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The jet lagged sufferer's guide to Madrid

SPAIN | Friday, 7 October 2011 | Views [1292]

Three months in South America seemed to have gone by in a blur when I was sitting in Bogota Airport. Sadly, the flight to leave South America felt like something close to 3 months despite being only 12 hours. One hellish flight later, I arrived stumbling and exhausted in Madrid Spain (think hidden transit of being delayed for much more than the scheduled tıme, air conditioning not working, multiple screaming babies and my seatmate stinking up the cabin with her nail polish)

Despite smugly thinking I would spend the next 2 and a half weeks enjoying conversations in Spanish with Spaniards, upon landing in Madrid I discovered after 3 months of desperately wishing there were more English speakers around; apparently all Spaniards in urban centers speak perfect English, and will reply in English even if you approach them in Spanish. The huge difference between Spain and Latin America in terms of the necessity of speaking Spanish was mind boggling. Throughout my 2.5 week in Spain, I encountered countless travllers who moaned about no one speaking English and had to struggle not to laugh in their faces after some of my experiences in Chile and Colombia.

Tryıng to fıt ın wıth the locals ın Madrıd

My travel companion for Spain was Jordan, my awesome friend from Texas. A small town boy with all American good looks, he is starting a semester studying abroad in Barcelona and we had agreed to make our way there together, with pit stops in Madrid and Valencia. Jordan, despite his many positive attributes, hasn't travelled that much...a fact which he conclusively proved when 1) arriving at Madrid Airport, he realised he hadn't notified his bank about his international intentions and spent 2.5 hours frantically calling them so he could leave the airport and 2) the very next day, my first afternoon in Spain, leaving his credit card (his sole source of finance) in an ATM. Consequencially, I became Jordan's sugar mama and paid his way all the way to Barcelona, whereupon I was paid back with many hundreds of Euros notes which I am now still carrying around, as my next 3 countries - England, Croatia and Turkey are all non Euro countries. Cheers Jordan.

While I absolutely loved my four nights in Madrid, I didn't do Madrid any justice whatsoever thanks to my murderous jet lag. One of my very good schoolfriends, Ria, had just spent a year living in Madrid and had enthusiastically sent me pages and pages of recommendations. I very shamefully achieved barely any of her suggestions. I fully intend to return and do it all properly because Madrid is a beautiful city full of energy and a million things to do. In between our terrible jet lag hindered sleep patterns, Jordan and I managed to achieve lots of lovely walks through leafy avenues and grand architecture, squeeze in a visit to the Prado - one of the best collections of art in Europe and my favourite, rowing on a man made lake in Parque del Retiro.

Jordan and hıs brıef stınt wıth the rows

A complete tourist trap and something I'm sure none of the local would deign to go anywhere near (when I told Ria how much I'd enjoyed it, I was rewarded with a very disdainful look), I don't mind as it was lovely to row around, laze in the sun and people watch. Our last night in Madrid, Jordan and I abandoned our baugette laden budget meal plan and splurged on a proper Cuban restaurant, which was absolutely delicious. I look forward to a day when the act of going to a resaturant in Europe isn't the ultimate luxury and when I don't know intimately know supermarket's bakery aisles.

After our amazıng dınner at the Cuban restaurant

Whilst the hordes of Australians (I could lie and say travellers and pretend they weren't all homogenous fluro wearing singlet and Southern Cross tattooed Australian males but this would be disgenious) were all doing Europe via railpass, buses are actually so much more kind on the budget, so Jordan and I exclusively travelled by bus. Our departure from Madrid wasn't quite the hasslefree one we had imagined. Already tardy, but still manageably so, our journey was dealt an almost fatal blow by the fact that the reception guy at our hostel had told us the wrong station to get off at for the bus station. Getting off where we thought was correct, the security guard at the station was given the task of informing us that no, we were 2 stations and a line change away. Racing back to the platform we were told we had 8 minutes until the next train arrived, which made catching our bus seem an unlikely possibility.

Jordan enjoyıng the spacıous journey to Valencıa

My determination not to buy a new ticket - 4 days in Madrid had already made me realize the European portion of my trip was going to take all my money - meant I raced through the metro when we got there, not opposed to pushing through children, running up escalator and leaving Jordan behind in the dust. Poor Jordan was wearing heavy boots and carrying a 60 pound, unwieldly long bag and couldn't follow me and my rucksack  running in front of him. Against all odds, we made it just in time and as we pulled out of the station on the way to Valencia, we high fived and attempted to rid ourselves of all the adrenaline and stress. Off to Valencia we went!

Tags: europe, jet lag, madrid, rowing. bus, spain


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