Marvellous MadridSeptember 17, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C
We left Barcelona at the right time, before protesters started demanding a referendum to decide if Catalonia will become an independent republic and separate from Spain. Oblivious to the bubbling political turmoil, we boarded our bus for Madrid, an eight hour trip via Zaragoza, only to realise that we hadn’t been assigned seats next to each other (and neither did many others travelling together). Then commenced the musical-chairs negotiations, trading one seat for another until we reached our desired seats. And with no common language, there was a lot of pointing and head nods. At one point, the game even involved a nun dressed in her habit.
Madrid, meaning the place of abundant water, really lives up to its name, with what seems like a city of fountains. It should also be called the City of Tapas. Tapas, tapas and more tapas everywhere in Spain. No wonder there isn’t an obesity problem in Spain when all meals are bit-sized appetisers. Tapas for lunch, tapas with beer, tapas for dinner, tapas everywhere you go. Combine your tapas to make a “normal-size” meal.
Prior to setting out on our gaycation, we started to learn some Spanish and felt reasonably confident that we would, at least, be able to order food. In the most part, we got by, murdering the Spanish language along the way. When we tried to speak a little Spanish, the waiters and waitresses often responded in English and so the conversation would go back and forth, mixed English and Spanish.
Our Air B&B host spoke a small amount of English, at least better than our Spanish, and similar to the wait staff, our conversations included a lot of pidgin English, broken Spanish and the odd Google Translate look-up. It felt like Wheel of fortune at some points: can we buy a vowel? Or Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Eddy, can we phone a friend (Steph, Paola or Cinthya where are you?). We had been learning Latin American Spanish prior to landing in Europe and couldn’t quite get used to the European Spanish pronunciations. It felt like we were mocking someone with a speech impediment or we had burnt our tongue on a hot drink and couldn’t pronounce our words properly. Gra-th-as instead of gra-see-as.
We also thought we might get some yoga practice in while in Madrid because our Air B&B host is a Yoga teacher but alas the closest we got was barging in on Juan Carlos doing a shoulder stand and a downward-facing dog. Unfortunately, we were unable to impress him with our suave yoga poses and transitions that Tracy Gray has painstakingly taught us over the last 6 years. Instead the evil fairy was in our ear calling for us to consume drinks and, of course, the obligatory tapas.
Madrid wasn’t all drinks and tapas. In between all the frivolity there was some sightseeing. The city centre was in walking distance so we clocked up some miles going back and forth. It was also a way to counter all the calories consumed. Did we mention there’s tapas in Spain? The first few days were spent wandering the streets from one attraction to another: the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Puerta de Toledo, San Francisco el Grande, Plaza Major, Plaza de Sol, Parque de Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado and Museo Reine Sofía to name a few.
At the Museo Nacional del Prado, we noticed a theme in some of the medieval artworks that we hadn’t noticed elsewhere, or maybe we just blocked it from our memories. There appeared to be a fascination with breast milk, particularly the Virgin Mary’s breast milk, spraying across the artwork. To us it just seemed like an odd motif (or is it just a gay boy thing?). The Museo Reine Sofía, on the other hand, housed artwork by more contemporary artists who took the fascination of the human body to another level. Google Lee Lozano and you will know what we mean (NSFW). If you're faint-hearted, it might be best to move on. Nothing to see here.
In the suburbs, the same fascination didn’t exist but there did seem to be a trend for granny chic shopping trolleys or as we knew them growing up: the granny master 2000. They were seen everywhere, being used by the young and the old. The little old grannies we made fun of in the Nineties would fit right into the Latina district without any sense of shame.
Another crazy fashion statement or perhaps the next fitness trend was exhibited by a woman wearing a sandal with a sock on one foot and a rollerblade on the other. She was alternating between hopping and skating, neither of which seemed an efficient or effective mode of transport. Maybe she lost a shoe and gained a Rollerblade (or vice versa) or maybe she’s lost her marbles.
Like all good things, our Madrid experience had to come to an end but not without experiencing some of the nightlife in the gay area of Chueca, with its rainbow flags strewn around the neighbourhood. Even the train station is painted rainbow.
Meanwhile Australia is still deciding whether same-sex relationships are worthy enough to acknowledge within the law.
Next stop: Lisbon.Read more