¡Hasta Pronto, Madrid!

Today I left Madrid, flying to Belgium. Monday I’ll travel back to Germany, after first filling up on mussels and visiting family.

Some random thoughts on my stay in Madrid:
  • Highlight was definitely Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world still open, since 1725. Not only for the food, but also the history you can smell there..
  • Madrid’s Metro is spectacular: clear, easy signs and relatively cheap. Take a 5 day ticket for 17 EUR (I think it was), and just go around!
  • I was surprised at the weather, I expected I wouldn’t cope with the warmth. Yes, it was warm with temperatures always above 35˚C, but it was dry! Low humidity made all the difference, I figured I could actually live there a whole year! (OK, the hotel had airco..)
  • Cool district: Malasaña. I went only to the Tupperware club there, on a Thursday. I definitely have to go back once for a weekend!
  • Cafetarias, tapas bars, streets, shops.. It’s all full, from morning till evening, 7 days a week. It’s amazing! It’s full of life!
  • Everywhere you see people cleaning up the streets, a whole day long. Parks and green spots are getting maintained. I rarely saw so much energy put in keeping a city clean (endless job). Then again, maybe I haven’t traveled around enough!
  • I’m a fan of Joan Miró now.
Bad things? Mmm.. not really. Smelly streets sometimes, but that’s normal with a city that barely finds rest. Maybe the food is not really good for me, I mean for my diet!
Maybe one bad thing about Spain is the lack of second language. If only more folks would understand and speak a bit more English, we’ll come a long way. I will try to get my Spanish better!
Well, 8 days in Madrid (and Toledo half a day), was actually long enough. I’ll go back for a weekend to get a bit more attuned to the nightlife and the alternative/rock scene there. Maybe next year while visiting Barcelona and Valencia, who knows..

Revamping 2 wikipedia pages

I do love the word ‘revamping’.

Two Wikipedia pages have undergone some serious facelifting, and I must say I’m a little bit proud of it. They also include my own pictures made past days in Madrid. Maybe the english is not good, and I hope some native english speakers will review them.

Building day

Today I woke up very tired. To much walking around and culinary excitement the past days? Who knows. Ten minutes later I was downstairs on my way to the Metro, but with no good plan in mind.

Yesterday I thought going to Segovia. My sister gave directions and tips. Somehow I didn’t really wanted to go out of Madrid anymore. On the ride to the railway station I dropped off just before at the Plaza de Castilla. This is where where Puerta de Europa stands, which I really wanted to see.
Puerta de Europa
These twin buildings were build at the busy Paseo de la Castellana, not far from the Charmartín railway station. To me they are quite impressive standing there. Maybe they are the bottom of an X starting going up in the sky.. Imagine how big such a building would be! They incline with 15 degrees and are 115 meters tall. Two ladies to reckon with.
Why it’s called ‘Door to Europe’? I think because when you look through it like on the picture, you actually look up north where the ‘rest’ of Europe lays.
Going around the Puerta de Europa I went to Charmartín to get tickets to Segovia. Getting tickets proves to be every time a little adventure in Madrid. Waiting in line I discovered that I had to wait another hour and half for my train. I gave my queue ticket to a guy who was very happy getting more in front, and buggered off. Segovia is for another time.
Strolling down next to the Paseo de la Castellana I went through where Madrileños live their normal lives. Then I saw another tower I really wanted check out closer: Torre Picasso.
Torre Picasso

To me the Picasso tower is ‘perfection in design’. Straight, no odd colors, simple, nothing extra, nice. She’s 157m high and has 43 usable floors. Don’t get to close with a camera however, guards are quickly outside! Actually, I wanted to go up or ask if at all possible, but since it’s private ground and pictures are not allowed, screw them!
Next I made my way looking for the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (bullfighting arena), which proved to be quite a walk! I eventually found it, but to much light to make pictures, so I’ll have to go back. Yeah, call me a nerd! Damn sun!
On the way however, I found some bizarre, blueish building: Palacio de los Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid.

This building-day didn’t make me hungry, but I eventually went to one of these Vips restaurants, or snack bars, whatever.. It’s good there, if you don’t know where to go too and/or hungry. Or just bored like me, at the time.
Tomorrow I’ll go checkout some museums!

Must go restaurant: Sobrino de Botín

Plain simple food, served quite quickly, good service, very nice setting: Sobrino de Botín. It’s in Calle Cuchilleros, southwest of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
It’s the oldest, still running restaurant in the world, dating 1725. There is actually evidence that the house was used as eating place since 1590. Goya worked there as dishwasher, Hemingway loved it, and me, I was just melting on my Tarta Botín.

Tarta Botín

No, it’s not pricy. For two persons, just main courses, 1/2 Jarre Sangria, bottle of water, and dessert, we had for about 60 EUR. That’s NOT much if you see the place! And you get something on your plate, not just an olive sized curiosity!
Funny fact: the waiter took away the Visa and came back for a signature. He actually gave it to me to sign, but I pointed to my sister who was paying! His expression was like first confused, then surprised, then gentle and looking to me like “wuh!?”. 

Strolling through Malasaña

Today I walked around the Paseo de la Castellana (with a pit stop recharging my camera’s battery). I must say there were some striking contrasts. On the Calle de Serrano (calle=street) you’ll find some design shops of know and local/Spanish brands. The Serrano Mall is a must to check out (if you are into poshly things). But once around Chueca, and going more west you pass Malasaña..

To me it was clear, this was a total new district within Madrid. Checking my travel guide I had entered  Malasaña. I didn’t read the whole history while going through it though, and that was good as I enjoyed it more. The narrow streets look fine as of the second floor; on ground level however, they are filled with graffiti. It’s not like it’s dirty, it was just missing.. the smell of weed I thought at one point.
It went on and on. The streets were not so busy (it was after 17:00), but you hear people working inside, renovating houses.
I did actually enjoy walking through the narrow streets. Much more than going through La Latina.
Reading the history of the Masaña district, it started to make sense. In the 19th-century they fought a heroic battle against Napoleon’s troops, and in the 1960s the hippies revived the streets after it deteriorated after World War II. When Franco died, it even became the center of La Movida.
These days, it looks quiet and peaceful. But I should go stroll back through Malasaña during the evenings.. It must be ‘nice’ and a bid wilder. Especially now I heard a bar was playing AC/DC, while they were opening their terrasse on Plaza del Dos de Mayo.