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October 5th 2019
Published: October 5th 2019
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How quickly Madrid has managed to seduce us. We have slipped quietly but surely into later and later evening meals, later and later breakfasts and beer with any meal or snack other than breakfast! We even sit and watch in the European manner that sees us linger in cafes for an hour or so just having a single drink. The only Spanish tradition we haven’t succumbed to yet is their predisposition to smoking! We are continually surprised by the number of smokers, particularly young women, and the arrogant and blatant disregard they have for non smokers. One meter from the entrance/exit of almost any building is a scattering of butts and that is despite the fact that there are street sweepers (people not machines) and cleaners almost continuously going about their duties. In most cafes and restaurants we encountered them although so many eating places are outdoors it does skew the figures a bit.

We were people watching in the Plaza Mayor today and several couples had obviously been married there. As each appeared on the balcony there was a cheer from the crowd below and much clapping and joy. One couple were 2 males and they received as big a cheer as any and really it was lovely to see. Today the Plaza was as busy as yesterday despite the fact it’s Saturday. Sort of shows that it’s full of tourists. The centre of the Plaza has that sprinkling of mime artists, dressed up characters, beggars and spruikers that we’ve seen before. There are some very dark skinned Africans there with a very well rehearsed spiel that tries to separate tourists from their money. They give you trinkets and say it’s for black and white friendship and for no cost but then ask you to support their child! As Lee had a bracelet around her wrist I was prepared to give a small amount (about $1) but no more. Well I got a mouth full of ‘how little this is’ and ‘how money is not everything’ so I said I’d take it back. No he took it alright. I was back later in the same place just before my walking tour and watched the same guys repeat the same spiel with the same tactics 5 times in 10 minutes. Really they did very little for black/white friendship! The walking tour I did was full of Americans and the city reflects the same. US accents are heard everywhere and the number of McDonalds and Starbucks astounds me. There’s a Starbucks in the foyer of the Opera House here. I heard, but can’t confirm (but wouldn’t be surprised) that McDonalds does a bread roll with Iberian ham. The city has the greatest density of restaurants and cafes anywhere so we can avoid those that are so blatantly catering for a Big Mac crowd. Tonight I won’t start looking for a place until my walking tour finishes and that’s at 10 o’clock. I’ll have no concerns at all finding tapas or some more substantial. We are in the tourist zone but lots of locals come here to eat as well. The tour concentrates on the Spanish Inquisition so perhaps I won’t feel like eating! It was a pretty gruesome time and undoubtedly there were some atrocities fostered upon the Jewish and Muslim populace but the truth may not be quite as bad as the some reports have been exaggerated over time. The tour also indicates that the Inquisition has to this day left a legacy on the people of Spain in that they are pretty ruthless and determined especially with politics. With a little knowledge of Franco, ETA and some of the Basque separatists that’s not difficult to believe. Anyway I’ll find out a bit later.

This is afternoon ‘siesta‘ time. Things really do wind down if not shut completely. Very common for the locals to take 2 or 3 hours for lunch and many restaurants have a lunch special that caters very much to that local trade. Not so common on the weekend but very common Monday to Friday. With that lunch is inevitably is a beer, sangria or some alcoholic drink. In fact that’s the origin of tapas. Once upon a time the King was so worried about public drinking affecting labourers and work output that he had to do something. Banning drinking was out of the question so he made it compulsory for drinks to become accompanied by some offerings of some type of food. These were usually placed ‘on top’ of the drink and there you have tapas. Now it’s an art form here. Some look lovely and for a place not really close to the ocean even the seafood ones look great. In fact one of the local traditional dishes is crumbed, deep fried, calamari in a bread roll. Others traditional savings are tripe but that’s a big ask. My mum has a lot to answer for as she managed to cook tripe on Saturdays for a long time but I never ever liked it.

We have an early, early flight from Madrid so we will stay near the airport tomorrow night. We should be able to take the erro that is really close to our accommodation so that will be the next small challenge. I can figure out the metro lines and the station very close to us necessitates only 1 change but it’s the purchasing of tickets that will present the biggest hurdle. Well give it a go anyway. Our new place is way out so we will see a different Madrid. The hotel is big and has a pool so we can have a bit of a relax prior to Doha. Julie was just there and the ‘feel like’ temperature yesterday was 47 degrees. I asked her to leave the air conditioning on so it should be better for us.

This morning we again did a lap on the hop on hop off bus. The comments are not great and tend to conce too much (in my opinion) on the architects who designed buildings rather than the style of the building itself. The architecture here is fascinating particularly the skyline sculptures, edifices, and decorative work but who does them is not that riveting to me. It must be tough to work out what should be included in a tour especially when road closures, narrow streets and like impinge so much on the decision. Simply driving anywhere near the Plaza de Sol must be fraught with problems. Obviously we didn’t hear anything new but our eyes were captured by different vistas so it was worth the time and effort. The hop on hop off buses are as busy here as we have seen anywhere and the busy tourist season has passed! Buses run every 7 minutes and we have never not been able to board but lots of people were made to wait until the next bus today. They calm down from 4 o’clock or so but they run until 10 so they see plenty of action throughout the day. Likewise the ’free’ walking tours and the not free walking tours are busy here. Yesterday the English group alone was more than 40 people, admittedly they were spilt into 2 groups but that’s only 1 tour of several they do each day. The Spanish groups were just as big so it’s big business here.

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