I am in Madrid at the moment, traveling alone for the first time.
What’s the difference between traveling alone vs. with someone else?
Well, first, you get real paranoid. No offense to the Spaniards but everyone (including my hotel receptionist) has told me there’s tons of pickpockets here that would put those in the Philippines to shame.
“If you place your bag in the floor,” the receptionist said. “It will be gone. They are very very fast.”
But I am loving Madrid.
It’s so Spanish. Haha, but actually, it has its own charm. Though it’s not as lyrically pretty as Vienna, as romantic as Paris, as mystical as Iceland, it’s still beautiful.
What I really love about Madrid so far is its nonchalance.
When I arrived last Sunday, I hung around the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol and saw a lot of lovers, families and friends just enjoying the day. There were a lot of very talented street performers, and I felt really bad for them. It’s freezing and they’re trying their best to get a few pennies.
“The recession has hit us rather hard,” a shopkeeper said. “Five years ago, life was still good. Now, most people are jobless. It’s really dire.”
I bumped into a Filipina at the Metro. She for some reason felt I was Filipina so we started a conversation. “You look like my niece,” she shared. “If you have a good job in the Philippines, don’t come and work in Spain. It’s really tough.”
As I look at the street performers, the growing number of beggars, and the tired faces, I couldn’t help but feel bad about this happy country. Everything still looks good but cracks are felt underneath.
The flamenco restaurant I went to only had like 23 people. And there were 8 performers, goodness knows how many waiters and cooks. How could they sustain the business with just 23 people?
But as a tourist, I have many things to rave about.
First, the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is amazing. Tickets are 5 Euros for students, and you have to see the magnificent salons inside. The tapestries, the floor to ceiling décor, the beautiful gardens and the velvet and gold adornments to immense heights, just beautiful.
I wouldn’t say they are the same as France’s and the Brit’s. I don’t think it’s fair to compare them. They are all extraordinarily beautiful and a must see.
I also enjoyed the Catedrsl de Nuestra Senora dela Almudena which is right beside the Palacio Real. Caught the bell ringing at 6pm. I was simply mesmerized.
Next, I also loved the Reina Sofia Museum. Saw so many works of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, Miro, and so many other amazing artists. Notable was the massive Guernica which can only be seen at the museum. It’s been said to be one of the most famous paintings (mural) in the world, not only because it’s painted by Picasso but also because of the anti-revolutionary meanings behind it.
Then, I am in love with the food.
So far, I’ve been gauging myself with hugs Oysters (around Euro 1.75-3 each) at the Mercado de San Miguel, drinking special alcoholic beverages, churros dipped in chocolates, calamares breads, cured hams, and etc. OMG – I think I will definitely gain a few here in Spain. But oh how I am loving the entire process!
On a personal note too, it’s the first time I’ve traveled alone, and thankfully, I have a few people worrying about me. My mom for example and a few friends in London. It’s great to know that there are some who do care about you and ensure that you’re safe and sound.
I have also started to reflect further about what has happened the last couple of months. I’ve come to slowly accept my fate and hopeful for the future.
That said, I am looking forward to going back to London too. Haha, there are a few friends I’d like to still see before I go. For some reason, I had bonded with a few close friends extraordinarily well the last few weeks.
One friend in particular, I’ve shared a lot of heart-to-heart sessions.
The first time we met, we talked for 7.5 hours from 8pm to 3:30pm.
The next time we met, we chatted for 5 hours.
The last time we met, I think we went over 12 hours or so.
Is this normal? I think the last time I had this was with Trader over two years ago. Then again, I haven’t had this much time since then.
Oh well, we shall see. Taking it slowly and enjoying the process for now.
At the very least, I do gain a very good friend in the process!
That is, if you really believe that girls and guys can actually be friends. 🙂