Monday, 23 August 2010


Here in Madrid, there's a Park given over to celebrating Christopher Columbus' discoveries of the New World. My discoveries this holiday have been nowhere near that momentous, at least not globally so, but they have been interesting - well, interesting to me at least. If you're still awake by the end of this post, they might just have been mildly interesting to you too!

I have discovered that (in no particular order of importance):

- I like Goya. Actually, I love Goya. I haven't been so captivated by an artist since I first saw the Degas bronzes in the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. Sometimes grotesque, his works are gritty and real. No glorification of war for Goya, instead the reality of death, dying and loss.

- Madrid is a very cool city, although clearly not the weather, it's scorching hot! It has a real vibe about it but isn't too busy (although that could, of course, just be the August effect)

- Madrillenos like to dig their city up - witness all the road works everywhere

- my Spanish is both better and worse than I thought it was. I find that I can actually make myself understood, however I haven't yet really understood anyone who has tried to talk to me, unless of course they use one word sentences!

- knowing more than one foreign language isn't always a help. My brain does understand that I'm trying to speak a foreign language but sadly at times of stress (like trying to work out how to say something unplanned) dives for any language rather than the one I'm trying to speak. Sentences comprising Spanish, English, German, French and Italian are not unheard of (but are of course completely incomprehensible!)

- the red light district in Madrid is surprisingly central!

- the section on Making Friends in the Berlitz phrase book is still good for a laugh and is written, I'm sure, by swingers (Hello, how are you? Are you on your own? My wife and I would like you to join us for a drink tonight. We're staying at X hotel!) The chat up (and brush off) lines are equally amusing (Would you like a cigarette? are you waiting for someone, do you mind if I sit here? would you like to go for a drive? No thanks I'm busy washing my hair tonight)

- the Spanish don't like talking about the Civil War, perhaps not a surprise really

- Madrid is a fantastic city (did I say that already?)

- travelling solo has its ups and downs, but so far the balance is definitely positive

And for those of you how tuned in to find out what I did today - I spent the morning at the Reina Sofia art gallery (Picasso's Guernica- above- being the star attraction) after having a hip and trendy cup of cafe con leche at the bar of a nearby famed cafe. After that I headed across to Madrid's achingly hip and cool Malasana and Chueca district and discovered the trendy shops and bars. Another hit for the guide book for lunch too!

As ever, photos to be found on Flickr

By then it was 4.30 pm and time to meander back to the hotel to cool off, catch up on my virtual world and decide how to spend my last evening in Madrid. Tomorrow I head off from Atocha railway station for the next leg of my adventure in Cordoba. I'll be sorry to leave Madrid but I'm excited about what's next.

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