I flew to Madrid on Sunday night to meet up with Michael, a fellow Madtown Ballroom dancer from university. We had a Couchsurfing host lined up, a chill ex-Marine named Brett who has seen 81 of these 100 Wonders of the World and was consequently infinitely better traveled than the both of us combined. He took us out for tapas at La sureña, a small place overflowing with Spaniards where you could barely hear yourself talk over the volume of rapid-fire conversation. The gambas (shrimp) and pulpo (octopus) were delicious, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the tiny beer bottles they accompanied…they were like fun-sized beers for training your ten-year-old. The bottles triggered a comparison of Germany to Spain which continued throughout the entire trip.
Lucky for us, another dancer friend of ours was living in Madrid for the semester and so we had a touristy day with Don, who led us around to the must-see spots – Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Parque del Retiro (we danced a bit by the pond), and the Reina Sofia to get up close and personal with Picasso and Dalí. A trip to the nearest heladería for some gelato ended up turning into a few hours of catch-up conversation as I hadn’t seen Don in six months. Little did we know that Michael and I would be back in Madrid and seeing Don again sooner than we thought…I’ll save that (un)fortunate adventure for after I write a bit about Sevilla though.
Another great Couchsurfing experience awaited us; Brett had grilled steaks and fresh asparagus in preparation for a grill-off competition he had signed up for, and we spent the evening enjoying the food and talking in the balmy night air on his balcony. I loved Madrid’s metro, but I only had a day and a half to get to know a small part of the city (which had been spent primarily with friendly Americans), so couldn’t decisively say if I liked the city itself or simply the experience of being there.
Spain’s high-speed trains impressed me even more than its fantastic metro system – Deutsche Bahn trains were comparable, but the Renfe AVE trains were more like taking a flight between cities, complete with “flight attendants”. Going through security and two checkpoints before boarding the train and the on-board comforts made the trip from Madrid to Sevilla a breeze! More on the Andalusian vibes in the next post…