Stalwart classicism of a city defaced
by modern ideas and notions of revolution.
Madrid was just a six hour bus ride south of my home in Oviedo.
On every finde I felt its dynamic spirit coercing me to come visit.
Finally, at the end of March , Annie and I meandered to the ALSA platform and hopped the next bus to Madrid.
The route was familiar, and I had it memorized by that point, as Madrid is the central mecca through which all routes pass.
Every twist through little Spanish villages, stopping to pick up frequent riders,
the gorgeous green mountainscape of the Asturian principality that welcomes you in or bids you farwell as you cross the border into stark plains of León, where the rain really does mainly stay.
We boarded with our weekend bags and an e-mail to a host from CouchSurfing, content to wander and experience Madrid as it would have us.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent on arriving.”
– Lao Tzu
We wandered the streets of Madrid, exploring every little alley way. I love the strong, looming buildings, dotted with eccentric life below.
Here are a few of our discoveries:
The Mercado de San Miguel
Great for a go at a round – or five – of tapas! We made a few rounds just to be sure all the food was up to par and met code requirements of deliciousness.
Spain in general has some crazy findings on the streets, but Madrid takes the cake. Barcelona has a lot of weirdness because it’s meant to be colorful, but Madrid is just in its natural state with layers and layers of oddities.
Of course, I wouldn’t acclimate to the culture as well if I didn’t participate in the strike with the lot of them.
Annie was desperately looking forward to a bullfight as part of her Spain bucket list, and what better place than at the Plaza del Toros in Madrid?
The drizzle outside had a different idea. We waited for about twenty minutes for the matador to come out in the ring, but nothing. And then the Spaniards got passionate about their bullfight.
After another 15-20 minutes, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the match was cancelled – and it had stopped raining. Angry booing ensued and seat cushions (5€ a piece, mind you) flew overhead into the ring, until the place emptied out.
The rain didn’t let up much, so we popped in to get some tea at Gran Vía and did a little reading on the city while we tried to dry off and warm up.
And what would a cold afternoon in Madrid be without some churros y chocolate?
CouchSurfing and the Music Scene
Our CouchSurfing host, Jay, was an incredible musician. He and his band, Youthness, had a gig the first night that Annie and I went to support. Jay has an incredible voice and is a ball of fire in a sweet little package.
That night on the metro, we sang Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”. He sang lead and Annie and I sang back up for kicks. We accumulated a little immediate audience. Every time I hear that song, I think of zooming through the Madrid underground. Likewise, every time I think of Madrid, that song pops in my head, and I think of the good vibes at Quintana Nation (Jay’s place).
The next night, Jay took us to Café Berlin jazz club in the centro, where some of his musician friends were doing a tribute to a late Argentina jazz and blues musician. We wound upstairs and were welcome into a salon packed with some of the most talented people in Madrid. Once again, it was a great experience.
And later that evening, we walked across the centro to BarCo, where more of his friends were playing some amazing jazz. Annie and I had a crush on the lead singer from Portugual. She had such presence! I also had a crush on the Argentine trombonist. It was a night from another realm. I was sweating, intermingled with rhythmic bodies that felt the soul of the beats. There was a lot of laughing, singing, swiveling, and dancing.
We were pretty spent by the end of the night.
My first experience in Madrid was incredible thanks to Jay. CouchSurfing really is the way to go to see a new side of a city! It’s akin to running parallel to all the other tourists, but actually traveling, and seeing a world that is right below their noses that they will never experience because the places aren’t on a map. If you head to Madrid, I definitely recommend checking out the broad music scene.
We saved the masters for last. Two trips to the Prado museum and one trip to the Reina Sofia crowned our time in Madrid. Standing before so many masterpieces I’ve only seen in textbooks was like meeting a phantom face-to-face. I loved the vibrant Spanish flag waving atop the Prado against the blue sky. The Spanish deserve to be proud of the centuries of art prodigies that they boast.
Madrid is a city to be visited over and over again, and you will never see the same thing twice. I visited a handful of times and would visit a dozen more. It has an unspoken elegance, a pride in its history, and a claim to all things progressive and modern.