Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…Madrid fer it

I’ve said my piece on big cities before, so it’s understandable that every time I visit a new one I’d have a bit of apprehension about the place. On top of that, in the Madrid vs Barcelona debate — the Spanish equivalent of Sydney vs Melbourne — it seemed like I’d fall on the Catalonian side.


It was with a bit of surprise that I found that I actually enjoyed Madrid, although thinking back to my time there it’s hard to remember exactly why. The longer I try to imagine the city, the more I remember of it — it starts with a square near my hostel with a few small market stalls and some sort of local performances, then I remember Plaza Mayor, the Austrian-inspired roofing to keep the snow at bay, the oldest restaurant in the world and the cool indoor market.

Outside the indoor market

I took a walking tour as well, so I can picture a few of the places we stopped at to learn about the Spanish Inquisition (which everyone expected because they gave advance notice of their arrival) and the reason so many places have those stinking legs of pork hanging up. Perhaps most importantly, I remember a wide choice of international cuisine which meant I could actually eat. That didn’t stop me trying out local food completely, especially not the churros with hot chocolate. Although looking at the price tag now, and converting it to Thai baht, makes it seem like an extravagant purchase.

Converting that into Thai baht makes it seem like a rip off

I did miss out on one thing, though. In the centre somewhere there’s a nun’s convent. They make and sell biscuits, although they don’t allow themselves any public interaction and they’ve taken a vow of silence. Apparently you slide your money in, and a swivel door returns your baked goods. Clandestine Catholic cookies? Sounds great, but their opening hours didn’t suit my laziness schedule.

Generic Madrid shot

Our tour guide also took us to the royal palace, which is apparently the biggest in Europe or the world or something, I wasn’t really listening too much. It’s big, but Versailles is bigger if you count the gardens. The king has the delightfully Spanish name of Juan Carlos, which our guide humourously shortened to JuanCar.

JuanCar's palace

Staying on the traditional Spanish theme, I also went to a flamenco show which was handily expensive for the 100% tourist audience, but a fun thing to see anyway, before continuing my journey north. Vamos!


Filed under: europe, , ,

2 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Do you think the guide knew what he was doing with that abbreviation – in a scripted ‘Where from? England? Lovely jubbly!’ way that foreigners will like – or is that the actual, unintentionally smutty nickname the people use generally?

    Because in the Philippines, the politicians and celebrities (same thing) all go by ‘fun’/lazy nicknames or just their initials if they can’t be bothered. It makes reading serious news stories about public fund embellishments and typhoon relief scandals a bit weird.

    • Oliver says:

      I think this guy knew. His English was good and he hated the king, so it all added together. Wanker’s probably a universal insult by now too.

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