17.05.2007 - 20.05.2007
I flew out of Schiphol at about 9am (after my flight was delayed... grrr coulda had extra sleep!) and promptly fell asleep in the plane before we even took off. After I woke up i got stuck into Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Meyers (GREAT book), and chowed down on my turkey sandwich the lovely Lufthansa frau gave me! I had a stopover in Munich, and as i was coming out, a lady came up to me from customs and asked me "Enschuldigen Sie bitte, aber sprechen Sie Deutsch?" ie excuse me do you speak german? and i responded "Ja, een beetje" which is DUTCH for yeah a little bit. so a little flustered I managed to answer her in the right language, and she asked if i could hold a bag and let the sniffer dog sniff it, as a test for the dog. this big beautiful german shepherd came sniffing everyone and then took a whiff of the bag and jumped on me! one of the other customs men took the bag and after a very quick dankeschoen i was on my way again! after waiting at the wrong gate for 15mins, i went to the right one, and boarded my plane to Madrid. I went and sat down and a nice german man came up and asked if I wouldnt mind swapping seats with his wife "ja seker" was my reply, which is DUTCH for yeah sure. cant seem to get the right language.... anyway i swapped to a few rows back in the middle, and then swapped again for the lady who was meant to be on the window seat. didnt really bother me at all where i was sitting, i was just going to read and sleep anyway!
I finally got to madrid and it was pretty warm. I managed to find my way to the hostel on the metro, which was just around the corner from the Gran Via stop, which is one of the main roads. on the website it said this hostel was in the fashion district. turns out its actually in the gay district. whatever, the shops around there were wicked. the hostel looked a little dodgy tho, and you cant really see anything but a little sign from the outside! you have to go in and find the little tag on the doorbells which says who lives on what floor. so i went up there to find a dodgy sign, which made me wonder what kinda place this was (see the pics!). anyway i went in, not willing to give up the $10USD id already paid. The lady in there didnt speak a word of english, me barely a word of spanish. all i knew what she was on about was "tres noches" three nights and "nombre" name. She then started to call me Hacqui, as the spanish pronounce Js as Hs. She showed me to my room which was an 8bed shared dorm. full of snoring sleeping guys. so i put my stuff on the bed, got my things and left. I walked down the Gran Via to the Plaza de Espana, took some pics n had a look around. I looked in a few shops, and its not expensive there! i had to stop myself from trying things on, as i need to save! but i could have spent a fortune... I went back to my room where i found another girl on another bed sleeping. at least i wasnt the only female! i laid down and ended up falling asleep, somehow. this hostel is NOISY! its right on a street off the gran via, which is busy and loud. the cars are loud, the ppl are loud and the doors to the little balcony dont really shut properly and arent sound proff at all! sometimes id wake up to an angry hooting driver or an over excited singing/shouting spaniard. But my nanna nap rejuvenated me, and when i woke up i started talking to the other girl in there, who was australian, from townsville. the other boys from the room came back in, one canadian, one scottish, one aussie, from perth! later on another guy came in, who was aussie too, from brisbane. after chatting for a while with them, Paula and i (the aussie chick) went and had dinner at a tapas bar down the road. we got a mixed platter with cured hams, salamis and cheeses, and a couple of beers, with bread that had some gazpacho (cold tomato soup) or something similar and olive oil drizzled on top. it waqs really nice, esp followed by the sangria! the guys at the bar there were quite funny, really nice... they asked where were from, and we told them australia. their response? "Ohhh australia! kangaroos! (bouncing around the bar like a roo) and nicole kidman! si!?" uuuh yeah. lol they were very nice tho... so we went back and talked more, then went to bed...
on the friday i tried to sleep in, but the noise doesnt really allow it, so at about 10 (which is a sleep in really..) i was up and ready to go! I walked across the Gran Via, following some signs to the Puerta del Sol (which is kilometer 0 in all the roads in spain ie when it says its 50km to madrid, they measure from that square). It took me thru the hookers main area, who hung out by the sex shops, counting wads of 50 euro notes and smoking. charming. on the way i stopped at Maestro Churrero, on the Calle de Atocha, for my breakfast of chocolate churros (sp). This is apparently a typical spanish breakfast, of deep fried strips of dough, which you dip into warm chocolate sauce! its a bit sickly for me first thing in the morning, but its def not the worst thing ive ever eaten!
After breakfast i made my way toward the plaza mayor, which was finished in 1617. there were lots of cafes, resturants and artists there, and i was really tempted to buy a painting of a flamenco dancer, but i didnt... and i really wish i hadve, it was really nice, it was bright red and it wouldve looked really cool on the wall... so i regret not buying it! i think it wouldve been expensive tho. i did buy a little notebook tho, which has a little plaque thing on the front resembling the street signs in the city, and it says "Calle de Madrid". I thought itd be cool to write things down so i didnt forget anything, it could be my memoirs of madrid book! i meandered around the streets for a while, getting a little lost, but enjoying it, as its a pretty city. its much cleaner than i expected... I found a cool market (Mercado de la Cebada) that i decided to buy my dinner from on the way back, which also needed me to work up the courage (and to think about) to try and buy things from the market stalls! I found a church (Iglesia San Andres) with a courtyard out the front, full of either yobbo students or homeless ppl sleeping on the benches. i took a few photos of the outside and kept on moving!
I moved on to the Basilica San Fransisco el Grande, which was cool from the outside!
It had a little garden on the side, which overlooked some of Madrid as it was on a hill...
after that i backtracked a bit past the market and bought some grapes, an artichoke (why i dont know, its in season i guess, and i had romantic ideas about cooking delish market food for dinner. hmf.), some tomatoes, radishes and some lettuce, it cost me about 5 euros which is a bargain! i went back to the church with the yobbos and the bums and joined them on the benches in the shade for some grapes, a well earned rest! after id had enough of the yobbos talking shit (you dont have to understand the language to know when ppl are tlaking shit...) i set off again in the direction of the Iglesia san Pedro. on the way there, i saw many photo ops of quaint spanish streets and tapas bars, seemingly unswarmed by tourists!
I finally got to this church, and after lugging around my shopping and dying of thirst, i sat with the pigeons in the shade on the steps n had more grapes. i figured since i ran out of water, the grapes had the most water in them, so would help! and they did somewhat!
It wsa after that i decided id had enough, and headed back to the supermarket that id gone past earlier, to buy some serrano ham and semicurado cheese, which are meant to be local "must eats". also bought a BIG water and bread, and figured out how to use their shopping baskets... they have wheels and a big handle so you can drag them along like a suitcase. GENIUS! why dont more shops do that??
so i headed home and had a nanna nap (or i couldve been much more spanish about it and said i was having a siesta!) for too long, and woke to find that i was the only one sleeping in the 8 bed dorm that night. boring. i ate my ham, cheese tomato and lettuce baguettes on the balcony in the sun, then decided to walk down the other side of the Gran Via to see what was there... good thing i did, as i woulda missed out on the metropolis building and the Correos y telegrafos
i trekked on home and turned on the tele in my room to find everything in spanish. bummer. even the german movie was dubbed. so i wrote some postcards, read a bit and tried to sleep amongst all that bloody noise!
the next day was busy too, as i needed to get to toledo st some stage, and also see the palace and the cathedral! so i made the trek, still tired from the walking yesterday. but im glad i did was it was really nice! i didnt go inside the Palacio Real cos there was a big line, but the outside and the courtyard was nice!
i had a breather in the Plaza de Orient and talked to some german tourists, then headed off to the debacle that is the Atotcha train station! i needed to get to Toledo, and on the train its 30mins... so i waited about 20mins in line to find out that the 13:50 train was full and the next one wasnt until 15:50. bummer. so i was instructed to go to the Mendez Alvaro bus station. which was hidden in what looked like a WW2 bunker, not clearly marked AT all. I went wandering around for 10 mins in this weird area with no idea where this place was. how can you HIDE a bus station? anyway i found it, even tho i was a bit unnerved by the 3 cops standing at the entrance to the bunker with a german shepherd. i got my ticket got on the bus and drove thru some dodgy areas of madrid, where everything was a warehouse and every 2nd building was a furniture shop. apparently renting isnt big in spain, buying is the norm, so everyones obsessed with home decoration!
ok im tired now, ill write the rest of this 2moro! and im sure youre tired from reading it too, its pretty long! :D