Before I arrived I felt a strange affiliation with Madrid, as though I had been here before or as if I saw my future here, a sense of belonging or a curiosity of sorts. I felt anything but dissatisfaction as our train rolled in and I discovered the Renaissance architecture of decorated cathedrals and mass sculptures against the modern urbanisation of high street shops and modern art.
I had booked our accommodation for La Latina, a neighbourhood steeped in history in the oldest part of Madrid, my feet in agony from our exploration of Barcelona, we decided a taxi would be our best mode of transport. I became uneasy as our driver verged his way on to the city bypass, my research had shown the Barrio to have been within walking distance. Pulling into an area with the most undesirable apartments, streets scattered with rubbish, residents aimlessly trawling the grimy pavements looking for fag ends and/or their next fix. I took a deep breath, I mean we live in Cleghorn street for God sake! We can stay here, it’s just Madrid’s equivalent-GULP.
I had received an email the previous day, Javier- our Airbnb host had gone out of town but his neighbour Paula would be on hand to settle us in. Dialling the Spanish number, reluctant of Paula and of our dwellings, I received no answer. Interested and eager stares from passers by told me we looked completely out of place and I consciously changed my panic stricken exterior to cool and calm. Eventually reaching Paula, our telephone conversation didn’t go as planned, she spoke no word of English and I rudely have little to zero Spanish vocabulary, realising I’m in the very centre of Spain and not the ex-pat abundant Costa’s, I had to think on my feet.
Approached by a smelly looking vagrant, sipping a hot can of lager, described by Ruby as having a resemblance to a rotten tomato, my urge of ‘go away’, hand gestures and all, made no impact, it was time for Ruby and I to make a quick escape.
Jumping on the first bus that passed, praying it took us central, I quickly grabbed a last minute hotel deal on booking.com and let out a huge sigh of relief. My decision prevailed and we settled into our luxurious baroque suite complete with floor to ceiling windows, wrought iron terrace and the comfiest king sized bed.
Awaking in comfort was just what was needed, so far our trip has been fast paced, just how I like it, but still exhausting. I let Ruby sleep as I discover the morning streets of a bustling Madrid. Having visited many major cities I have concluded the best way to soak in the culture and see the sights is by foot, keeping all underground or train links to an inclusive necessity. A purchase of coffee, croissants and a map sets us in good stead for the day ahead.
With an abundance of time and no pressure of an itinerary, we causally take the day as it comes. Feeling relaxed we visit Palacio Real de Madrid and it’s neighbouring cathedral, taking in the gardens, making wishes in the fountains and getting lost in a maze makes the morning energetic and exciting. Passing through Plaza Mayor and heading east towards the outskirts of central Madrid reaching El Retiro Park. A mass of cultured gardens encircled a large, picturesque lake centralised by the grandeur of Monument to Alfonso XII of Spain.
A refreshing stop for a small beer and slush before making our way home to enjoy a deserved siesta, we pit stop at San Miguel market for fresh calamari and Parma violet ice cream before taking in the evening hours. I hate to say but our trip would have been a lot less enjoyable hadn’t it been for Google, a saviour in a sticky moment, so we leisurely let Siri guide us to the real La Latina where we luckily soak in the atmosphere of a street festival- serving local food and beer, entertained by a Spanish punk band.
Returning central towards Plaza Mayor, Ruby decides she must shop and a few purchases are made at Adidas Originals before stopping for some famous churros and chocolate sauce at Chocolatería San Ginés, the oldest chocolatier in Madrid.
Long live the VEF and Madrid has made me feel like a QUEEN!