Tuesday, 18 October 2016

TRAVEL: 48 Hours in Madrid

Last weekend I went to Madrid to finally visit a friend who has been living there for over a year and to go to a gig by a South Korean rapper that I like. I flew in on a Saturday evening - a fact that my friend repeatedly gave out to me for as I "wasted a day" but considering how hectic things have been lately, I wasn't rushing for anyone - and we dropped off my stuff and immediately went out for the night.

We arrived late to his friend's birthday dinner and didn't end up eating a lot so while the others went on to a bar, we went for second dinner at Mercado de San Ildefonso, with the plan to meet everyone later. The Mercado was seriously cool and I wished we'd arrived earlier to explore it properly. It is a permanent indoor market and bar where there are loads of different kinds of cuisines to choose from. We went for the burger stand, upon my friend's insistence they were some of the best in the city, and I frustrated him again by choosing to order a hotdog.

When we finished eating, everyone had already gone home so we wandered the city a little, hit up a couple of bars and then headed home, much to my friend's disgust at my old lady insistence of sleeping rather than staying out until 6am like a local. But it was a good thing that I did as the next day was crazy busy.

My friend gave me an intense guided tour of the city in one day which involved stops at the palace and gardens, a visit to a crypt and accidentally attending mass (Granny would be proud), trying jamón in Plaza de Mayor, spotting Pikachu, visiting Sol (a square at the centre of the city that has streets radiating off the circumference like a sun), a pit stop in Sephora and a long, unplanned interlude in the Reina Sofia museum (again, frustrating my friend). Once I had enough of seeing Man Ray, Picasso and Dalí (for now) IRL and was dragged out the door, we headed to the Parque del Buen Retiro and the Statue of the Fallen Angel and the Crystal Palace. Suitably blown away by the scale of the park and the vast range of things to see and do there, I realised I was starving and we went for an insanely delicious five course meal.

Cue the panic as we suddenly realised the time. We ran to the Metro and arrived at the gig about an hour after it had begun but I was in time to see Sik-K, the main rapper, and hear him play my favourite songs. Afterwards, I toddled happily out the door and only noticed that my friend had gone missing. Moments later, he burst outside, grabbed my arm and yanked me inside without much explanation. Next thing I knew, I was dragged into a bar upstairs where he had spotted Sik-K and his crew go. Despite a security guard trying to tell my friend that only people who had paid for a Meet and Greet could be in there, (which I hadn't because I think it's effing weird to pay to hang with a person) my friend insisted that I had come from Ireland specifically for the gig (not exactly true but what can you do?). After saying this loudly a few times, a member of the crew went over to tell Sik-K and, next thing I know, my friend is shoving me towards him for a hug and a picture like a pushy stage mom. Once we had the picture taken, I thanked everyone and tried to get my pal to leave as the security guard eyed us with increasing agitation. Afterwards, all I could do was laugh and call my dad to tell him someone had pulled one of his classic moves. Though I was kind of embarrassed at the time, it's a good story and memory and I'm pretty grateful to my crazy, lovely friend.

The next day I was on my own and spent it sweating and panicking about using public transport solo and then hanging in the Prado Museum. Where I made a show of myself by full-on actually bawling because I got so emotional. Like with the Reina Sofia, I really need to go back for multiple visits but the place was incredible. The emotional mess began in front of Dürer's self-portrait. You know the one. The one where he's all tumbling golden locks. He was one of the artists I first loved and I've only ever seen his prints IRL in the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin. To see this was different. The next room on, I accidentally stumbled upon some Botticellis. They aren't particularly famous examples of his ouevre but he was also an early and large fave, an influential one. And I suddenly started to cry. People passing by looked at me, startled, probably assuming someone had just broken up with me in the museum or something. I pulled myself together and walked into the next room and spotted Rogier Van Der Weyden's "Descent from the Cross" and the scale and vibrancy of the colours in person set me off again. Sadly, this was one of the museum's big-hitters and had a crowd in front of it...Jesus, I'm an embarrassing human.

The rest of the visit was less intense as there were fewer works thereafter that had such a deep personal resonance for me. I left the museum, grabbed lunch in the  Prado Cafe and delved into the Metro and my many line changes to get to the airport. Having arrived extraordinarily early, I wandered around at a leisurely pace, ending my trip the way I had intended the whole thing to go. But, I guess, if I didn't have someone less calm than me lighting a fire underneath me, I wouldn't have had the amazing experience of the city that I did.

And that's what my 48 hours in Madrid looked like x








































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