We’ve heard that people are either Barcelona people or Madrid people. We set out to discover if that was true.
Our trip to Madrid started out with a bang. We were, predictably, running late – by running I mean literally sprinting through the train station at Barcelona Sants – and I uploaded the tickets to my phone wrong, costing us a few minutes of precious time. We climbed aboard with virtually no time to spare. Within a minute, the train was leaving the station, whether or not we were on it. The trip passed quickly. A bit too quickly if you ask Food and I. At the next stop a whole team of basketball players climbed aboard who were all tall, hot, and obviously talented if they’re getting paid to play ball. Food started plotting out what her future nieces and nephews would look like and not-so-subtly whispering “What about the blonde guy? Ooo… that one has green eyes! The guy with the afro and you would have the cutest mixed babies.”, while I spent the train ride with my cheeks stained red.
In retaliation, here’s Food in her natural form.
First impressions of Madrid: it’s more manicured than Barcelona and everyone spoke to you in Castilian regardless of whether or not you looked foreign. This was a kicker for me. Trying to practice Spanish in Barcelona is like trying to practice Pennsylvania Dutch with the Amish. Just because they know it doesn’t mean they’re willing to talk to an outsider in their language, and heavens knows you make too many mistakes to even concern yourself with it. The only people willing to suffer through my Spanish are those who don’t speak any English. I’m passable, but far from fluent. However, in Madrid, even if I epically messed up and confused volvar with llegar and mixed up my tenses and never used vosotros (because honestly why?), they would continue on in Spanish. It was amazing, and if I were to return to Spain for the purpose of becoming fluent, Madrid would definitely be more useful than Barcelona has been. However, I love Barcelona. I love the people and the proximity to the water. Growing up on a lake spoiled me for good – I don’t love being landlocked.
Anyhow – food. In our few days there we ate well. Our first trip was to Venta el Buscon, a tavern that was bustling with people into the late afternoon. We ordered a platter for two, but I think they severely overestimated the size and hunger of the average human. Both my sister and I can put away some food – no one that knows us would say we don’t genuinely enjoy eating (and to all you long-suffering individuals who eat solely for survival: Have you ever eaten anything good?) – but we didn’t even finish half of it. The amount of meat was astounding, and add in a salad, olives, fried potatoes and more? I could have fed my immediate family of 9 with this platter, not just Food.
We took an afternoon stroll through Retiro Park, a massive park in the central area of Madrid with ponds, jungle gyms, elaborate garden areas, and a large building made of glass dubbed the Crystal Palace. There was an ongoing modern art exhibit inside, which we admired while simultaneously making fun of it. Sorry, but I don’t get modern ‘art’. We stopped for a quick coffee break and then viewed what I call actual art by heading to Prado National Museum, which had a line out the door. The museum’s starring artist is Goya, whose dark themes in the Black Paintings seemed to stymie Food a bit. “Why did he bite his head off?”
Rather than go for dinner, we opted to embrace our Americanness and go watch Avengers: Civil War. I have a weakness for sarcastic arseholes in metal suits. A few minutes into the movie Food disappeared only to come back and tell me she was having stomach problems and was returning to the hotel. Turns out the chicken at Venta el Buscon was not fully cooked and I, having fortuitously stuck to red meat, missed out on revisiting lunch.
Our second day started out a bit wet. We dashed through puddles to Carmencita Bar for amazing eggs Benedict and mimosas, because brunch should be a little boozy. Then we went back to ancient Egypt (Magic Treehouse style) in the Temple of Debod, which was constructed from 2nd century BC to 47 BC near Aswan, Egypt, but dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid for some reason.
A stop for coffee and ice cream at Mistura, where they mix your ice cream with your selected topping on a marble slab (reminiscent of Cold Stone) and have really cool basement area, but really bad wifi, allowed us to dry off for a bit. We got fancy at the Royal Palace of Madrid, where everything was a bit over-elaborate for our tastes, and Food tried to convince me to go find the royal family. They did have the original copies of Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes, which I was fascinated by and spent a good ten minutes looking at while Food repeatedly asked what the book was about.
We finished our trip with – what else? – churros con chocolate from Chocolateria San Gines instead of actually eating dinner. We’ve ultimately decided we’re Barcelona girls, but might be able to see why one would love Madrid. Mission accomplished.
To see more of our adventures in Spain, check out Sitges, where we accidentally stumble into a gay bar and become best friends with the bartenders, and for more on the language barrier read about me embarrassing myself. More to come later! XoXx Fernweh & Food
P.S. Our awesome grandparents gifted us this trip, and we’re super thankful for it. We loved every minute but missed you both. Kisses to G&P.