When I first got to Madrid, I was the opposite of enthusiastic. My flight came in late, I was tired and grumpy, and not looking forward to finding my hostel. But as soon as I got on the metro, I was amazed at the vivacity of the city.
People were talking, laughing, and ready for a Saturday night out. Old people, young people, everyone was having a good time. I got off the metro at Sol, right in the center of Madrid. There were people everywhere swarming the streets. I was shocked! Movement? Noise? Laughter? At 1 am? Like nothing I have ever seen on the streets of Paris.
I didn’t get to spend enough time in Madrid, but from what I saw, I loved it. A friend from university that moved back to Madrid took me out for tapas one night, which gave me a great taste of Spanish culture. I hung my coat on the little hooks at the tables assembled all over the restaurant, while Fransisco ordered up patatas bravas, croquetas, and tortilla espanola. Of course, as he explained, you don’t just go to one restaurant, you hop around to many! We enjoyed each course with a yummy beer. The one downside – no napkins!
We ended up in a local bar, and I loved meeting all of his friends. The people next to us were bumping right into us while giving their friends hugs and kisses. Even though I can’t speak Spanish, I tried to say some basic sentences. What ended was a big fat beso on each cheek upon leaving. Success! Generally, I find that Spanish people are much more tactile than my fellow francais – while at dinner in Vaughan Town there was always some sort of contact when someone is addressing you.
The trip ended with a whirlwind tour of the major sites in Madrid. I didn’t have time to go into any museums, which in my opinion was tragic. I had an amazing moment while standing outside the gardens of the Royal Palace. An old man started talking to me in Spanish, and while my immediate reaction was just to say “no hablo espanol” and flee the scene, he seemed insistent about telling me something, so I listened. He started telling me about the architecture of the gardens, and once I told him, “vivo en Francia,” he went wild! Although I could only understand a bit of what he was saying, I was touched that someone wanted me to learn more about his country.
Before heading to the airport, I sat at an outdoor café and ordered a big serving of paella and basked in the sunlight. Glorious!
So Spain, I am not done with you yet. Maybe I should stop trying to pretend I am dainty and polite and just pick up and move to Espana. There is only so much formality a girl can put up with (and hey – I was told I look a little Latina).
Have you ever been to Spain? What did you think of it? A great resource for travel in Spain can be found here (and check out her list of free things to do in Madrid here!).