During my month in Madrid I experienced a conflicting range of emotions. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep, the excessive drinking, the hot, draining weather, my useless Spanish skills, the length of time I spent there, or the place itself, but something just didn’t feel right.
It’s difficult to tell whether you’ll like a place before you go; you can read every Madrid travel guide in the world but you won’t find how the city makes you feel lurking between the restaurant and museum sections.
I’m always a bit ambivalent about a place when I arrive. I’m usually tired from travelling and don’t know my way around. Usually, though, this feeling subsides quickly, but it just wouldn’t shift whilst I was in the Spanish capital.
However, there were a few good things about Madrid; the weather was superb and the sun shone every single day, the Madrid metro was one of the most efficient I have ever experienced and navigating the underground world was pretty much a pleasure. So, for fear of sounding whiny, I’ve married the top five reasons I hated Madrid with five reasons why I didn’t actually hate it so much really (the positive aspects are in green and the negative are in red, if you couldn’t tell).
Day trips from Madrid
If you didn’t know, Madrid is a very vibrant city that is buzzing with energy at all hours. By the second week, though, I was dying to escape the hustle and bustle. City life was draining and I missed seeing trees and grass, so I arranged a day trip to Rascafria, a tiny village about two and a half hours outside of the capital which is known for its natural pools. It was great relaxing amongst nature and spending some time away from the never-ending concrete in Madrid and I found I didn’t feel so low when I returned. The next week I escaped to Toledo and felt the same.
Did I spend to long there?
I would say Madrid is more of a long weekend destination. Whilst there is a lot to do (I doubt you could ever get bored there), I think staying for a month was a bit excessive, for me anyway.
The yummy, delicious, get-in-my-belly food
The tapas in Madrid is some of the best in the country. I was lucky enough to be staying right around the corner from Cava Baja, a street renowned for its delicious selection of tapas bars and I definitely ate my fair share of yummy grub. It’s cheap too (outside of Cava Baja). Particularly if you go somewhere like El Tigre which supplies you with a piled up plate of food with every (bucket-sized) drink. The Mercado de San Miguel is pretty epic, too. Just don’t go in if you don’t have enough money to buy absolutely everything on offer.
I kept getting lost
You’d think by spending a few weeks in a place you’d get your bearings pretty quickly, especially if you did as much walking as I did there. No such luck. For the first couple of weeks I wandered aimlessly around in circles getting more and more frustrated every time I passed something again. Why does every street look the same?!
The art scene
I like art. So does Madrid. In fact, Madrid likes art so much, it’s got some of the best museums in Europe. I enjoyed seeing Guernica in real life, plus the air conditioning was a god-send in the relentless midday heat. There was also a lot of good-quality graffiti and some outdoor exhibitions to enjoy on the streets.
My phone got stolen
I confess – this was partly my fault. Okay, maybe a lot my fault. But, when you’re watching Spain win the Euro 2012 in Madrid with thousands of other people, you’re going to want to take photos and call people to brag. Don’t then do what I did, though, and provide everyone around you with a detailed map of where you keep your phone in your bag. Because, next thing you know, you’ll be jumping up and down cheering on the Spanish players sans phone.
The nightlife in Madrid can only be described as some sort of hedonistic dream. It’s ever-present, it’s cheap, and it has the ‘street of dreams’ where you can drink shot after shot (or sangria after sangria) without paying a penny.
The nightlife also sucks. Mainly because it’s cheap and you can drink shot after shot without paying a penny. One minute, you’re on your way home from a flamenco performance, next thing you know you’ve slipped onto the street of dreams and are getting more than merry. Spanish people party late, too. Don’t even think about going out until after midnight, people will laugh at you. For me, midnight is fried chicken time not ‘first round’ time but, obviously, I adapted which led to an inevitable lack of sleep.
Snoozing in the shade
I spent a lot of time in the parks in Madrid for the same reason that I went on day trips. I wanted to get out. I was sick of dusty concrete and getting lost. El Parque Retiro was my favourite. It was big, it was green, and it was easy to forget that you were in a capital city when snoozing in the shade.
There was just something about it…
I can’t put it into words, which sucks for you guys. It was more of a feeling – a feeling that I still get in the pit of my stomach when I think about it. I just didn’t dig Madrid. Maybe it was bad timing, maybe I wasn’t making the most of it, maybe I set myself up to fail, who knows. I do want to go back to see if it was the circumstances that made me hate it but, for now, it’s too soon. Madrid and I should keep some distance for a while.
Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with a place? Tell us about it in the comments!
About the author: Lizzie is a full time marketing assistant and part-time travel blogger promoting the ways to get the most out of grab-it-when-you-can travel. She spends her time creatively thinking of ways to plan trips around her job and advocating the idea that you don’t have to be ‘homeless’ to enjoy the perks of frequent travel. Aside from this, Lizzie likes questioning why people travel and the psychology behind it, watching crap American TV programmes, and drinking too much tea (cider). You can find out more about Lizzie here (go on – I know you want to see what’s behind the melon…)