Parque Retiro
Parque Retiro

Madrid 2013: No Hunger, No Regrets

“Hola! Nesecito hablar con mi amigo Alex, eres Alex?” *Beeeeeep*

Lauren and I stared hopelessly at a keypad, pressing each number and beckoning to the voice who answered.  We tried to convince every resident to let us into the gate of an apartment building where our next host lived.

Our hair plastered to our faces from the rain.

“Ciao! Hola! Puedes abrir??? Let us in pleeeease!”
“Hi! Couchsurfing!?”
“Soy desperate!”

Our Spanish skills had a direct correlation to the desperation we we’re feeling (the more desperate, the more Spanglish).

Panic set in when about five voices answered us through the loudspeaker… All adamantly denying us entry.

Well, hmph.

We laughed a minute until we heard, “Couchsurfing girls? Chantae?”

Due to shoddy Internet activity in Paris and a few miscommunications, our host had expected us two hours earlier and figured we weren’t going to come at all (which explains why he ate all of the dinner he supposedly cooked for us…). I couldn’t tell if his face was filled with relief or disappointment when he answered the door, but he welcomed us in enthusiastically regardless.

After our flight with Ryanair, the street hustlers of travel, the last thing we needed was abandonment in the rain in an alleyway of Madrid. After being sold gambling scratchers, cigarettes, a baby stroller, and life insurance – which is a bit sketchy considering you are relying on a $50 flight to get you from point A to B and makes you reevaluate money saving strategies if you’re not even going to survive to spend the $19 you saved flying with Ryanair, but I digress – we prayed for a simple and hassle free transition into our next accommodation. Of course, things never work how you expect when backpacking.

The next day, we went to Parque de Retiro, a large park with a pond big enough to paddle a small boat on. We peeled off our jackets, hiked up our dresses for a much needed knee-tan, and let the sun hit our faces after what seemed like endless days of gloomy weather. I was excited to be photographed in a black cardigan for once instead of my black jacket for the sole reason to prove to my parents (aka blog followers) see, I sometimes change my clothes which implies that I shower more than you give me credit for.

Parque Retiro
Parque Retiro

Talent riddled the sidewalks with street performers displaying puppet shows for hoards of screaming children, musicians on steel drums, and there were even impressive bubble blowers.

That's a John Lennon (or as I call him, Baaaahn Lambon) puppet performing "Imagine."
That’s a John Lennon (or as I call him, Baaaahn Lambon) puppet performing “Imagine.”
Bubble Parque Retiro
Children getting stoked on bubbles at Parque Retiro
Lauren at Parque Retiro
Lauren at Parque Retiro

There were even vendors selling sunglasses like Ray Boni, the more durable runt stepbrother of Ray Bans. I bartered a pair down from 15 Euro to 5 Euro, a ripoff nonetheless but what can I say… Sometimes looking this good costs money.

Parque Retiro
Me and my new Ray Bonis, that are now responsible for my racoon-eye sunburm.

Forever propelled by our growling stomaches, Lauren and I then went to Mercado de San Miguel, a quaint building filled with local cuisines. My tummy wanted everything in sight, but my wallet dictated Lauren and I share a slice of pesto lasagna — heavenly.

Market de Miguel
Market de Miguel

After this endeavor, we went to a hole-in-the-wall tapas bar that no other gastronimical experience will ever rival: El Tigre. 5 Euro drinks gargantuan enough to sedate an elephant and all-you-can-eat amazing tapas. Lauren and I eagerly grabbed the plates filled with Spanish deliciousness, our arms wobbling from the weight of all the food.

El Tigre

Case in point: go to Madrid if only to experience El Tigre.Staying true to our Americanness, we scarfed the tapas down in a gluttonous glory.

Our host took us to get tapas with some of his fellow Spaniards. They corrected some of my grammar but complimented my overall ability to communicate with minimal grunts and points. This pleased me greatly.

The next day, we made a point to try churros con chocolate – a dish that tastes just as tasty and heart attack inducing as it sounds. We were so hungry by the time we got our hands on it, we practically snaked the churros down our throats and poured the chocolate in alongside it in front of the Royal Palace.

Madrid Royal Palace
Madrid Royal Palace

Continuing on the topic of food, we also went to a restaurant with our next host, and were served small fried fish complete with tails and all! I watched wide-eyed as our host picked up one of the little fishies and popped it straight down his hatch, chomping only to cut the tail off.

Somehow, someway, a sense of adventurousness came over me and I decided to break my vegetarianism and try one of these fried fish as well. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone. My heart was beating faster and faster as the fish practically swam into my mouth… I looked for the nearest place to puke if the taste called for it. Lauren and our host looked at my face in anticipation.

“Not bad!”

I ate two more tiny innocent fishy souls but that stays between you and me.

At the end of our dinner, our host says, “How about we just leave and not pay? I’ll grab the coats and you run out the front door.”

He sneaked his way over to the coat rack.

Great, just what we need – a host slash stranger with questionable morals to go home to. Lauren and I stayed to pay the bill and he caught us exchanging judging glances.

“Just kidding! I paid already! Let’s go!”

After confirmation with the waitress that he did indeed pay, we proceeded to go bar hopping and experience some of the nightlife. Turns out, Madrid was on holiday so the scene was pretty relaxed.

Our time in Madrid was short and sweet. (We had to leave before our clothes stopped fitting… Enough buttons had popped off in sacrifice as it was!)

On the last day, we visited Museo Nacional del Prado, a museum filled with classics. We walked around during the free hours of operation, it was crowded but we enjoyed the paintings regardless. The works of Rembrandt, Goya, Rubens, are all featured here. Each painting was the result of endless hours of dedication to a vision, it’s incredible to think about how many lifetimes were spent painting masterpieces resulting in a single museum room. Even though you read about how awe inducing Rembrandt’s light is, it’s impossible to appreciate until you see it in person.

Lauren and I dedicated our last night to mojitos, our host, and El Tigre. We spent the night out on the town, came home, and refused to sleep because we needed to wake up at six. We knew the dangers of a comfortable bed and couldn’t risk missing our bus to Seville. At six in the morning, we journeyed in a no-sleep stupor to the metro… Where I promptly claimed four seats as my own.

And off to Seville we went!

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