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 for the first time in 20 years. From sight at the airport, I could tell how much things have changed for the better. I managed to take the three necessary metro trains to Sol exit before locating my hostel.
Thanks for Facebook I was reunited with a friend from my former life in Madrid, Concha Hermano. We met via an "intercambio" or language exchange ad that one of us posted. Thanks to Concha and her poetic vocabulary, I learned many of idioms. As it turns out, she recently relocated to Granada. Fortunately for me, she had a job in Madrid this week, making our quick rendevouz a bonus surprise. We met up at 10:00am for a quick coffee because Concha was rushing to get back to Granada by 5:00 for her English class. It didn't take much for me to convince her to stay for the 2:00pm bus and practice her English with me instead. This is where the adventure kicks in; 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 out a deal, in favor of all.
We opted for the bus since today was a typical sunny, blue sky day in Madrid, why feel like rats on the underground? Unfortunately due to my unreliable inner GPS and Concha working on little sleep, our day turned into riding the bus in the wrong direction, getting kicked off by the conductor, only to reboard, repay and then travel back the way we came toward Plaza de Sol when time ran out and we had to say goodbye for now. Cono! Asi es!

It turns out this week is the Festival of San Isidro; 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. Nothing a little siesta couldn't fix. I then spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around Parque Retiro. Oh such fond memories; watching the lovers rowing in the lake, the carp and turtles snacking on whatever bread crumbs the kids tossed at them, the Palacio Crystal, and more so. I certainly didn't forsee the west side of the park turning into a mecca for roller bladders come 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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