De Madrid al Cielo

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Landed in Madrid and just from the sight of the airport I noticed that things have changed for the better over the last 20 years. I managed to take the three metro train lines to Sol and find my hostel. According to the last message from Concha Hermano, a friend of mine from when I lived in Madrid 20 years ago. Thanks to Facebook we were able to reconnect. It turns out that she is living in Granada now but luckily had a job in Madrid since Monday and was able to arrange to stay for the morning and hang with me. We met up at 10:00 for a quick coffee because Concha was rushing to get back to Granada by 5:00 for her English class. I managed to convince her to stay for the 2:00 bus and practice her English with me instead. Actually this is where it gets good, we traveled by metro to the bus station to learn that it requires a two hour lead time to change a ticket. I wasn't going to settle for that. It happens that in that moment an Australian couple was looking to buy a ticket to Granada. I quickly overheard them and worked it out for them to buy Concha’s ticket. This way Concha was able to buy a 2:00 ticket. Meanwhile, since it is an absolutely gorgeous day out, we decided to grab the bus instead of feeling like rats and traveling underground. However, since Concha was working on little sleep we accidentally got on the bus going the wrong direction. The end of line was only 2 stops away when the conductor made us get off and re-board and pay again. Cono! So here we are laughing it off, practicing Intercambio and making our way back to Sol, so I can charge the camera and capture at least one photo with my old friend.

Well, we never did make it back to the hostel in time for a photo, but I did manage to buy a sim card for my new unlocked phone. It turns out this week is the Festival of San Isidro which is the Saint of Madrid. It kicked off today with a walking procession down c/Alcala, and the festivities will escalate, with a full blown celebration on Sunday.

It was time to charge all batteries, including my own. I managed to get in a little siesta and then spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around Parque Retiro. It brought back such memories, watching the lovers rowing in the lake, the carp and turtles snacking on whatever bread crumbs the kids tossed at them in front of the Palacio Crystal, and more so, learning that roller blading is quite the popular sport on the west side of the park in 2011.

I exited on the north east end of the park into the elegant and stylish residential area called Salamanca, aka the Brentwood of Madrid. All around me were innovative and pricey restaurants, I chose one for the beautiful display of tapas. Here I sit sipping on my cana (beer) and enjoying a jamon de bellota (acorn fed ham) con brie and championes (mushrooms).

I really am quite taken back by how the city has changed in 20 years. It is flooded with fashionable stores, a super modern feel and 90% cleaner than I remember. The one thing that hasn’t changed is its pure love of life. As described in a recent LA Times article, the one word that best describes Madrid is "energy." It is a city of night owls and its’ Madrilenos don’t care much for solitude.
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