Made in Madrid

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Walking the streets of Madrid in search of a hotel wasnt too unpleasant
I awoke after a surprisingly restful sleep (albeit short) as the train pulled into Madrid. There's something to be said about waking up in a new city, even if the first thing on the agenda is hunting a place to stay. The metro here is great if a little pricey, but I suppose it's worth it because you are NEVER far from a metro station in this city. Ever. It's a combination of good coverage and by virtue of the way the lines are set up, still getting around pretty quickly.

I actually found myself a decent place to stay within about 10 places for €22 a night. For what it was, expensive, but still within budget so I took it. Plus, truth be told, it had a great location just off the Opera station on Calle dos Arenal, which runs between Plaza Oriente and the main square, Sol. Also very handy for a nice walk home at 6:30 AM when leaving the clubs. Or so I'm told. There was a shared bath on the opposite side of the building it felt like, and although all the keys were gone from the drop box, I'm pretty sure I saw maybe two people in the place that weren't receptionists.

Truth be told, most of the 18 kilometers was trying to find my way out of this hedgemaze
I spent the day wandering and, looking at a map later and roughly retracing my route, I estimate that I covered about 18 kms of the city. Which would explain the socks, I figure. I didn't get inside any of the mueseums because they were lined up, but the streets are like another kind of museum here and I didn't mind just walking. This rivals Edinburgh in beauty I think, and is very clean relative to what I was expecting from my stay in Barcelona a few years back, not to mention my stay in Lisbon. Which I loved, don't get me wrong. All I'm saying was I'm quite happy I decided to come here.

I walked much of the day and grabbed some tapas and sangria around 6 as is the local tradition here. Dinner is never before sunset, it seems. I sat and watched a group of young people chatting amongst themselves at another table which is entertaining for awhile but gets old (not to mention I couldn't even eavesdrop effectively because it was all Spanish). I headed out and had some time to kill before supper, so I went to the cinema to see Star Wars (again, I know). I got there late and grabbed my popcorn and coke, which I was quite looking forward to as it was real popcorn and not the sweet crap they have elsewhere. I got into the theatre and sat down as the battle of Coruscant was raging, sitting down, and then as I turned my attention to the screen, realized in horror that the movie was DUBBED!! That's right, you heard me. Dubbed. In Spanish. The horror! I thought about staying and watching anyway, but I don't know the movie well enough to fill in the dialogue on my own yet, and so I got up pretty quickly. It was a bit of a struggle to get my money back in spite of the language barrier, though they were quite understandnig and nice about it.

No relation to the text at all, but I thought another picture would be nice
So I went back to the hotel and rested my feet for a bit and then went out. I walked through about 5 clubs and 15 bars, having an occasional beer here and there, especially where they seemed to be brewing. Spanish beer is not as exotic as I thought it might be, and could esaily have been an English ale or something. Anyway, I found a place where there were a few people my age and found a nice wide window sill where I could sit and watch inside and out of the bar sipping my beer. A couple Spanish girls sat on the patio right outside the window and I moved the table a bit closer under the window, to which I craftily implied they had done so to be closer to me and they could just ask me to sit with them instead of slowly sneaking the table towards me. Anyway, they were quite nice and I did sit wiht them until the bar closed at around 2 AM and then we went to the club which was pretty packed. Which is the way I like it for dancing since it hides me pretty nicely!

We left around 6:30 AM which was strange because the sky was light leaving the dark club with the lasers etc, and we walked home in the crowded streets of other clubbers and people walking to work. Very surreal.

The next day I washed my laundry and met a couple guys from the US that I might meet in Barcelona and a couple girls from Winnipeg (seems to be a lot of 'Peggers travelling this year) who were travelling in the opposite direction of me (i.e. towards Portugal from Barcelona). So I now have fresh albeit somewhat wrinkled clothes once again. Which is almost too bad, I was starting to fit in!

The ferry that was the cause of so much headache
Then, I decided I'd better check on the ferry after having heard that they get booked up. Sure enough, they were. By the time this happened, it was getting to be 6:00 on a Sunday, so I was in panic mode. I'd already booked my train and now I wasn't even going to be able to get a ticket until June 2?! Well, I rushed around, internet, telephones, etc. Everything that could go wrong went wrong this evening. Phones ate all but the last of my change. Then I lost my last change in another phone accidentally calling the fax number (which I had written down instead of the phone number at the internet cafe) of the other major ferry line. And then I ran back there and got the real phone number and then went back to the hotel for my wallet, at which point reception decided it was time for me to pay for my hotel NOW since she wasn't going to be there tomorrow morning, then to the bank for money, back the the hotel, and then to a store for change only to call the real phone number and find they'd closed hteir offices 10 minutes before. Other internet places I'd trekked a long way to closed. Travel agents shut their doors just as I ran up. The ferry had said I could get a ferry from Barcelona, however, so I went all the way to the train station to see if I could get my ticket moved to Barcelona instead of Valencia. Of course, the answer was no. Booked. I did manage to get my ticket to Valencia moved to first thing in the morning so I could have a better chance of catching some other ferry from a city called Denia further south. Then the electronics store was closed as I went to buy a travel alarm clock, though I did succeed in getting a book.

Anyway, that's only a small sample of all the little things. In the book store I calmed a bit and decided I'd find a way and not to let these little things get to me. I'd find a ticket. Then I went back to another internet place and went to the other ferry line. The problem I had with these guys was it was always Spanish despite having a button claiming that you could view the site in English. But I got a worker there to translate and managed to get a much more pricey ticket to Ibiza and a free bus. By now it was late and I was wiped out anyway, plus I had to wake up early, so I went back to the hotel, packed and prepared, and finished All Tomorrow's Parties (a really eery William Gibson novel) before drifting off.

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