When people ask me my favorite city in Spain, I never mention the capital. As you all know, I have a strong bias toward Andalucia based on previous (and current) experiences. I have always viewed Madrid as “the airport” and “just another big city” and not much else. Well, shame on me and my apologies to los madrileños. It’s possible that I have finally discovered the keys to unlocking the secrets of this big city. The funny thing is – they should come as no surprise. Duh, ask the locals.
I am lucky to have several friends living and working in Madrid – some are from other places and some are madrileños born and raised. Regardless, they know the city and always have the best advice on everything from transportation to tapas. When I arrived on December 28 I took Madrid’s Metro Lijero for the first time to a nearby suburb. Kudos to you Madrid, on maintaining one of the most awesome metro arrangements I have ever used. An easy trip back into the centro the next morning found me at the opulent Cafe Oriente near the palace – a great cafe con leche and quite the view. At this point New Year’s Eve was looming large and a walk through Puerta del Sol was becoming near impossible with the swarm of tourists, street performers and those infernal mylar balloons. That evening I happily reunited with some participants of Global Village 08 and 09 over outrageous tapas at La Musa in the neighborhood of Malasaña – a fun locale with a tragic namesake.
December 30 brought Hillary to Spain at a very early hour, and I arrived LATE to the train station to fetch her, like a loser. We made our way to the Paseo del Arte and attempted to visit the Prado but jet lag arrived with a vengence. Here, a plug for our hotel for the weekend – a conveniently located / reasonably priced / owned by a great guy kind of place: Hostal Ivor. I had my eyes on the Thyssen Museum – reputedly the world’s largest private art collection – but that will have to wait until my next trip. However, thanks to more local advice, we made our way to the Temple of Debod and attempted a trip to a super secret and magnificent café .. but it was closed for the holiday. A word on holidays – in the big cities there is no need to panic .. everything will be open.
New Year’s Eve finally arrived and with it, all sorts of pandemonium. Another happy reunion brought me together with a long lost friend who I had not seen in nearly 10 years (!). We spent the afternoon roaming the streets and (most importantly) purchasing wigs. Yes, pelucas. Somehow New Years means wigs and hats and they were all on sale around Plaza Mayor – so we picked up a few and headed out for a very Spanish New Years Eve. Another case of the adopted family syndrome – Hillary and I were taken into a beautiful home and treated to an intimate dinner and of course – the 12 grapes. The Spanish tradition holds that you must eat 12 grapes at midnight – one for every chime on the hour, and it will bring good luck for you in the new year. Grapes and other grape products saw us through until the wee hours of the morning, and when we finally fell asleep in our hotel room – the party was most assuredly still carrying on outside without us.
I hope you like our wigs!