Saturday, 21 August 2010
...and in this case Scottish women, go out in the midday sun it would appear!
Actually, I tried very hard to avoid it today in Madrid - very hot and sticky here, particulary for a Scots lassie used to the dreich summers we've had of late. So hot and sticky in fact that I woke up in the middle of the night, having turned the air conditioning off to be good, with a very soggy bed and promptly turned it back on again. My green credentials only go so far I'm afraid.
Other than the brief sweat induced crisis, I had a good night's sleep last night and consequently woke up this morning raring to go and fit for a day sightseeing. An open top bus tour was called for. Always a good way to get your bearings in a new city. (Not to be confused with getting your barings - that's a whole different story and can often land you in the arms of the law if you're not careful. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience I hasten to add!)
Before bus however, breakfast was required. It turns out that the sign to Breakfast room in my hotel, whilst looking promising, is in fact a lie. Either it's still to be finished or has been and gone. It could, of course, be part of the experience that is Madrid in August - many things either shut or being dug up. The city resembles one big roadworks - not sure if this is an Edinburgh-like attempt to scare off the tourists in revenge for not getting the 2012 Olympics, or what happens every summer when the sensible city residents head off to avoid the heat. Breakfast was instead in a traditional taberna just round the corner and consisted of a cafe con leche, er that's it! Followed by a bottle of orange juice from the shop round the corner.
open top bus for a couple of tours round historic and modern Madrid. I always think those kind of narrated bus tours are very informative - and quite often unintentionally so. Today's was no disappointment. A few gems - from the bizarrely unidiomatic commentary read by a clearly native English speaker but with no attempt to correct the idiom mismatch! - I learned today were that the Paseo del Prado has the greatest concentration of art in the world, Madrid is almost exactly at the centre of the Iberian peninsula (640m above sea level no less!) and the mountains to the North are responsible for significant climate change - and here was me thinking it was greenhouse gases. Doh! Oh, and I also saw the Bernbeu stadium, the Prado (again), the Royal Palace and the super trendy, ultra cool shopping district of Salamanca (and yes, I did stay on the bus and resist the lure!)
Retiro, followed by an equally touristy (but very tasty) Magnum Gold, mmm! I was going to try the little restaurant opposite my hotel for a typically Spanish and more substantial lunch than I'd normally have but the heat had robbed me of my appetite so I headed off to the Mercado de San Miguel instead and browsed the food stalls for a lunch tapas style. Probably touristy but at least it was (almost) local delicacies - gazpacho (which I didn't ask to be heated up), jamon y brevas, croquette de bocalao y croquette de queso azul. All eaten standing up - much more authentic!
I also learned that squid ink has the same effect as beetroot - least said about that the better!
My day out ended with un copa de vino tinto followed swiftly by a cafe solo to wake me back up again for the walk home, sitting in a terrace cafe overlooking the Jardin de Vistallas - the first bit that the guide book has got wrong so far. Disappointing, but a welcome chance to stop and stare for a while nonetheless.
And then it was a wander back to the hotel to recover and decide if I feel up to a meal out - this time I think I will try the restaurant across the road. Makes for a very short stumble home after dinner that way! So, in summary, another good day - lots to see and do, plenty of chances to practise my Spanish with no amusing or embarrassing incidents (that I know of at least!) yet and more confirmation that this holidaying alone thing ain't too bad!
and if you want to see more of Madrid, have a look at the rest of my photos as I post them to Flickr (assuming I can buy a charger for my camera tomorrow since the one I brought with me, with its special interchangeable adapter, doesn't interchange - grr!)