Toledo to Madrid
Up out of bed at 8ish and decided to head up into the old town of Toledo to have another look around, this time without the tourists. I biked it from the campsite to the bottom of the hill that the old town stands on, left the bike at the bottom, and took the 6 sets of escalators that take you up to the start of the town the easy way....
I walked around for about 1 1/2 hours and had a far better time of seeing things as the touist coaches hadn't arrived en-masse at that stage. It's definately a good city to visit, although I'd probably have liked to have had a couple of days to really relax in the city and take in some of the cafes and bars.
I headed back to the site, showered, and passed in a book to the Aussie family in the van next door, Lisa, Alex and kids, said my goodbyes and settled up the bill for the night which was 17e and a very nice site. Time to make tracks for Madrid!
It was a fairly short journey on the Autovia A42 and I'd found the campsite I wanted to go to, Camping Osuna, near to Barajas Airport by 12.30. Camping was 16e without electric, as I was hardly going to be on site, as I'd arranged to meet up with Matt later in the city and to crash at his place. The site was a reasonable size, with hard standings for caravans and motorhomes and a large grassy field for tents. The best thing about it was that it's only 500m or so from the metro stop at Canillejas which runs right into the city centre without having to change trains. The toilets and showersalthough clean, were a bit dated and there was no hot water in the evening the one time I tried, so I ended up using the shower in the van after that experience... brrrrr....
I spent the afternoon in the city, well a couple of hours anyway, just to kill some time, and later headed in to the city again to meet up with Matt outside the Opera Metro station. I'd been advised by the owner at reception to buy a 10 journey metro ticket and this was only 6.40e and ended up lasting for nearly the whole weekend. It's also valid on the bus. I was really impressed by the public transport system in Madrid - there are buses running all night and not at increased night bus prices, so it's really easy to stay out very late and still get home ok. It also felt very safe, unlike the buses in Glasgow and Dublin at night that are full of drunks looking for a fight.
I was a bit worried that neither of us would recognise each other as it had been 4 years since we last met, but I shouldn't have worried at all - he hasn't changed a bit. Matt showed me around some of the tourist sights; the Royal Palace, very grand and all lit up, and the gardens below it, the Plaza Mayor, which is like the main square and is a huge courtyard surrounded by grand old buildings with restaurants and bars on the lower levels. Just around the corner, we stopped off for something to eat and there's a really good wee place that sells bocadillos (crusty rolls filled with your choice of filling). I had the chorizo spicy sausage and washed down with a beer. Even in this capital city, prices weren't bad at all.
Later, we went to some bars and in Matt's favourite (I foget the name of the place) we had the local speciality drink, a Kali-Paquito, which is served in a pint glass. It has about a half pint of vodka to start with, another splosh of some blue coloured spirit and then something else, which when completed turns the whole drink a lovely shade of purple!It tasted ok though, albeit looking like methylated spirits, although after one it was a bit sickly sweet. The woman serving behind the bar was hilarious. She was like an elderly Bett Lynch from Coronation Street on TV and never once cracked a smile. In fact, she seemed to be a right grumpy old bat.....
We were waiting in the bar for Oscar, Matt's boyfriend to arrive, and he appeared with a friend of their's and we had some more drinks and a couple more bars were visted along the way. Madrid was really buzzing by this stage and there seemed to be as many people on the street outside the bars drinking as inside, but no hassle. One minus point is that in every bar we went into, toilet facilities were crap. I.e. not enough toilets to cope with the number of punters in the place. Minor irritation I suppose.... One of the bars we went into, I think it was called 'Gris' (Grey) had a giant screen showing 80's music videos and some of Scotland's (ahem) finest exports were on show in the guise of Ultravox and The Jesus and Mary Chain. strange place.....
Before we had realised, it was half 4 and decided to call a halt to the drinking and head back to Matt's apartment which he shares with 3 really nice Spanish girls, 2 of whom speak really good English, so the conversation in the morning wasn't as stilted as it may otherwise have been. I slept until about mid-day and then headed back to the campsite to get showered and changed before heading back into the city on the Metro to meet up with Matt again that afternoon.
This time, we walked around the shopping street and through the lovely Parque del Buen Retiro, stopping off for a drink (Non alcoholic!) along the way. It was a lovely chilled out stroll around in the sun, in a fantastic, cosmopolitain European city that I had never really even considered visiting before. There's a real buzz about the whole place. It's areal outdoor cafe culture and abviosuly helps that the weather was great. It reminded me of London somewhat, but the people were a lot friendlier and even in the main shopping streets, there wasn't that crazy crush that there is in london with people bumping into you all the time. I felt very safe the whole time that I was in Madrid. Sometimes I can feel a bit 'on edge' in cities that I'm not familiar with.
Later on that evening, we headed along to a house party being thrown by a guy that Matt works with. It was a good opprtunity to have conversation in English, as Matt's colleagues are all English teachers who work in the language academy with him. We had a laugh comparing some of the words that have different meanings between U.S. English and British English. 'Settee' for example, doesn't seem to exist in the States. I also explained the term 'Bingo Wings' and how it's used..... :)
We called it a night about 2am as we were both wrecked and I crashed at his again.
Next day, I met up for a final drink and something to eat and made an early night and said cheerio to Matt and hope to see him again long before 4 years next time!
Plan for tomorrow is to visit the city of Soria, about 230 km North East of Madrid as it's been recommended.
p.s.... sorry, no photos of Madrid as I didn´t want to be carrying my camera around with me and only took one pic on the cheapo disposable...