Well, Spain surprised me! It is not the first time I am here. I liked Barcelona and its sea beaches in summer, I liked the ice cream in the roadside shops and I remember desperately searching for a good restaurant serving grilled chicken and finally sleeping empty stomach that night. Well – that was Barcelona and that was 2010. And this time it is the capital city – lively, vibrant and so very – Spanish!!
The first shock comes in the airport. Large one, you don’t know where to go; when you come out of the gate, there is no sign nearby and the person willing to help speak Spanish only. After some minutes of desperate attempt of using all possible gestures, figured out the luggage belt. I was late at least by 15 minutes by that process and the entire place was empty, so was not sure if it was over or not started. After waiting for 15 more minutes, it displayed it would start in another 15 minutes. That was my first shock in Madrid !
Then the taxi – irrespective of however you communicate, what gesture you use and how frustrated you look – nothing brings a mere sign of compassion on the face of this guy! Novotel Sanchinarro was one of the hardest places to find on earth. But at the same time, it was good too – as I realized what oasis really meant.
Its not a cribbing story. If Madrid offers no English, then it offers Puerta Del Sol. It offers Plaza mayor. And topping everything – it offers Gran Via. The lovely main street of Madrid never sleeps. Well – that is not a correct statement either. It sleeps, but for some hours in the day. As time passes by and night gets darker, this street starts lighting it up itself in the grandeur. Spanish people love to enjoy their nightlife and it starts little late in night. The culture is somewhat similar to our B-school lives. In the daytime, you can still find some people sleeping, but at night, everyone is up. Gran Via has wide range of bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs in store for you. You will find all sorts of people on the street – Spanish to Columbian to Brazilian to Bangladeshis to Indian.
Puerta Del Sol is the most famous square of the city. I went there at least 5 times and every time it looked different. Sometimes it is full of police – don’t know for what they need so many of them! Sometimes, a procession and group of inquisitive people trying to figure out what it is all about. Sometimes, just a bunch of tourists taking photographs of the kilometer zero plaque in front of the old Royal post office or Sometimes, it is empty(!) giving it a look of deserted Swiss squares.
If you are in Madrid, check out “Mercado de San Miguel” or the famous indoor market selling a range of good quality food – from cheap Chinese food to expensive Spanish tapas. Though I personally don’t like the smell of dried ham, so I went in, took pictures and came out.
If you like to try variety of food, try the Spanish Tapas. My Spanish friend took me to a restaurant and similar to many other Spanish words that I tried remembering, I forgot name of this one too. But the food was awesome – it was definitely not the hard bread covered sandwich or tasteless smoked salmons. Everything was so well cooked. Patatas Bravas was superb – people who have tried paapri chaat without the sweet sauce will be able to imagine it partially, but it is lot better. And the famous Spanish Omelette – egg and potato are so carefully mixed and cooked. The best thing about Tapas is the variety – it is like bunch of starter options which they keep serving unless you die with your stomach burst. So, you never get bored and you forget the taste of the first one while you try the 5th or 6th dish, so you go back and try it one more time and it continues.
Given a chance, I will go back. This time also without knowing Spanish. What is the merry in enjoying something if it is easy to achieve?