Ups + Downs of Social Interaction Whilst Traveling
Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
23Trip End Oct 10, 2006
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DATE/TIME: Oct 2, 1:00am, Hotel Paraiso, Rm. 110, Ciudad Real
On the night train from Paris to Madrid I befriended Miguel, a Mexican now living in Madrid. His brother married a girl from Rochester, New York, so he could get U.S. residency and the wife, Carrie, could get EU citizenship. Miguel now lives with Carrie, and he told me a lot about her, and I even talked to her on the phone as we were getting into Madrid Friday morning. Miguel was very friendly and really helpful, and as I got his cell number I was hoping we would meet up for drinks either Friday or Saturday. Alas, this was not to be, but I did find an excellent alternate.
After Miguel helped me to get a Metro pass and tried to help me get a Spanish SIM card for my phone, I got on the Metro, headed for the Opera Metro stop and Los Amigos Hostel. Unfortunately, they were booked, and once again I found myself wandering aimlessly, looking for a room for the night. As I had some other hostel numbers, I used a pay phone (they actually have coin operated ones in Madrid, as opposed to the card only phones in Paris where the cheapest card is 7 Euros). The only one I called that had a hope for me getting a room was one that sounded like Matt Hostel, near the Tirso de Molina stop. As the guy on the phone didn't seem to know much English, I didn't bother asking for directions.
So when I got out of the Metro, I didn't have a clue. However, I saw a small orange sign for a "hostal" (it's spelled and pronounced differently in Spain, with the emphasis on the second syllable) and inquired within. I instantly got the vibe that the place was for Catholic missionaries or the like, and knew, even if they had room, that I wasn't interested. But the lady inside was so helpful. Not knowing any English, and with my Spanish totally lacking, she actually walked me across the street to another place that was full up, then agreed to call the number I had for "Matt" Hostal, got the directions, and walked me all the way there, which is when I realized that it was actually Mad Hostel, as in Madrid
The guy at the desk was very nice, and he said I needed to come back at 11, but I could rest in the bar and use their free Internet. Free Internet? Yeah, that's what I said! It was an incredible perk, one that I used often to check in on the Dodgers and with email. In fact, I used it to line up a phone interview for tomorrow (Oct 2), and I'm sure hoping my cell phone gets reception in Cordova.
At 10:45 I staked out a place by the desk and was rewarded with a room, which was a relief. At Mad Hostel they have a unique key system, a bracelet with a chip that's used to unlock the front door, the room door and the locker. Pretty neat. Also, the cleaning staff is very diligent, scrubbing everything down every day, even mopping the floors of the rooms. My only complaint was that of my three showers there, two weren't even luke warm. Oh, and the bottom bunks are incredibly low to the point that I couldn't even sit while slouching. But that's it. Great place, worth the 18 Euros.
After settling in Friday I looked on the map and realized that the Museo del Prado, one of the must sees in Madrid, was in walking distance, and in fact, most everything was in walking distance from Mad Hostel. So I walked down Calle de Isabel II, got a Doner Kebab that came with a Spanish red sauce, ate it while walking and nearly dripped on myself, and all of a sudden I found the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The sign on the door said that this was where Picasso's Guernica is housed, which is good. What was bad was that it wasn't available for three days due to some items being moved around
The Prado turned out to be a pretty good alternative, though it mostly wasn't my cup of tea. I enjoyed the large number of Velasquezes and Grecos, the one Carravagio, the couple of Reubenses and Boticellis. But what made the whole thing worth it was the room that had a bunch of Hierynimous Bosches, especially "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Seeing that triptych in person was awesome. Totally made my day.
But still, I was really tired, and not in the mood for more art. So I got out and proceeded to walk. A lot. I walked to Plaza del Sol, then went to the start of the Gran Via, walked the length of that, sat at Plaza Espana where I watched kids playing around a fountain, called Miguel, made plans for the next night, then got out the guidebook and discovered that there was a bar nearby called The Cock Bar. I had to go and see that. So I took the bus the short distance, found the place, found I was the only one there (it was 7, so I guess that's early) and ordered a Mojito. The bartender, a young guy, was a total pro. It was a laborious process, but Goddamn if it wasn't the best Mojito I've had. It came with a traditional accompaniment of potato chips, which were well-received.
Next it was time to consult the guidebook for a place to eat dinner. La Musa Latina came highly recommended, so I took the Metro to the Latina stop, made my way past a big, beautiful church, and discovered the restaurant's patio was part of the area in back of the church
The guidebook called the waitstaff "the hottest in Madrid." Unfortunately, it was all guys serving outside, but yeah, I guess you could say they were hot. They certainly were gay. The people watching was outstanding, too. Couples in love, old people, dogs cavorting, mopeds on the sidewalk, friends meeting up for drinks, drunk friends after a few... it was nice.
After dinner I was able to find my way back walking and called it a night.