Day 81, 82, 83 & 84
Madrid was an absolutely pumping city, with us always having something to do. There was very little spare time during these four days, as there was so much we wanted to see. Despite hearing bad things about Madrid from others before we had gotten there, I really enjoyed the place and have no idea how people couldn't have.
Madrid started off with me learning yet another fantastic lesson that all future travelers should remember. I know I haven't done this in a while but it's about time I once again shared some wisdom with you all Steve's Traveling Tip #3 - Don't break your iPhone.
Knowing that Madrid had the first apple store since I dropped my phone, as soon as we got there I wanted to go nowhere else. Finding out where it was and how to get there, I raced out the door at 6, hoping to get there before they closed at 10. A long walk and then a train and then a bus, took me to the outskirts of Madrid, a good 2 hour journey to the biggest shopping centre in the area where the apple store happened to be.
Now when I say this place was big, I mean it was really big. It had cinemas, putt putt, bowling, restaurants and to top it all off an indoor ski hill of quite an impressive size. As much as I wanted to hit the slopes, I knew I had come all this way for the store and would have to pass on the snow for now. Rocking up at the store we ran into problem one, that being that very few of the staff spoke English. Explaining that you dropped your phone into a toilet is not much fun when you have to act it out like charades. However I soon found someone who spoke English and they began to help me out.
Then we ran into problem 2, no appointment. Usually when you go to an apple store genius bar, you have to have set up an appointment some days in advance. As I never knew what time or day I would eventually get there, I just hoped for the best. At this stage it seemed like my luck had run out. Yet after some desperate pleas and somewhat fudging of the truth (said I had come all the way up from Valencia for this, which I technically had.) they finally said they would see me I would just have to wait a while.
A good 45 minutes later, I was approached and told my "genius" is ready to see me. He was a very nice guy that helped me a lot but he could not stop laughing when i told him how I broke it. He tried a variety of ways to fix the phone but there was no luck, Steve's baby was goners. It was time to get a new phone the only problem with that was did they have any left? Into his stockroom he went as I waited in anticipation. Finally he emerged, one left in stock. I was ecstatic, finally I would have a phone again.
Pretty chuffed with myself, I believe I had earnt a meal and made my way to the food court. Starved from not having eaten the entire day I grabbed some stir fry and sat down for a while. By the time I had finished I realized it was already 9 and the guys wanted to go out that night. Back to the bus I went, eager to get on a bus, a train and get home. It was then I ran into my last problem of the night, the next bus. The time was now 9:05, the bus came every hour until 10, I had just missed it. And so I sat and waited for the final bus, not daring to move in case I missed it. It was a long wait. I walked in our hostel door at about 11:30 making it a very long day. But my day wasn't over yet.
Meeting the guys in our room they told me we were going on a pub crawl that night. Not really in the mood but not wanting to miss out on anything I got showered and dressed, meeting them downstairs ready to go at 1am. Whilst the pubs that night were pretty average, it was club, Kapital, we ended in that made the night. 7 stories high with a different genre on each level, the place was incredible. Karaoke, dance, rnb and chill out were but a few of the amazing levels we checked out. By 5am our lack of sleep got to us and we headed back, finishing off a hectic day in Madrid.
By 12 we were back up and ready for our first full day. We had decided to start off with the free walking tour to see what the town was about. People overhearing us discussing this, many of whom we had met on the pub crawl last night, decided to join us. Just before we left the hostel we actually ran into Kim and Tammy from Moriah as they were checking in. They too joined us and our group quickly changed from 3 to 9 making for some good fun onthe tour.
The same tour group that took us through Jerusalem and Paris did this tour as well and it once again fantastic. Although it started quite slowly with a lot of history we went past some amazing places. We saw the Palcio Real (Grand Palace), The Grand Carhedral (Spain is the king of procrastinators, took them 100s of years to finish), the oldest restaurant in the world, Parliament house, Many of the famous Plazas, the museum district and were even taught how to Flamenco dance. Madrid also seems to have a lot of people who dress up for tips. This allowed us to meet Spongebob, Patrick, Fat Spiderman, Mickey, Minnie, Elmo and even the cookie monster. We also came across the most brilliant money making busker who uses nothing more than a table and a couple of fake heads but that will require some explanation when we get home.
It wouldn't be a free walking tour without the guide swinging past one of his "favourite" restaurants for our break. However this time the restaurant actually turned out to be pretty good. 100 sandwiches it was called and as the name implies they served exactly that. Each sandwich costing a euro or two you would go in and order 5 sandwiches, sampling all we had. To say we loved it would be an understatement. In the three remaining days there we went four times. We are planning to bring this back home.
After the tour had ended we headed towards the massive park in the centre of town. There our large group chilled out after a 4 hour tour and checked out this amazing park. With a pond big enough to rent paddle boats in and a awesome devil statue the place was amazing. By then it was almost 9 and we decided to head back. After a bit of a train booking crisis, we took our tour guides recommendation and headed out for some amazing seafood. We finished the night after that coming home close to 1.
Our next day was also packed with us getting up earlish to go and organize bus tickets. After training all the way to the bus station and back we were starved and of course went to our favorite place in town. We met Kim and Tam there and with them headed to the Reina Sofia museum. Now whilst I was dreading going to another museum I was lured in by the description of the exhibition we were going to. Yayoi Kusama was the artist and she currently lives in mental hospital. All her artworks are covered in dots as in reality she sees dots on everything. (or something along those lines)
It was awesome, and I don't say that often about art. As we walked in there were giant red balloons covered in polka dots taking up the entire room. Another room was filled with dot stickers and uv lights were lighting them up. Another used led lights and mirrors to create what she called the infinity room. As we explored the rest of the museum we also saw a lot of Dali an Picasso including his famous work "Guernica".
From there we headed to the main train station to check out the scenery there. Now I hear you asking what scenery could possibly be in a train station? Well, as we walked inside there was a forest of trees growing at least 20 meters in the air. What made it even more impressive was the pond at the end of the trees filled with turtles. We sat and stared for a while, amused with the idea of a forest indoors. Then as our bodies were about to collapse we headed back to the hostel for a relax before another pub crawl.
The pub crawl was very similar to the last except that this time nobody made it to the club. The bars were the same and by the time we had gotten to the second one everyone decided they were hungry and headed to grab some pizza. When we got to the club after to see if we could still get in, the club hadn't heard anything of a pub crawl an rather than arguing we just headed home.
We didn't stop on our final day, waking up by 10, heading to what we were told were the biggest flea markets in the Europe. They did not disappoint, spanning many streets and absolutely packed with people. They sold everything from scales to samurai swords and were good fun to walk around. I even contemplated buying a spongebob backpack complete with nose and pants to rival Aidans spiderman backpack, however when I saw the price it just wasn't worth it.
From there, back to our trusty sandwich shop we went and then made our way to FNAC. For those of you who have no idea what this is it is basically JBHIFI on crack. These stores are massive, selling any electronic you can think of as well as concert and event tickets. We bought some tickets for later that evening but more on that in a bit.
The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing the shops of Madrid, seeing what they had to offer. Two shops stood out one of which was the Real Madrid merchandise store. This place sold anything they could slap a logo on. Bras, shoes, photos, board games and even a basketball hoop. We considered buying some of the stuff but then we looked at the prices. The other shops we swung past was called O2, similar to Collete back in Paris. The store essentially sold awesome, offering things such as Pacman ice cube maker, London bus reading lamps and basketball in a sphere games, it was incredible. Eventually we managed to drag ourselves away and went home to relax before our big night.
For our final night in Madrid we decided to see something we had to before leaving Spain. It was absolutely disgusting, filled with blood but I'm still glad I went. Yep, you guessed it, we went to a bull fight. I'll spare you the details of how it all went down but we were all shocked when we saw the first fight. There were still 5 more.
As the fights went on it we began to understand how much skill went into taking the bull down. Don't get me wrong it was completely messed up but you could see how much effort and training went into it. I don't think I would ever go to one again but I'm glad to have seen it and now understand how it is part of their culture.
That ended off our time in Madrid. A solid four days filled with completely different things. To San Seb we go.