Friday, July 8, 2011

Madridden, or, travel disaster the sixth

Spain has, without a doubt, been one of my favourite countries so far. It’s beautiful and the weather’s awesome, but mostly it’s the culture. It’s so laid back and friendly. It’s all about eating lots and eating well, sleeping in the middle of the day, staying up late – I felt like I was where I belonged!

But to tell the truth, or trip to Madrid was a bit marred by its mostly being devoured by a BIG FAT TRAVEL DISASTER.

This disaster was different to its predecessors. It wasn’t a logistical failure or a transport mishap, a lost precious item or a series of unfortunate events – it was more intangible than that, metaphysical, if you will; an evil epiphany of sorts. In short, it was the realisation that, after our recent joyous revels in expensive Amsterdam and London, and the pricey postage of fourteen kilos of our goods back to Australia, in combination with the revelation from Centrelink that they were cutting me off (because you can only receive it outside Australia for a limited period, a fact they neglected to tell me before my departure), we were running out of money and had a lot less than we’d planned or realised.

This called for a drastic revision of our plans for the remainder of the trip. And this, in turn, took an EFFING LONG TIME. At first it looked like we were gonna be living on under fifteen euro a day and we were gonna have to cut places like Barcelona and Venice out of our itinerary. Thankfully we ended up realising that we could just compact everywhere we wanted to go (with a few omissions) into a shorter period of time and put a bit on the credit card, and (heartbreakingly) sell our Splendour tickets. But like I said, replanning and recalculating and refinancing a month’s worth of furious travel and accommodation takes time. The pattern of our days in Madrid involved getting up at like, twelve, staying in bed planning ALL DAY until seven or eight when hunger finally drove us outside for four or five hours.

Even so, we saw a fair bit of Madrid, and looooved it. We were staying right in the centre, so it was all happening. The atmosphere in the main square nearby was electric because of the protests that were happening there, with different rallies and gatherings and musical events there every time we passed through.

Our diet in Madrid consisted almost solely of paella and sangria. We couldn’t get enough of the stuff, and it was usually pretty cheap and filling, which suited our new strict budget.

After so many good quality New Europe free walking tours, we weren’t prepared for the one we took in Madrid. The guide must’ve been hungover, new and suffering from heatstroke or something because he just made absolutely NO SENSE. Every time he’d try to explain things he couldn’t manage it and he’d talk in circles and forget words and he kept awkwardly asking the tour group if we were enjoying it and if he was he making sense and telling us he was struggling. It was a bit of a nightmare, but hilarious as well.

The offending tourguide.

'In this statue,' joked Til, 'we see the bear of Russia nuzzling a mushroom cloud, symbolising Russia's hunger for nuclear armament.'

 Federico Garcia Lorca.

We've taken six out of these thirteen tours, haha.

Even if we had no idea what he was saying, we got some cool photos on the tour and we added to our collection of European lookalikes (see ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) with a Lachie lookalike in the place the tour started.

Unfortunately I accidentally focused on the decoy (Til) instead of the secret stalkery true target of the photo when I took it!

The only other thing we really did in Madrid was walk around looking at stuff and for places to eat, which was nice. It’s a beautiful city.

The Lijnbaansgracht effect.


Needed a lot of hydration for all our wandering. It was like 36 degrees and still full-blown sunlight at seven-thirty.

In a way, if we had to reorganise our trip somewhere, Madrid was a good place to have to do it because of the abovementioned heat, the nightlife (so we weren’t missing out on too much by being indoors all day), as well as the factthat the hostel we stayed in, Hostel One Centro, was so cool! It was like they’d bought an entire floor of a regular apartment building and transformed it into a hostel. It had a really chilled atmosphere and a TV with DVDs you could play and stuff. It wasn’t humongous and impersonal. Everyone left their doors open and all the deposit money was just left in a locked box on the desk with the key in a bowl next to it, and if there was a checkout time I didn’t know about it. Which was good because it meant less time carrying our bags around in the Madrid heat before our bus that afternoon to our next port of call, magical Granada.

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