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Published: September 7th 2007
Plaza de Espana
The postcard shot of Seville.
Siestas y Fiestas en Espana, translates to "Mid-afternoon naps and partying in Spain", which is basically what I have been doing for the past six days.
Siesta occurred in Seville, although it wasn't me taking the siestas but the locals, and fiestas most definitely occurred in Mad Maaaad! Madrid.
But firstly let's recall Seville.
Seville, aka Sevilla, aka "The Frying Pan Of Europe", is hot in every sense of the word. Whoever gave the city the frying pan moniker was almost accurate, but I would liken the dry, scorching heat more to an oven rather than a frying pan. But "The Oven Of Europe"doesn't quite have the same ring to it does it?
With temperatures during the day hovering around 40 degrees, it was definitely the hottest place I've been to after Zagreb.
Seville is also hot in the sense that it is like the girl who turns everyone's head - the city is beautiful.
We caught a bus to Seville from Lagos, because there are no train tracks connecting the two, and we would have had an 8 hour train journey for what in the end, was a 4 hour bus ride.
Our hostel was supposedly just an
Drinks On The Roof
Rooftop patio on top of our hostel in Seville.
8 minute walk from the bus station, until we found out that the bus station in question was one of three - the one we were dropped off at in Plaza De Armas was the one furthest away, and a 25 minute walk to the hostel. So we experienced first-hand the blistering heat of Seville.
When we arrived at the hostel, the girl at the reception giggled as we entered as we were completely flushed and drenched with sweat. I was just relieved have some cool air conditioning.
"It's pretty hot out there today, isn't it?", I joked.
The Samay Hostel was flash.
Tiled with marble and looking completely new and spotless, the lobby looked more like a hotel than a hostel. We then found out that the place has only been open a matter of five days.
The hostel had everything that a backpacker could want - free internet on brand-new, state-of-the-art computers, secure, pin-coded individual lockers, large spacious rooms, ensuite shower and toilet, kitchen with all the utensils and appliances you need, and most brilliantly, a rooftop deck, decked out with couches, tables and chairs (all from Ikea, but hey), where you could drink your own alcohol, eat
Avenida de la Constitucion
The main tram-lined street in Seville.
your own food, and mingle with other guests. The only thing missing was a rooftop swimming pool!
Tired from partying in Lagos, we decided to have a quiet one and went out to find a supermarket for our dinner. I also needed to wash some clothes. What should've been a simple task was made difficult by the fact that nothing was open - I guess it was a Sunday afternoon and therefore siesta time, but nevertheless, the place resembled a ghost town. To my dismay, there was a laundromat right next to the hostel, which of course was closed until the 2nd September because of "vacciones".
We did eventually find a supermarket, where frozen pizza was the order of the day. After dinner, a much welcome early night was had.
The next day, we hit the sights.
First stop was the Avenida de la Constitucion, the main street of Seville where most the main shops and the wonderful cathedral lived. Coincidentally, this was the only street in the city where anything was open! The cathedral is huge. I reckon it's possibly the same size as the Duomo in Florence. The intricate sculptures that adorn the exterior are magnificent as
Cathedral In Seville
The beautiful and massive cathedral in Seville.
well. We wanted to look around the old Moorish palace right next to the cathedral, the Alcazar, but unofrtunately it is closed on Mondays, which meant that Davies had to miss out on seeing it as he was leaving the next day.
We walked to the riverside, where the average looking Torre d'Oro lived, before hitting the nice Parque de Maria Luisa, which adjoins the magnificent Plaza de Espana.
A huge palace, with a fountain and canal in front of it, the plaza is in my opinion, the highlight of Seville.
The palace, with it's grand towers at both ends of it, now houses the city council - if only Auckland City Council had a workplace like this aye ;-)
We tried our first Spanish paella that night - albeit frozen paella - which was OK, before we had some of the local brew, Cruzcampo, with one of the fellow guests, Simon from Brittany (in France), on the rooftop. Don't ever drink Cruzcampo - it's the worst beer I have tried on this trip so far - and unfortunately I had bought a litre of it for 1.50€.
Simon was a cool guy and told us about how they give
Old Muslim palace in Seville.
you free tapas in Granada. He, as well as other people who have been to Granada spoke very highly of the place, so we decided there and then that we would try to make it there after La Tomatina.
I then got talking to some girls from San Francisco, Erin, Mena and Cori, as well as one of the guys working at the hostel, Mark. Turned out everyone was heading out for flamenco that night, so we decided to tag along. So a group of 20 ended up leaving the hostel for flamenco, and Mark, who was the only one who knew where he was going, lamented the fact that he felt like a tour guide, when all he wanted to do was have a few relaxing beers ;-) The group somehow disintegrated however, and there was no flamenco either. It ended up being just me, Mark, Erin and Mena in an empty bar, in an empty city. It was a Monday night, but Seville was quite simply, on permanent siesta.
We did try some 3am tapas on the way home however, including octopus, tuna and egg, and potato and aioli. Delicious. And "aioli" (garlic mayonnaise), is pronounced "a-yee-o-lee", people.
Fountain At The Alcazar
The main fountain at the Alcazar, Seville.
The next day, Davies took off to Paris to meet up with some friends - we would meet again in Barcelona. I would stay one more night in Seville, before going to Madrid, and then Barcelona.
After a long sleep in, I went along to check out the Alcazar.
This place was cool, a Moorish-influenced palace, with immaculately landscaped gardens, multiple fountains and numerous arches. I took a good two hours looking around.
Southern Spain, for awhile was ruled by the Muslims, and they left an indelible mark on the landscape here, including this wonderful palace.
That night, after cooking up some awesome pasta for myself, it was back to the rooftop for drinks with Simon, the American girls, Mark, and a Dutch guy who had just arrived with his girlfriend. I managed to score some wine for 1.55 euros, so I got one for Cori as well. Wine is cheaper than water here - which makes it ridiculously cheap to get pissed. Anyway, the conversation somehow got to cannabalism, and the Dutch guy was interested in knowing what human tasted like and whether different races of people tasted better than others and which part of the body tasted
Courtyard In The Alcazar
Muslim style courtyard at the Alcazar.
the best. Dutch people are weird ;-)
It turned out also, that Cori was gonna be at the same hostel as me the next day in Madrid, so we agreed to meet up at the hostel bar at 10.30pm the next day.
So it was off to the Spanish capital the next day, and the train ride was 2 hours long and very comfortable.
The hostel was easy to find as well, and I finally got my clothes washed. Had some Burger King (shame on me!) where you can order a beer with your combo - how cool is that?!
Cat's Hostel was very good. The only downer was that this Cat had some ferocious fleas, and I would feel the effects of the bites for days after.
The hostel had a indoor courtyard that looks like something out of the Alcazar, which was the focal point of the hostel. Decked out with cushions and couches, people hung out here and relaxed, and this Moorish influenced space gave the hostel some real character.
I had also been warned that the staff here were obnoxious and unhelpful. Wasn't quite true - they were laid back and seemed not to care,
Patio At Cat's Hostel
Styly patio at Cat's Hostel, Madrid.
but they did what you asked them to. They were just typically Spanish - I guess some people just don't understand ;-)
In my dorm I met two Australian guys, Alex and Ricki. Straight out of high school, these fresh-faced youngsters were on a three month Euro-adventure and had just arrived (not so) fresh off the plane from Cairns. Their naivety was a laugh, and they would provide some good times later on.
I didn't think that Cori would show at our rendezvous, but sure enough, at 10.30pm in Cat's bar, she was there. She told me about her nightmare in getting here from Seville - she took a cheap 8-hour bus here, almost missed it because she thought that "plaza" meant "gate", when it actually means "seat number", and then had no directions to get to Cat's, and so walked around for two hours trying to find it, not knowing any Spanish. My journey was problem-free so I tried not to show my smugness as she told me her story ;-)
We met up with her friend Natalie - her friend from way back who is studying in Seville, but is catching up with Cori in Madrid -
Frescoed facade in the Plaza Mayor, Madrid.
and Natalie's sister Elaine.
Natalie was cool - perhaps one of the most extroverted people I have met - and could speak fluent Spanish. She had a boyfriend in Madrid, Jose, who we would catch up with that night.
So the four of us headed out into town and the Palacio Gaviria - a very swanky looking club. Decked out like a palace as the name suggested, it was extravagant drapes and throne-like chairs all the way. Inside we met up with Jose and his mate, whose name I cannot remember ;-)
As with all Spanish nightclubs, you pay a cover, but the cover gets you a free drink.
The girls were good company - from our conversations, it turned out New Zealanders and Americans have more in common than I thought. Don't ask me what we talked about though, because I really can't remember ;-)
When we all got back to the hostel at about 4am, I agreed to meet Elaine at breakfast at 9.30am to say goodbye to her as she was flying home the next day. At 9.30am however, I seriously could not open my eyes - so Elaine, if by some fluke you are reading this,
Magnificent cathedral next to the Palacio Real.
I'm sorry for standing you up at breakfast ;-)
Instead I got up around 1pm, and set out to explore the city.
I walked through Puerta del Sol, the city's central hub, before getting to the famous Plaza Mayor.
Completely enclosed, Madrid's main square is nice, but nothing spectacular. The frescoed facade on the main building in the square is pretty cool though.
After checking out the looming Basilica de San Francisco, it was off to the Palacio Real and the magnificent church next to it, the Almudena Cathedral.
Inside the Palacio Real, is opulence of the highest order. The entranceway is simply breathtaking with red carpet leading up a wide staircase to a marble statue and intricate gold fittings hanging from the ceiling. Because it is still officially the royal residence, photos are not allowed, although I really should have taken one of the staircase, as for one brief moment, none of the 100 guards were in sight - alas.
Anyway, all the rooms - most of them with no use whatsoever - were all decorated with various priceless antiques. A bit over-the-top really. The dining hall and ballroom were probably my favourite rooms and displays of the
Palacio Real, Madrid
Madrid's royal palace is opulent to the extreme.
gold and silver cutlery that were actually used by the royal family gave an interesting insight as to how the other half (I mean the other 0.25%) lives. Also of interest, were the royal armoury which contained some huge-ass rifles over two metres long, and the royal pharmacy, which are in the same complex as the palace.
That was that in terms of sights in Madrid - there's really not a lot to do here during the day.
I then saw a couple of Madrid postcards in a souvenir shop with a building called Ciebeles on one, and place called Gran Via on the other. So there are more sights here, are there? So I went to check them out - Ciebeles is the grandiose main post office which is behind a huge-ass roundabout with a fountain in the middle of it, and Gran Via is the main street with some cool New York style old buildings on it. I also checked out Calle de Montera, which is one of the main shopping streets in Madrid. Now I had seen all of Madrid's main sights ;-)
Had Pain & Company for dinner - a local sandwich chain ("pain" means bread,
One of Madrid's showpieces not listed in Lonely Planet
not pain) - which was nice. My Spanish is definitely on the improve as well, as I had no problems whatsoever making the order. I felt smug.
When I got back to the hostel, I got talking to the Australians and a couple more of my roommates - Alex from Seattle, and Canadian sisters Jordana and Shira, who I did not at all pick as sisters until they told me.
Australian Alex had his wallet stolen the night before - the worst thing that could happen at the start of your trip - but the nature of how he lost it was funny. He had hooked up with this French chick who was feeling him up. They parted ways, and then when Alex left the club, he realised he had been pickpocketed. He's now vowed never to hook up with a French girl ever again ;-)
Our whole dorm of 10 got on really well, and we all agreed to go out together the next night to Kapital - a 7-storey superclub.
Having stood up Elaine and company for breakfast, I wasn't expecting to ever see her sister and Cori again. I thought I might as well check out the
Me, Cori & Natalie
Taken at the Plaza Mayor after a few drinks...
bar to see if they were still here, and sure enough I bumped into Cori on the way there. Turns out they were staying in Madrid for another two nights. Then somewhat bizarrely, I bumped into Erin and Mena from the hostel in Seville. I must be on some popular backpacker circuit of Spain or something. So we all had a few fun-filled drinks together before me, Cori and Natalie headed out to meet Jose at a cool, laid-back, Middle-Eastern style bar, complete with floor cushions and incense. It was a good, boozy night once again, the girls and Jose are a laugh, and it was yet another late, late night. I do remember stopping by at the Spanish equivalent of Star Mart for a great tasting burrito and taking some photos in the Plaza Mayor though ;-)
The next day I got up at 1pm again, the same time as my British roommate Neil, from Bristol. We got talking, and it turns out we were both football fans. I was planning to go to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (home stadium of nine-times European champions and David Beckham's last club, Real Madrid) today for a tour. Neil was going
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
Exterior shot of Real Madrid's famous stadium.
there with a mate of his who now lives in Madrid, to buy some tickets for Real Madrid's game with local rivals Atletico Madrid the following night. I would love to have gone to the match, but unfortunately I was off to Barcelona the next day. He ended up paying 55€ for a ticket though - one day's budget for me ;-)
So after grabbing some lunch - a delicious steak sandwich called a "solodilla" - we went along to the stadium. Neil and his mate Roman didn't want to do the tour, so I agreed to see them later on when we would all go to Kapital.
The tour cost 15 euros, and is unguided - you basically follow a path through the stadium, taking you several important areas of it.
Firstly, you go up a lift to get a panoramic view of the stadium.
And it is a great stadium.
With a capacity of 100,000 spectators, this place was certainly worthy of arguably the most distinguished club in football history.
And don't the club know it as well.
In the museum, they don't let any opportunity pass by to remind you of "the greatness of the club" and
Inside The Bernabeu...
...seats 100,000 fans.
how "glorious" it is. I personally am not a fan of Real Madrid, so it was slightly sickening seeing all the videos and images of their success. Their trophy cabinet is impressive though - they have one section of "extraordinary trophies" (basically trophies won in meaningless friendly matches and tournaments) which includes one that is a metre and a half high and half a metre wide, one that is a metal sculpture of the Torre de Hercules
in La Coruna
, and one that contains 15kg of 18-karat gold.
Also on the tour, you get to go pitchside where you can sit on the Formula 1-style seats on the substitutes bench, to the player's tunnel, the visitor's changing rooms (which are flash as, and even contains a spa pool!), and the press room where they hold post match press conferences. So it was pretty cool as a football fan to gain a small insight as to what a player or club official would experience on a match day.
Then it was back to the hostel for one, huge, final night out with the crew from my dorm.
Having an awesome time with a group of people you've just met is one of the
best things about travelling. The entire room ended up going out, including Adam from Scotland, who had just arrived and wanted to hit the sack. We drunkenly convinced him otherwise.
We all had some drinks in the dorm before heading to the club knowing that prices at the club were likely to be exorbitant. Everyone was having a great time, and we probably could've been quite happy drinking in the room all night. But at 12.30pm, the decision was made to head down to Kapital, a mere 15 minute walk from the hostel.
I've never been to a superclub before, so anticipation and expectations were high.
The suits outside the club, and those serving inside were snobby as - I guess it's to be expected at a club with such a reputation - as we paid our 15€ entry fee.
Although it was a Friday night, we were there WAY too early, as the place was empty. Mind you, we probably skipped the queue by getting in so early.
Our suspicions of high drink prices were also confirmed - 7€ for a beer and 11€ for a spirit - ouch. Your ticket gave you a 9€ credit for your first
Top Floor In Kapital
Chill out floor at Kapital - with a retractable roof!
When you order a spirit in Spain though, you really do get your money's worth. They go to town when pouring your drink as they don't have anything to limit the flow on the bottle, and you get about 60/40 liquor to mixer.
Anyway, although the club has 7 floors, though not all of them are ever open at the same time. Tonight, there were four floors open. Much to our chagrin, the retro floor was not open tonight.
The first floor of the club is the trance floor, which is the main floor. The DJs are on a mezzanine looking onto this dancefloor. Also on this mezzanine is the R&B floor. The other floors open that night were the fifth floor playing Spanish music, and the top floor with a retractable roof (!) which had no music, but was where people could hang out for a quiet drink.
We hung out on the top floor waiting for the club to fill up a bit. This floor was pretty styly with the roof and that, and was completed with couches, lace curtains, a fountain and palm trees - very swanky.
Before we knew it, the club had filled up,
Main Dancefloor At Kapital
The main dancefloor from the mezzanine - it's pumping.
and our first stop was the R&B floor. Our young Australian boys were attracting much attention - including the one of the Canadian girls - and were hooking up left, right and centre. Lucky bastards. Alex was being a bit cautious however, as the girls all looked like they were French ;-)
We then floor-hopped a bit, and as the night went on and people started pairing off, the group disbanded somewhat. What was left of us spent a bit of time on the trance floor which was really cool. They had dancers on a raised platform and every time the music reached a climax, a boom went off with a spray of dry ice.
When we finally left the club at 5.30am, the people remaining were the Aussie guys, myself, Neil and Roman. We then learned that Shira had gone home, Jordana and Adam "went somewhere", and Seattle Alex had passed out having consumed a whole bottle of Jack Daniels ;-)
Ricki had hooked up with a chick who wanted him to come to her house, 1 hour out of Madrid. Unfortunately for Ricki, he decided he couldn't risk not finding his way back with just 2€ left in
The Cat's Hostel Crew
From left: Ricky, Adam, Aussie Alex, Me, Jordana, Roman, Shira, Seattle Alex, and Neil.
his pocket ;-)
I remember getting back to the hostel around 6am, where Aussie Alex put a fake tattoo on my arm, before bumping into and having a drunken conversation with Mena, and eating the foulest bocadillo ever (a bocadillo is basically ham or prosciutto in a baguette) from a vending machine before passing out ;-)
And that concluded my wild, drunken time in Mad-rid.
Three nights, three fiestas of non-stop partying - I am seriously partied out. But I have to say that I had the best time here and hung out with some awesome people.
And guess where I'm going next - Barcelona, the party capital of Europe - great. Here we go...
I'll let you know how I fared the next morning, in my next entry ;-)
For now, adios mi amigos!
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