After a week in El Barco de Avila, we took the VaughanTown bus back to Madrid for the last few days of our 30/40 World Tour. It was a bittersweet time. On one hand, we were excited to go back home to a life of more than 3 pairs of underwear and the same bed every night. But on the other hand, we were embarking on the last few days of our life of leisure and exploration together. Work? A job? What’s that???
Once we got to Madrid, we took the subway to our hotel, but we had no idea the ride would be so exciting. We were joined by a rapper who traveled with his own microphone and speaker to “entertain” us. I think most of the passengers would have paid to make him stop.
The pope was about to visit Madrid for World Youth Day, so the city was aflutter in preparation. Workers were erecting stages, screens, speakers, and bleachers in the city. Nuns in habits and volunteers in official t-shirts were a common sight.
During our final few days of touring, we took advantage of the sun and explored outdoor sites in Madrid including Parque del Retiro, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Oriente, Plaza de Cibeles, Plaza de España, and Parque del Oeste.
Remember how we talked about street performers in Barcelona? Madrid seemed to be the Mecca of street performers in comparison. We saw several headless men reading newspapers. The first time was a neat sight, but after we saw the same act all over the city, it wasn’t so novel. Quite a few of them could have used an outside eye to help them look more realistic.
There were street performers who posed as statues with their entire bodies and clothes painted a single color. Some of these guys were just amazing; they were in impossible positions and completely lifeless. You didn’t know they were real until one guy would show the whites of his eyeballs.
Bubbles were another favorite performance art form. Every park, plaza, and monument had a bubble man or woman. The giant bubbles were certainly a winner with the kids.
Of course, musicians staked out their territory throughout Retiro park, as well. The park is beautiful with green spaces, statues, fountains, and waterways. It was filled with people enjoying picnics and exercisers in hot pursuit of fitness. We even saw an inline skating class.
After a disappointing paella experience in Barcelona, we knew we had to try again before leaving Spain. This time we got recommendations from our VaughanTown friends who lived in Madrid, and scored with lobster and clam paella.
The next day, we ventured to Puerta del Sol, a huge square filled with tourists. Earlier in the summer, it was an occupied tent city. It seems unimaginable since it was already so crowded with tourists and no tents while we visited.
It is also home to the popular Chocolatería San Ginés where patrons dunk churros in chocolate. After waiting in line, we purchased our chocolate and attempted to find a place to stand along the crowded bar. Fortunately, Mr. HalfFull and I only ordered one cup of chocolate to split. It was so rich, we didn’t even finish it.
After getting fueled with chocolate, we headed to Plaza de España. The main attraction is a statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; everyone wants their photo with this duo. But the park is also full of statues of other famous Spaniards like Cervantes.
Our final destination of the day was Parque del Oeste where we saw an Egyptian Temple. I’ve been to Egypt, but didn’t expect to see such a sight in Spain!
On our way back to the hotel, as we thought about our tired legs, we felt like we were running out of fuel. But we weren’t the only ones…there was a man pushing a go-kart down the street.
On our final night in Madrid, we met the VaughanTown program director for drinks out on the town. Apparently, she is an avid gin drinker, so we all met at Gin Bar.
The drinks were massive and I only planned on having one, but of course the program director bought another round! Then she suggested we move to a bar down the street — XXX Café. Woah! I certainly didn’t need any more drinks, but when in Spain…
When we arrived at XXX Café, we were the only patrons. Perhaps it was too early for Spaniard night owls. We sat in the window and could see a few passers-by check out the scene inside. The program director informed us that it’s a gay bar, so perhaps we scared all the regulars away!
By the time we got back to our hotel, I was certainly feeling the effects of the alcohol. Plus I knew I had a flight back to reality the next morning. A rough transition lay ahead…
- Do you start thinking about going back to work toward the end of your trip?
- Is it better to give money to a performer to satisfy his monetary needs for the day in hopes that he will stop, or does this encourage further “entertainment?”
- What beautiful or intriguing sites have you seen (or do you hope to see) in Madrid?
- Is drinking the night before your flight a good way to cap off the trip or a recipe for a painful ending?