35: Madrid, The Boyfriend’s Best Friend

I’m not sure if traveling has made me grow closer to friends I’ve already had or make new ones based on similar life experiences and activities. I’d like to think that both are true and because of my free spirited attitude I’ve become closer to those who mean the most to me. Caitlin, a close college friend and fellow movie enthusiast, decided to teach in Madrid for a year and if you’ve read my Barcelona blog, you know how much I adore Spain. This gave me ample excuses to venture back across the pond with one of my few but great flight attendant friends, Andie, for our “vacation”. I arrived a day earlier by myself with only an address and shoddy internet access so that I could meet Cait on her lunch break and explore the city.

Madrid is different than Barcelona in the sense that it feels more updated but the people and environment are very much the same: carefree, fun loving, and fast paced. My cab driver taught me a few Spanish words during my 25 minute drive to meet up with Cait and her friend Alicia, a New York native who was in the same teaching program.

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Alicia’s apartment faced a school basketball court that seemed to constantly be occupied for a street that had very little foot traffic. Once there I climbed the four thousand flights of stairs in her narrow hallway before I set foot into her cozy and freshly updated apartment. We chatted, I used the Internet to let everyone know I was still alive, and then roamed the city for food while learning as much as I could about Madrid. So far I’ve learned 12.

1. It never ceases to amazing me how small everyone is there for how much food they put into their bodies. I can’t even be mad, just impressed and slightly jealous.

2. Madrid is more updated than other cities in Spain, like Toledo and Barcelona, but still has beautifully maintained museums and monuments that date back to the early fifteenth century.

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3. Peoples driving skills leave something to be desired.

4. It’s easier to just walk or train it rather than take an uber.

5. The train system is clean, fast during the day but at night runs far and few between.

6. The servers don’t work for tips so good luck on someone who will keep your drinks filled.

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7. Plenty of the natives speak English which is convenient.

8. The immigrants are very aggressive when it comes to hitting on women and will try and trick you into buying stuff.

9. Store owners are very aware and conscious of their aggressiveness and try to get them to leave you alone if they can tell you’re uncomfortable.

10. Everything closes around 6p until 8ish, so if you’re hungry I hope you have food at home.

11. The fruit is delicious and the wine is cheap.

12. Just because someone is drinking a beer and hits on you doesn’t mean they’re old enough for you. They might be 17. Tread lightly.

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Near Puerta del Sol, where some of the local vendors set up, we saw what looked like a piece of artwork but was much more of a statement. There were brightly painted red shoes carefully arranged into a “T” with several signs scattered around it. It turned out to be a protest against gender violence and Femicide.

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I was unable to get the full story, as it was written in Spanish, but it stuck with me as a beautifully constructed statement and was able to represent the blood of those that were split. The shoes were there to remind you nothing comes without a price and some must pay the ultimate price in order to be heard. My blog platform isn’t much but I owe it to those that made me listen to get others to do the same. Listen.

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The next day Andie arrived in similar fashion to Cait’s classically Spanish-style, studio apartment that I’ve become obsessed with. The “bedroom” was an open front loft that was about a third of the size of the apartment and sat above a picture frame styled living room that had a built in L shaped couch. The dining room had large shutter windows with a fire place and a half counter separating it from the kitchen. Describing it still doesn’t do it justice but I’m considering having this type of studio built when I have the funds.

That day we toured the city with our two new, yet equally enthused, American travel guides and before the sunset when most of the shops were nearing to an end we went to Buen Retiro Park.

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I’d like to think resembles Central Park only cleaner and more European. We crept to the middle of a slightly enclosed grass pasture and laid down watching the sunset, listening to music, and enjoying the weather. This was my heaven, capping off a great ending to a perfect day.

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Sunday consisted of brunch and local flee market shopping as all the vendors set up their tents and homemade items along two streets for the day. The already narrow walkways became nearly enclosed as we passed hand made wallets with intricate beads, woven sweaters, and a “anything you can think to tie dye, we tie dyed” type of store. I more than willingly gave money to people who I felt legitimately deserved it for all of their hard work.

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The rest of the vacation we went to Museo National del Prado, did some light shopping, and drank plenty of tinto during our perfectly relaxing yet wildly productive four day vacation. The night before we left instead of going to dinner we cooked food and enjoyed our last evening indoors with good company. We stuffed our faces and our roller boards only to sleepily say goodbye to our lovely host and lug our heavy bags down the cobblestone hills on our way to the taxi that next morning. Spain always manages capture my attention and Madrid was no exception. It will constantly hold great memories and a piece of my heart.

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