I used to live in Madrid for a couple of months in 2005 during the University, when I got scholarship from Erasmus with my 2 friends. It was unforgettable 5 months there, doing almost nothing and just enjoying the capital, fiestas and siestas. Everyone who ever had a similar experience with Erasmus somewhere outside his country, knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Then I went back to Madrid just for one day on the way to Barcelona in July 2007. And now again on the 6th to 8th November 2010. Actually, this time I came here to visit my best friend as she lives here. But shit happens, she annoyed me as soon as I came there. What an irony, just after I wrote a post that the best is to travel with best friends.
So instead of staying over at her place and saving some money on food as well, at 10pm with tears in my eyes as we have never argued before, I had to find me a hotel.
The fact that I know the city was very helpful when finding a place to stay. I was lucky and the very first hostel I asked at, had a free room for me. Was clean and not very expensive. Situated just at one of the small streets at Puerta del Sol, the main square of Madrid, so I could come back whenever I wanted and not to walk with the shopping bags all the day long.
But the bad thing was that I did not bring almost any cosmetics with me, not even a toothpaste as was supposed to borrow everything from my friend, as we always do. So like an idiot I was going to Sephora every day to use a face cream (for 289 euro which I would never use at home :) ), hand cream and perfume. And the owner of the hostel saved my life when he lent me his phone charger. But I learnt that it’s always better to count just on myself and be prepared for everything.
Apart from all this, I had a lovely time in Madrid. Apart from MTV Music Awards 7th Nov. With each step I remembered all the things we used to do there with my 2 friends during Erasmus experience.
It reminded me of sun-bathing in Casa de Campo before we saw all the used condoms on the ground and realized it was a place for prostitutes; fun at the discos with free entrance for girls and free shots, concert of Canteca de Macao at the Complutense University and then coming back home early morning stepping on the cockroaches, sitting at the bench in a mini dress just outside Atocha 80 when men started to call us inside to show them something – we did not understand at first until we saw we were just outside a place known for sexshop, sexshows and other entertainment.) Well, great memories from Madrid, as you can see …
Just these memories made me happy. I felt like it was only yesterday and not 5 years ago. I remember exactly all the streets and places, did not need a map at all. Even remember the metro stations and lines. But obviously, more routes and stops were added with the time and some more things did change since my last time in Madrid.
The famous statue of the bear – el oso y el madroño – was moved from the entrance to Calle Carmen to Calle Alcalá (still at la Puerta del Sol) on 25 Sept 2009. In my opinion, it’s better there as this street is wider so it’s easier for people to take photos there and pass by, before it was really packed with people at Calle de Carmen. At the same time they replaced the destroyed ‘Kilometre Zero‘ Plate by a new replica one that remains at the same place on the pavement in front of the House of the Post office at Puerta del Sol.
Then, The Statue of La Mariblanca changed the place to on the same day, from Museo de Madrid to the entrance of Calle del Arenal, at la Puerta del Sol.
Some of the reasons why I love the capital of Spain are:
- its great shops and good prices. Even the shops in the center are affordable. You can find there a couple of Zara and 3 H&M’s in walking distance of 5 minutes. I love the shop Fauna at Calle de Preciados with everything for 9.99 euro.
- its huge majestic buildings with round corners in the center, especially at night time
- tiled signs of streets and squares with the historic photo of the street/square/person they are named after
- bird sound when the traffic lights show green – bird singing is fast when pedestrians can cross and slower down before red colour comes up
- Plaza Mayor with restaurants and souvenir shops
- all the parks: Jardines de Sabatini next to Palacio Real, big Retiro where you can take a boat and puddle across the lake, Casa de Campo, Gardens next to Museo del Prado …
- nice and cheap places to eat: if you are a sweet person like me, for breakfast you can get a Napolitan chocolate for just 1,20 at La Mallorquina at Sol, which was already opened in 1894. Or go to Dunkin Coffee for some doughnuts. You should definitely try typical Spanish chocolate churros in Maestro Churrero at Plaza de Jacinto Benavente. For lunch get some pizza at PaPizza at Calle de Carretados. To eat something healthy I went to Maoz vegetarian at Calle Mayor where you can get a mixed salad of your own choice, a drink and 3 falafels for just 5 euro. Then of course Madrid is full of restaurants with typical spanish tapas, tortilla de patatas, pan de tomate, paella, cider, jamón cerrano, chorizo etc.
Even though Madrid is one of the places where I lived in and I know it very well, I still get impressed when walking through Retiro, Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Oriente, Gran Vía, amazing Plaza de las Cibeles at night, listening to people singing and playing instruments in the metro or Mariachi at Sol, sitting in the labyrint of Jardines de Sabatini, eating and shopping. Madrid deserves to be the capital of Spain. But to be honest, it still cannot beat my favourite city Barcelona.
You can see more photos of marvelous Madrid here.