Morocco was amazing in so many ways, but we were both relieved when we landed back on Spanish soil. A painless RyanAir flight and two metro transfers later and we were at the gate of the apartment building where we would be staying for the next five nights. And this is as good a time as any to digress about one of our biggest foes on this trip – doors.
You can plan for all sorts of travel problems, but it’s hard to image before leaving on a long trip that you’d encounter so many times when you just felt like a total moron because you couldn’t figure out how to open a door. Let’s see here – In Paris, the apartment building had a series of doors you passed through to exit. We spent a few minutes stuck behind one of these doors before we figure out that you had to push on the lock to open it.
In Bordeaux, the layout of the building we were staying in left us totally baffled as to how to get out. Leaving the kitchen took you to a courtyard with six doors and we could not remember which door we came in though. Were these other doors other peoples’ apartments? We spent a good amount of time staring stupidly at each other, trying to muster up the courage to just open random doors. One door was a bathroom, one was a staircase leading to a basement, two wouldn’t open, one was the kitchen we came from, so by the process of elimination we found our way out. Later we’d learn that our host couple had the entire first level.
In Tarifa, the room we had at our hostel was locked from the outside with a small padlock – a padlock that was missing when we arrived so the guy at the desk probably spent half an hour looking for a replacement. When the door was padlocked with the windows open, the horrible winds blew so hard that it made the door pound against its frame. One time Steve went to the bathroom (outside the room) and put the lock on the door with Jenny inside. The wind pounded against the door so much that other people in the hostel pulled the lock off thinking that Jenny was trying to get out.
Back at the gate in Madrid, it appeared to be locked because it wouldn’t open any way we tried. We sat outside staring at the building like “what do we do now?” until an old lady that worked in the building came out to ask what we were doing. She finally opened the gate by lifting a small latch on the top (it wasn’t locked…). The next day we got stuck trying to leave a bookstore through what looked like automatic doors (they weren’t).
Later in Pamplona, the host decided to go on vacation while we were there, leaving her daughter there, but not leaving an extra key. If the daughter left without telling us, we’d just be stuck outside. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
We won’t even start with the number of times we’ve run into barriers at metro stations. You get the point. We can reliably navigate our way from airports and train stations to anywhere in any random city, but we might not be able to operate the door when we get there.
Back to Madrid
We finally got in and made it to the apartment. Still worn down from our time in Morocco, the only thing we did the first night was make our way to a grocery store to buy supplies for the rest of the stay. We walked 10 minutes away to the closest store shown on Google maps, and on the way back walked by an identical store that was literally on the bottom level of our apartment building. Thanks Google…
July 5th – Steve’s birthday!
We went wandering around the city during the day, making stops at a few bookstores to look for some English reading options (getting stuck by an evil door at one of them). We walked by some of the sites – the royal palace, a small plaza de espana (nothing like the one in Seville), a couple of parks. After a few hours in near 100 degree heat, we went back to the room to relax before heading out to a flamenco show in the evening.
We found a restaurant with flamenco shows that was only a minute walk away from our apartment, so we went down there before the first show started to see if we could get in without reservations. They had one table open for us, so we got in for some sangria and food just before the lights went down. We’d definitely recommend seeing one of these shows if you go to Spain. It’s powerful music with powerful dancers that make you want to walk out clapping your hands and stomping your feet.
On July 6th we stayed in during the heat of the day and went out in the evening to witness what was apparently the biggest LGBT event in Europe. We had no idea that this was going on, but did some research after seeing what seemed like way too many rainbow cupcakes being sold. There was an insane number of people out on the streets. People were out selling drinks on the sidewalks, running with rainbow flag capes, squirting water guns at crowds that seemed to be 30 people deep on both sides of the road. It definitely beat the pants off of any parade we’ve seen in terms of number of people, but New Orleans still wins hands down for best costumes.
The following day we decided to start indoors. Madrid is known for several great art museums. The biggest is probably the Prado, but we passed on that to visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum just down the road. This museum is an amazing collection of artwork from the 14th to 20th centuries, all amassed by a couple generations of one family. Apparently during the great depression, a lot of people were offloading artwork and these guys bought up a ton of it. It didn’t have the number of old masters that the Prado probably did, but basically any more recent painter imaginable was represented. The collection was laid out well and wasn’t busy so it was one of our favorite museums so far. (No pictures though – Steve had to leave his camera in his bag at coat check).
After the museum we took a stroll through the Parque de Retiro, a large park full of trees, gardens, fountains, and an endless number of ice cream vendors.
On July 8th we satisfied Jenny’s craving to see her favorite Picasso work by going to the Reina Sofia museum. In addition to housing Picasso’s Guernica, there was a temporary Dali exhibit set up which gave an interesting look into the work and mind of a famous surrealist.
We stopped out for some traditional spanish food on the way back.
On the 9th, we got up early, packed our bags, and left for the next leg of the trip.