What would a [mainly] Travel Blog be without a dash of tourism…
I must admit, I haven’t actually seen much of Madrid city centre yet. As I have a whoooole 10 months in this place, I’m letting tourism take a back seat; something to dabble in during the occasional afternoon or weekend off I have off. The past two weekends have been made up almost entirely of aimless meandering through the city centre, poking my nose around street corners but not actually going into any tourist hot spots. I’m waiting for the high season to end, so the lines are shorter and I can actually get into places during their free hours.
That said, I have managed to see a lot of the city, and my strolls have taken me all around Sol, Retiro Park, Salamanca, Goya, Bilboa, and La Latina. For some reason I didn’t have incredibly high expectations of Madrid, as I hadn’t heard overwhelmingly positive reviews, and many blogs commented on how Madrid had no iconic landmark to take photos of. I get that there isn’t anything comparable to Big Ben or the Eiffel tower, and I suppose if there were a ‘Madrid Eye’ the panorama wouldn’t be so breathtaking, but I kinda of like that it’s a little rough around the edges. The autumnal colour scheme of some side streets is simple and beautiful, and the traditional Spanish architecture is still evident even in Centro. It’s not as clean as say Stolkholm, but it’s not as rammed as London or Paris, which makes it more breathable even in the 37 degree heat. The underground often smells like rotten eggs on a bad day, but you can almost always find a seat (unless you’re one stop away from Sol of course). And well, Retiro is the most beautiful city park I’ve ever had the pleasure to walk through, and renting a boat out on the lake is just 1.75 euros if you fill it with 4 amigos.
Things are really affordable. My unlimited monthly transport card of zones A-B2 cost a meager 45 euros, and I can use it on the bus, metro, and train. The transport itself runs very smoothly, although sometimes you do have to wait up to 10 minutes for an metro out of rush hour. Food in Sol is London prices as it is for the tourists who will pay for it, but head a few stops out to Bilboa and you’re looking at a euro for a coffee (and not the instant kind). There appears to be always something to do; one Sunday I stumbled upon La Latina by accident, to find a yard filled with people dancing, skating, drinking, and dipping their feet into paddling pools. It was awesome, right next door was the El Rastro market where you can pick up nick nacks galore (it’s kind of like Camden but before Camden became cool and overpriced). However, if you go to check out Salamanca on a Sunday afternoon between Lunch and Dinner, you will find nothing. It’s very beautiful, but apart from clean streets and wealthy folk there really isn’t much else to see.
This weekend I’m going to be painting the town red. I’m staying in a hostel just because I can’t be arsed with night buses, and so I can explore the city some more even with a hangover on Sunday.