 2am on Saturday.
The churros appeared fresh and hot. I was worried two hot chocolates wouldn’t be enough but we managed to share. Yvonne helped the staff by cleaning most of her cup.
I feel like I’ve never spent more time walking and using the metro then I have in this city. This is supposed to be a chill place but holy damn it’s just walking walking walking and people everywhere and stuff everywhere. Park guell is so touristy in bits that rows of people set up blankets of cheap souvenirs and actually sell stuff. The beware of pickpocket cartoons played on the metro are super cute but it’s still exhausting always looking after your stuff (I do this usually but here it’s on another level- Constant Vigilince!)
Enough of my rant. The city is in fact really cool (the 8million-whatever-tourists have a reason for visiting). As the capital of Catalan Barcelona is almost a separate place from the rest of Spain: they have their own language and crazy traditions, in fact there is a referendum in November on whether Catalan wants to separate (whether this is even possible is another problem).
It seems like the country might end up a bit fucked if they go it on their own but judging by the number of independent state flags I’ve seen the majority appear to be in favour..
The best parts of the city for me have been the parks. Of the 4 that I wanted to go to we made it to park guell and mount tibidabo. Guell was full of tourists but we stayed in the free park area and made it up to some beautiful views over the city. Not to mention someone busking nearby playing a sweet vintage resonator.
Mount tibidabo is the highest point in Barcelona. The sagrada familia will be 1 meter lower than it’s peak when finished. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to take the old tramline to the base of the mountain (it only runs on weekends), we did still take the old funicular to the peak where we found an old chapel and an old amusement park. Anyone could enter the church to admire some very lovely mosaics-not to mention feel what churches are like when not crammed with clicker happy tourists (sorry).
I was mostly excited by how cool old park rides become when placed on top of a mountain.