Madrid, Capital of Spain and Cool
I thought I published this back in Barcelona, after staying in Madrid for about a week and a half. Now I’m in Nice, and heading to Paris tomorrow, where the internet is 4 euros an hour, but stay tuned. For most of the time in Madrid, I stayed with my friend Molly in a quiet but convenient neighborhood called Embajadores. It was relaxing. I spent a lot of time in nearby Lavapies, a ethnically diverse and architecturally barrio. For the first couple of days, I couldn’t help comparing Rome, where no one would dream of there being an openly gay neighborhood like Madrid’s Cuerca, to the modern bustle of Spain’s capital. Indeed, I once again found myself in a “stand on the right, walk on the left” escalator city. Madrid has a better Metro system, more interesting fashion, and much more interesting nightlife. However, they have far more Starbucks, McDonalds, and Burger King. Still, the two countries have many of the same social problems. They are both plagued by high real estate prices, unemployment, and incapable governments. More after the jump.
And perhaps more than Rome is to Italy, Madrid is in many ways the cultural ambassador of everything that is Spain. Tapas, flamenco, and bullfighting are very much a natural part of Madrid. You can even have good Paella, even though it is from Valencia. And I did enjoy the food. Some of my favorites were pulpa la gallega and tortilla. Also, it’s common to drink beer with tonic or seltzer (called a clara), and that was really delicious. Of the three cultural things above, the only one I didn’t manage was flamenco. The bull run (no one is pretending it’s actually a fight) was extremely interesting but I’m not sure where I fall morally even after seeing it.
I ended up doing almost all the touristy stuff there is to do in Madrid, especially after Mia arrived. The Prado was great, and so was it’s modern art sister the Reina Sofia, but I might have actually enjoyed the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum the most, because of its interesting arrangement. And it was great to be there during the festival of San Isisdro, which mainly meant light and fireworks shows in El Retiro. Molly and I also took some day trips out into the country. We went to Valle de los Caídos and Toledo, which really reminded me of Assisi. Now we’re enjoying Barca, which is an entirely different thing, and next we head off to Nice and Monaco in Southern France.