Part 5 – Madrid, This feels good.


[Previous Chapter Here] This morning we woke up at a less ungodly hour but not by much. Trying to ply ourselves with vacation fueled wine and beer in the evenings is not really helping with the time adjustment and only makes waking up at an early hour all the more painful. So it’s six am and time to mozy up to the Starbucks for a cup an ass spankingly expensive coffee and banana bread for the third day in a row. But the investment is worth every penny when it comes to battling the jetlag booze combo.

Dressed and ready to roll we intend to take advantage of our two day double decker bus pass and get out into the city before it gets too frick’n hot. It’s not that we don’t like the heat and didn’t prepare ourselves mentally for the warm climate. It’s just taking a few days to adjust but I guess there are worse things to endure in life anyway right?

We get out and make our way to the local square for a lovely light breakfast and then off to find the elusive Vision Madrid bus stop.

We jump on the bus and immediately head to the top deck to take in this wonderful old city from the roofless transport. Madrid for those who have not been here, it is a very formal looking city. There are ornate buildings that look like giant wedding cakes for as far as the eye can see. The beauty may not be as readily apparent as Rome or Paris but she sure can hold her own once you start to explore the many historic barrios. This is a city that was built on the riches of the Spanish empire. You can see where the galleons of loot returned from the new world wound up that’s for sure. There really is no better way to view this elegant city’s buildings and barrios than from the open air double decker buses that that run on two main routes though the city. We had been on the red line [historic Madrid] the day before and today the choice was to go on the blue line [modern Madrid] to see the other side of the city. The description is a bit misleading to those from North America because when they say modern it means within the last say 150 years unlike at home where we would be talking about the last twenty years. Europe is like that they deal with time like we deal with distance. It was sunny but today there was a nice breeze and that helped a lot ease the conversion of our cold Canadian blood that was still in shock from the rapid shift to hot the day before.

The first stop on our journey was to the Atocha train station.  This was our last day in Madrid and we needed to buy tickets for the high speed AVE train to Cordoba that we would be taking tomorrow. I could have bought tickets on line from Vancouver but didn’t think that was really in the spirit of travelling through Europe as I remembered. This would be our real first language test on the trip and it was up to Denise to get us to Cordoba. Denise had taken a intensive five week Spanish course,  prior to the trip, from our Venezuelan neighbour and was ready to negotiate the ticket purchase.  When we jumped off the bus we noticed a funky cool building that had a living wall that on the one side. As we approached to have a closer look one could not help but feel the cooling effects of the lush vegetation that was clinging to the side of the newly renovated building. I had seen this on a blog prior to our trip but the photos did not really capture it’s beauty or size very well at all.

Green Wall in Madrid from John-Paul Holecka on Vimeo.

Atocha Station from John-Paul Holecka on Vimeo.

As we approached the station we crossed the biggest traffic circle that I had ever scene in my life. There were six lanes of traffic that all seemed to know what to do and how to make it around this nonsensical marry go round. We got into the station and found the ticket area without any issues. I attempted to use the automated ticketing machine but got cold feet at trying to make a purchase on a Spanish only kiosk. Denise had a system of pre-writing down the majority of the phrases that she would need in an ultra organized little notebook and this would be the test to see if her system worked. We left my nervous wife to make the ticket purchase besides that Noah was in need of a bit of a run around to work out some of the energy that a four year old has at any give time. Denise is much more shy than me and I have a habit of talking over her with my really crappy Spanish when we were trying to get directions or buy things so I thought that the would be a second great reason to take off. How cold she possible hone her Spanish language skills with me constantly barging in. When Noah and I return Denise is beaming and has the tickets in hand. So we do have transport out and we are going on the brand new high speed train to the next city on our trip. Now time for a bite to eat and back on the double decker to see the rest of the city.

As the bus wound through the quite streets of of the east side. We quickly realized that this is where the rich and famous live without a doubt. The houses where large and elegant and Denise and I fantasize about living here sometime in the way distant future. It would not be too hard at all, well I guess the mortgage payments would be but I think you get the idea. Noah fell asleep on our lap and we both finally had a chance to listen to the pre-recorded history of the city recordings on our headsets without having to wrestle the monkey. This was an amazing hour spent holding hands and just quietly riding through this city in the cool of the afternoon.

After a short rest in the hotel is was time to head out and get some dinner. Something a lot more casual than the fancy ass place we had gone to the night before. I knew that the Plaza Mayor would suffice and if I remember correctly from my visit in 91′ that it gets pretty lively there in the evening so there would be plenty to look at while we dined.

There are a ton of great cafés in the plaza and maybe there are a bit too touristy for most but tonight one of these open air restaurants would fit the bill just fine. The Plaza Mayor is one of Spain’s most beautiful squares and it is steeped in history. The plaza dates back to 1619 and was once used for the macabre rituals of the Spanish inquisition. The only thing that we were going to enquire about was the simple source of authentic sustenance of Spanish cuisine.

As we made our way into the plaza there is just the right amount of people to make it feel lively without being overly crowed. This was another chance to practice some Spanish and Denise readied her note books for the event. The waiter was friendly and sat us down in a spot with a great view of the plaza. He sat us down and placed an English menu down with the assumption that we would appreciate the native language choice. Denise wasn’t having it. She did not toil for five weeks of lessons to be given an English menu. So it was sent back and a Spanish one requested. The challenge level just went up tenfold. I could order the beer and wine just fine and Denise took care of the rest. As you can see from the photos below the olives were divine. It was an authentic mix of tapas of Manchego cheese, Jamón serrano and bread as we took in the while the sunset on this the third day of our summer adventure. Madrid was great but there is one thing that Denise and I both share and that is the constant desire to keep moving. That unexplainable feeling of curiosity that keeps us in a constant forward momentum while travelling. Tomorrow it was on to the smaller medieval town of Cordoba.To be continued…

Plaza Mayor from John-Paul Holecka on Vimeo.[nggallery id=5]

Photos copyright JP Holecka


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