Woke up the next morning and checked out. Got directions downtown via train. The receptionist seem to know what I was asking, they probably know they aren’t around anything anyone would want to do. Walked to the train and encounter lots of locals, kids, and women mostly but I did see some guys and it was 10 am on a Tuesday. That happened all the time, I’d be in a place eating and sure enough a table full of guys would show up or already be there, drinking. All hours of the day.
On the train, a guy hopped on with what I thought was a rolling suitcase. Turned out it was a speaker/CD combo thing that he turned on and played trumpet along with, karaoke style. I had to admit, it was nice but I could see how that would get old fast if you had to listen to it daily, unannounced and unasked for. Lots of people had ear buds prob connected to Iphones. That was the standard on trains and walking around even.
I arrived in downtown shortly and located a map. I noticed everyone had them all spread out and walking with them, but I took a moment and noticed that Madrid is really just a grid with a couple major streets in each direction. So if you were lost it would only take you a few blocks before you hit a main road and you could readjust your walking. I found it easy to get around once I realized this.
I was super hungry as I still hadn’t eaten, even much the night before. I found a gyro style place and got a Mediterranean wrap with shaved pork. I came to find out that pork is everywhere in Europe, a lot more so than here. Also mayo, not just for fries but even the wrap I ordered was drowned in mayo. I hung around the bar and people watched whilst I studied the map. All the hot spots where circled and highlighted so you could find the landmarks. I also noticed that maps and people used train stations as points of directions so they’d say the name of a station and that would get you close enough. Pretty easy eh?
I was very close to the main plaza so that seemed like a good place to start. They have all these leftovers from the grand king days and before mass communication. So they have several huge plazas where the announcements and things where held. I think they still use them for a few formal things and celebrations mostly. The crazy thing is people live there now. They didn’t see the need for a royal family to have a huge palace so they just turned them into apartments…very nice apartments but there you have that. I was able to just walk around from plaza to palace to park pretty easily. I did start to wonder about 3-ish if perhaps finding a hostel would be a good idea. The really cool thing about Europe is there are internet café’s everywhere, I don’t think they hook up too many direct lines into too many homes. Also the way you know you are in an internet café is that they will inevitably be run by an African or Indian, it will smell of some sort of odd spice and there will be 2 or more men vigorously arguing the entire time you are there. Without fail this was my experience, not just Spain, but France Belgium, etc.
Found a hostel but it didn’t seem right. I ran into what I guessed as homeless Spanish and perhaps a couple prostitutes. They were conducting business of some sort right in front of my hostel, did they stay there, where they always there? These are questions not to find out at 3 am so I kept walking. Found option 2, right on top of a bank. At least I knew it would be quiet, banks are rarely open. The hostel owner spoke no English so it was conducted in Spanish and I felt I did well. I’m pretty sure I heard some moans and shrieks of ecstasy while we exchanged money. That was killer.
They have lots of places like the one I stayed at all over Europe. Its basics not much extra and its all spelled out prior to checking. If you want just a bed, you can have that but it may be w several others or you get a single w shared restroom. That was an odd one but I never ran into anyone while I was there. The bathroom was down the hall w separate key. Had a shower and all the normal stuff. Each room had a sink, TV bed, and closet. I opened my windows and took the air in. not much of a view but hey I had arrived!
It was only 5-ish so I had a few hours of sunlight left. I decided to locate the train station and scout tomorrow’s trip. I had lucked out and my hostel was on the main road that passed the Madrid train station. I feel that studying that map and walking around subconsciously thinking about it, my mind arrived at a plan, I just had to let myself not think, to completely shut off my thinking and go w what my mind already knew. That’s what I told myself anyway. If we can find a way to access info, we should be able to recall everything. I look at the brain like a library. Lots of books in the library but if they are organized you can find all sorts of info. Such a setup must be like the brain so instead of locating the info we just cannot remember or say we forgot. I think it’s there but lost, inaccessible or unorganized. Meditation and things can break down some walls, doors, to the real brain. We only use like 20% or something, for sure not 100% and one wonders what we are truly capable of doing. Sure I say I’m no good at math or that person says they cannot write. I say, we aren’t able to access and use that info that allows those talents to manifest.
It was a quick walk to the station. I found a cool modern art museum so I stopped to take some photos. I discovered that I also had found my first WiFi hot spot right in the courtyard of this modern art wonder. There were two glass elevators that I was really impressed me. I uploaded a few photos to the Facebook, got directions to train station, national park and headed out.
The Madrid train station was under repair. Everything is the same no matter where you go, an upgrade here, and a new addition there, construction. I noted the walk time and tried to get train times. Oh well, Barcelona isn’t too far away, there had to be hourly or so trains. If not I was right in the heart of downtown right by all sorts of action. Seemed like the trend was Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken were the fast food options. I walked on by as I wanted to see the Parque de Real, the big one. Seemed like the trend of central parks or parks in cities was honed to perfection in Europe.
I first found the botanical gardens right by the department of agriculture of course. They had tickets so I kept walking, surely all the best stuff isn’t for sale? I turned out to be very right as I came across amazing building and small statues. I also noticed that there were a lot of people napping, alone, women alone sleeping in a park! I knew I was in the right place. I picked up a bottle of water and located an art installation. Lawn chairs and laundry baskets made up a tower in a huge greenhouse. A few feet away was a small pond w turtles and swans ah swimming. Very pleasant and serene so I took a pause for the cause and watched the water.
I walked a bit further and wow pow right in the kisser! Turns out this park was actually the old Spanish palace! Huge mansion and yes a lake, I would say it was lake size, surely not a pond,was in front of the palace. Lots of row boaters lined the waters all angling to get just the right spot for the upcoming sunset. I saw several people playfully splashing water on each other. It really seemed like a lot of fun. I spied a water facet and filled up.
Now I was headed west back towards the hostel. It was dusk and I wanted to be out of the park and well into town before nightfall. I walked through an amazing manicured courtyard I suppose you would call it. Lots of fancy cut trees, flowers and shrubbery naturally brought people to the waters so I must have been at the actual front yard of the palace. A walk across the street I arrived at one of several buildings that housed the largest public art in the world. It would take weeks to see it all. I also found an out of order church; guess they were remodeling or something.
I was mighty hungry and all I saw was street food or fast, not interested in either, not for dinner anyways. I will say the street food is not bad but you don’t want to start out with that I think. I passed several jazz clubs I think but there were already lines to get in and eat. Live music while you ate seemed to be a big part of going out in Madrid. I can totally get behind that. I stopped in and picked up a few souvenirs.
On the walk to Calle de Achoa where I stayed I ran across a real opera house. Standing out front was a dude singing opera for change and he was good! All the signs of a real singer, I was impressed and sat to listen and watch the people file in for that evening’s performance. I think it as Carmen that ran that night, it probably would have been cool to check out, see how things are done where all this stuff started. If nothing else surely the Spanish have held operas far longer than in the US so a more well run show would be expected.
I got back to the part of town I recognized so I felt better and hungrier. I walked and had the idea to drop my bag off at my room and head out again. I didn’t make it to the room; I saw a yellow sign that read everything I needed to know: Museo de Jamon, the museum of ham! Sign me up sir. I entered and noticed it was heaven. Hanging legs of pork lined the walls, there was a butcher on site cutting up meat for sandwiches to order and a small bar. Amstel was the beer of choice in this part of town so I got one for 1€. Pretty reasonable and yes small bite sized pieces of ham and bread arrived with your beer. I was super thirsty so I ended up drinking a couple beers while I figured out the menu.
Bocadillo is the Spanish ham sandwich. The question is what sort of ham or cheese do you want? You can get prosciutto, Serrano, chorizo or just cheese and bread. I think the true secret of a great sandwich is the bread. How can you make it crunchy soft and chewy? Well that’s how it is done at the MOJ and it was great. I recalled from a show that Serrano ham is the best in the world and wouldn’t you know it, they had a bocadillo de jamon for 2€! Fantastic, beer and ham sandwich it is. I noticed lots of people were cheering and I saw they were watching basketball. Spain vs. Slovakia and these Madridians were all in for Espana! Cheers rang out and laughter enveloped the people as Espana went on to win in OT. I decided this was way better than watching TV so I elected to keep beering and cheering so long as the game was on. It was nearly midnight and quite a day.