I experienced my first bout of travel homelessness on my last night in Germany. I picked a corner in the dusty basement hallway of the hostel and slept until 5Am when I boarded a train to the airport for Madrid, Spain. I accidentally forgot to book my last night in the hostel and figured it wouldn’t be the worst thing to just sleep on the floor and save 20 Euro. It sucked.
My bad experiences continued when I started looking for Madrid’s metro only to be told it’s on strike. A 35 Euro taxi ride later I made it to the hostel on Calle de Las Huertas, a great semi-pedestrian only street right in the middle of downtown Madrid. The taxi ride reminds me how glad I am to be a budget traveler by choice and not necessity.
My initial thoughts were that it was great to be in a Spanish speaking country again. I missed not being able to speak freely which I really took for granted before making my way into non-English/Spanish speaking countries. I felt normal again and didn’t have to use only hand motions to communicate. While some people speak English I personally feel awkward guessing which people do and instead resort to basic grunts or hand motions by default.
In Madrid I spent much of the time eating extremely well, walking around downtown, and going out at night. I went on a “free tour” of Madrid’s famous sites, a few pub crawls with Brazilians, salsa dancing with a Slovenian, and too many museums.
El Prado – beautiful walkway
This display was setup on a random sidewalk
A non-profit organization demonstrates the possibilities of growing local food even in a busy downtown area of a city
A palace or something like that…history rarely interests very much
It’s not until I experienced a Spanish lunch that I really understand the motivation behind a siesta, a short nap in the afternoon where most normal business temporarily stops. For me it happened more naturally as I went to a random restaurant for the set menu for 10 Euro.
Each time I ate something different but for a sample set meal I ate a full plate of seafood Paella with fish, shrimp, crab, calamari, etc., I was also served a random small tapa like fried fish sticks. Then a huge plate of meat with fries. And flan for dessert. The portions were so big that after eating an entire meal like this I had no choice but to wobble back to my hostel and take a nap.
I went into one fast food tapa restaurant and ordered 6 sandwiches for myself while I finished another book, Bill Bryson’s Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
. The tapas were a bust but the book was great!
Not really knowing what to do with myself I went to some world class museums to see some Picasso, Dali, etc. paintings.
I went to a few more art museums but as I suspected they really bore me. Dedicating a few hours to seeing art just really doesn’t do it for me. I like seeing art in the background of things like in a living room but to actually devote time to seeing art is different.
Oh yeah, this is the oldest restaurant in the world.