it's been one week since i arrived, and i'm still hung up over my trip.
i'm sorry i haven't written. everything was so overwhelming, and most of the experience is still swimming in my head, unwilling to be pinned down and be committed to words.
but in my 30 days there, most of it spent in madrid, i learned a lot about the way i want to travel. i discovered that i can actually do without the sights and the must-sees. i'd love to go to a couple of museums, and okay, visit some of the recommended places, but what's more important to me is to live like the locals do--eat where they eat, ride public transportation, walk, observe, hang out in a park, talk to the people, and eat some more. somehow, i just find that more enriching and a more worthwhile experience than chasing after the visiting hours of a monastery.
i highlighted eating, and that's because that's what i enjoyed the most during my stay. it's the most fun a traveler, especially a budget traveler, could have. you can't always shop yourself to death, especially in a city like madrid, where everything is expensive, and the euro is times 65 of each peso that i earn. so i just went crazy with the meals, since i had to eat to survive anyway.
i don't think i refused any meal invitation when i was there. nor did i refuse a dish that was served to me. i ate morcilla, chistorra, potatoes, boquerones, anchoas, croquetas, ternera, pulpo a la gallega, cordero, hamburguesas, chuleton, and a bunch of desserts. i had fish and seafood in sevilla, tajin in granada, cochinillo in segovia, and steak in barcelona. for drinks, i would often order a cana, or at times, take some wine, but beer was the preferred drink, and it was one of the best places to have a pint or two.
but more than the meals, i miss the streets. even in our smoggy city, i would walk a lot, and over there, i made the most out of the efficient pedestrian crossing lights and sidewalks. every day, i would always take a walk to either cuzco or tetuan metro stations, which will bring me to wherever i had to be.
their public transportation system is pretty efficient, but it has its kinks. for one thing, waiting for the metro can take up to seven minutes, depending on the day of the week or the time of the day. the walk to interchanging stations can take a while, too, and i actually got lost inside nuevos ministerios, one of the largest intercambiadors there. the signs in that station were so confusing, that i got mixed up and ended in the renfe station (train station) connection, and i had no choice but to go back and pay for entrance again just to get to the exit. it took me fifteen minutes to get out of the station and find my way towards el corte ingles.
the rest of their public transport system is topnotch, though, especially the rail system. i took advantage of the renfe every chance i got, and i used it to get to toledo, aranjuez, barcelona, granada, and sevilla. trains would leave on time, and without the hassle of long check-in lines. the train rides offered pretty good scenery, which i never got to see much of, since i would fall asleep the minute the train pushed off. but i still got to check out the cafeteria car, where i would order a can of olives and a beer.
and as if the comfortable seats and clean restrooms weren't enough, spanish train stations are a sight for sore eyes, and serve as a wonderful welcome after chugging along the rails. atocha, the main station in madrid, has sculptures and tropical plants, while the toledo station boasts mudejar architecture with stained glass windows.
it's so refreshing to be in a city that values beauty for a change. from their awesome train stations, to the flowers in the color of the spanish flag that line the main avenues, it's clear that these folks love to live in a city that looks pretty. the buildings of old have remained to this very day, giving the whole city a charming feel. i could have walked there forever. crossing was not a problem, my feet didn't get dirty, and i could sit anywhere when i got tired.
it's a city that will always have a place in my heart, not only because it was my first european city, but because it was a city that treated me well. the people are not all-out friendly and smiley, like we are, but when they do talk to you, they are sincere and nice. i felt immediately comfortable wherever i went, i never felt judged even though i was clearly an outsider. they don't mock you for the way you dress, they don't care if you're bobbing your head to the music from your mp3 player. they just go through their lives and let you live your own. and that, for me, is the loveliest thing of all.