"City of balconies" Madrid by leics
Madrid Travel Guide: 5,306 reviews and 10,727 photos
I knew before I visited that Madrid did not hold massive amounts of historical interest for me...my interests lie well before 1600, and most of present-day Madrid dates form after that time. But any new place is interesting, because one of my other loves is people-watching and what my farmer's wife friend calls 'poking my nose into how people live'.
I liked the fact that I felt safe wandering Madrid (I don't walk alone late at night, but I wouldn't do that in my own nearby town). I never felt uncomfortable and had less hassle from beggars and streetpeople than I've had in many other places (in all the continents I've visited). Madrid has its share of homeless, and they were visible in many places, but either I was very lucky or they are not as overtly needy as elsewhere.
I liked the people of Madrid. They are patient with those who are struggling with the language. Yes, lots of them speak little or no English but we still managed...with a smile. Especially when I accidentally slipped into Italian!
I liked the little details I noticed as I wandered...the sculptures of random 'tourists' dotted about the city, the balconies, the decorative brick and tilework, the wedding-cake architecture....
I liked the fact that you can pay the bus driver for your ticket rather than having to spend ages looking for a newsagent or similar to get them.
It seemed a very clean city to me. Hardly any litter, bins apparently emptied on a daily basis. streets regularly swept. It put London (and elsewhere) to shame in that respect.
To be honest, there was nothing I didn't like about Madrid, despite its lack of historical interest for me personally. If you enjoy more 'modern' cities, and especially if you enjoy art, there is much to see and explore. Madrid is what I would call a 'comfortable' city: you can walk around and enjoy it without continually worrying about 'standing out', or being under threat, or having to continually be on alert. tat's not to say you shouldn't use normal city common sense of course. Madrid, like all large European (and other) cities has its fair share of pickpockets and petty thieves. but it is easy to take sensible precautions against them and not be like the poor chap I sat near to at the airport, who had lost 3 cards, 200+GBP and around 100 euro. Why? Because he kept his wallet in his trouser pocket. He 'thought it was safe'. Not a good idea to keep your wallet in your trouser pocket anywhere, any time.
Only one thing surprised me...seeing 'working girls' openly active during the daytime around Gran Via. Surely to goodness they can't get much business at that time of day? Or am I being naive? Whatever, they were no problem at all and not in the least offensive..I was surprised that they were so obviously 'available' at midday! :-)
It seems Madrilenos love their dogs...I saw so many being exercised! Big ones, small ones, each owner with his or her extendable lead and pack of poop-scooping plastic bags. I saw no 'evidence' of dogs on the pavements: that's impressive.
But I only saw four cats all the time I was in Madrid. One belonging to an apparently homeless man, one sneaking its way into what I assume was its home inside the vast memorial to Alfonso Xll in El Retiro park (and very healthy it looked too..I bet there are lots of mice and rats and bits-of-picnic to eat in that park!) and two in the Botanical gardens, also very healthy-looking (more mice and rats and picnic-leavings, I think).
I liked the food, of course. None of this 'you can't get anything to eat until 9pm' business as far as I was concerned. Lots of snacks available all day...nibbles of varying types with my beer, tostas if I wanted a snack mid-afternoon, lovely cakes from lovely cake shops, unlimited varieties of tapas from unlimited numbers of bars ...
Maybe it would have been different if I wanted a formal restaurant meal in the evening...although I saw plenty of restaurants open well before 9pm...but I didn't. So that was ok. and the food I had was excellent. I'm told that, despite being so far from the sea, Madrid has a reputation for 'the best' seafood in Spain...and the seafood I tried was certainly very good indeed.
The beer was fine too: I'm not over-fond of wine, so stuck to draught beer. Mostly Amstel, unfortunately, but the Mahon I drank in Toledo was better. Next time I visit Spain I'll try to drink more Spanish beer.
- Pros:Prado, cleanliness, tapas, easy city to explore.
- Cons:None that I came across.
- In a nutshell:City of art, balconies and dogs!
Ok, I know this isn't a restaurant or a cafe or a bar. But you might find, as I did, that the urge for something sweet... more travel advice
A couple of lovely examples of azulejos tilework can be found in the equally lovely El Retiro park. The Palacio de... more travel advice
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