Maddening Madrid

The first city to greet visitors to Spain is a choice destination for a steady flow of international tourists.

My experiences in the Spanish capital have been quite interesting. They range from being accosted by faux Guardias Civiles to being robbed on New Year’s Eve, from watching Harry Potter in the only theater that possibly shows films in their original version in the entire Castile to eating in the world’s oldest restaurant.

To be quite honest, my recollections of Madrid are patched-up memories of several trips done purposely to get to know the city a bit more or in passing since it is the city nearest my university town of Valladolid from where most international flights and bus trips to Southern Spain depart.

The first time I set foot on Madrid was when I came to enroll. I was with my dad then and he was the one paying, so we did take a cab from the Barajas Airport to our hostel in Calle Montera. A wrong decision, given that the taxi driver charged us double the regular fare (50€ versus 25€) and the street where our dinghy hostel was Madrid’s red-light district. (My dad kept on muttering, “We should’ve gone to that three-star hotel in the Plaza Mayor.”)


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Being the nerdy, snooty, in-your-face, self-proclaimed museum addict that I am, I also found Madrid to be the perfect place to indulge one’s appetite for the arts. El Prado (museoprado.mcu.es), Spain’s foremost national museum, is no Louvre but it still boasts of a variety of celebrated masterpieces. Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas is perhaps the most famous in the museum’s permanent collection, largely because of the urban legends created around this portrait of Philip V’s family.

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We capped off the evening with some good ol’ Spanish fun in the Puerta del Sol, Spain’s Kilometer 0. Then I got robbed by gypsies. The wallet came out a day later in a barrio called Vallecas about 10 kilometers from the city center sans the 5-euro bill I had. Damn.

My next target in Madrid is the Palacio de Linares, the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and the Sunday rastrillo on the Calle Ribera de Curtidores. Let’s see when I could go back.

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