Year Abroad. Part 16: Buenas Noches

So, Madrid called. They said they wanted to see me, so I popped over for the weekend, and, with my girl being a native, despite her misleading blonde hair, I had a private tour guide and a fully functioning translator for the weekend; it was going to be big.

A six-week absence makes for a good reunion at the biggest airport I’d ever been to. Named partly after the president who turned Spain towards the future after Franco – I told you I had a good tour guide – Madrid Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport is huge, which is just as well with a name like that, and I imagine this is why Stansted was only built with one runway, they just didn’t need the extra space to write the name.

Bags were deposited at home and I took a moment to compose myself before braving the streets of the city in the wind and rain which somehow I managed to fit in my hand luggage. And I can tell you now my fair lady, when it does rain in Spain, none of it lands on the plane because it’s too busy hitting you horizontally and mocking your choice of footwear. So before all that, I sat and sipped on a cup of tea and warmed my hands on the strange sense of pride I get from perpetuating this stereotype.

It really is a beautiful city though. I was unsure of what to expect, but I was not disappointed. Smaller than London, Madrid spreads up along its axis rather than encircling the river, leaving viewpoints and vistas to the east and west. The palace, seated on the greater of these vantage points boasted an impressive bird’s-eye view over the city and surrounding countryside as well as the most confusing security experience of my life. Scanners guard the entrance to check your cameras for explosives and are manned by the most indifferent personnel. In an atmosphere full of tourists stumbling over hola and gracias, their mumbling laissez-faire attitude was not what you needed. You see, by this point of the weekend, my tour guide had forgotten I didn’t speak Spanish. I decided to take this as a compliment.

What I loved the most though is being with someone from this culture and getting the chance to see their world from their eyes. Of course, you see the hotspots, they’re hotspots for a reason, but you do it with a beer in hand because that’s what she always does when she goes rowing on the lake. You get to go to restaurants in the university district, albeit for tacos rather than tapas, but Mexico speaks Spanish and who cares? You’re off the beaten track and your spooning guacamole barehanded. You get to go to apartments and you get to meet her friends. You get a Spanish breakfast and you get a Spanish omelette. You get to see Madrid, and all you brought in return was a box of PG tips.

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