travel

Letter from Madrid: … like Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus—Italian or Spanish? Founder of the New World or fraud? I’m sure if I wikipediaed Chris C, I could find a wealth of information about the first question, and the fact is that I care little about the second. Christopher Columbus was one heck of an explorer/adventurer who managed to get others to fund his trips in the name of power/discovery/innovation. He’s my hero (please don’t email me about the indigenous people of the colonized lands—our heroes aren’t always perfect).

I wish I’d tried to convince a few people in the name of power/discovery/innovation to fund my trip to Madrid, but since I didn’t think of it and I’m sure no one would go for it, I found a cheap ticket on www.edreams.com for Ryan Air with a return on Veuling. On www.hotels.com, I found the extremely impressive hotel, Novotel Campo De Las Naciones‏. My brother might tell you that I’m easily impressed, and while that is generally true case (Wow, your watch has no hands!), the hotel had a pool, gym, safe in the room, mini-bar, shower and bath separately, down comforters, as many pillows on the bed as you’d see in a Pottery Barn magazine, and a wonderful spread for breakfast included in the rate… all for $200 for two nights! (That deserves an exclamation mark).  Now, I must note three things: I’ve been staying in hotels in France where a submarine sized bathroom in the room is a big deal, breakfast included means a croissant (choose a pastry) and coffee, and almost zero amenities for the same rate or more.  Let me also remind you that the one time I went under the rate of $100 a night, my neck, back and arm paid the price in bed bug bites.

The flight from Paris to Madrid is only two hours; it actually took more time to get from the hotel in the south of Paris to Gare du Nord, with three metro transfers, than it took to get to Paris Beauvais Airport from where Ryan Air flies. For a budget airline, Ryan Air has comfortable seats, and trust me I know airplane seat discomfort (Hello Spirit Airlines).

Since I’m flying to Tokyo on Monday, and my aunt was in town for six days, I figured it would be great to squeeze in one more trip on this continent, before everything became alien (I’ve already gotten an email where I’ve been called Smith-san).

Years ago, two friends and I traveled to Barcelona, and we were extremely underwhelmed. The food was bland and uninspired, the people cold, and the temperature much cooler than we expected; the shopping, however, was fantastic and the whole Gaudi thing somewhat interesting. The Barcelona trip (and the fact that the “fantastic” shopping left us broke and hungry for two days—maybe three) made me resist booking a trip to Spain. Upon hearing that I was traveling to Madrid, my Barcelona traveling buddy and friend Tiease only said, “Don’t starve.” My search for cheap tickets on edreams was for Rome, but Madrid’s
fares on the side of the screen were much more appealing. Was I in store for another mediocre round of paella, eggs and potatoes, and unfriendly Spanish people? I figured for those rates, and the few days that I was staying, it didn’t really matter.

Now, I wish I hadn’t slept on Madrid.  It’s a city that needs more time than a weekend; there’s much to see and do, and it’s so spread out so it can’t all be done in two days. Solution 1: City Tour Bus. Solution 2: Go back to Madrid and spend a few days. It’s culturally vibrant/perfectly landscaped/simultaneously old and new world/clean/hot for the end of September (temps in the mid-eighties)/extremely easy to navigate by public transportation/ and inspiring.

* There’re pedals on the park bench… now that’s fitness!

* Doesn’t this look like the beginning of a scene?

* This Coffee Shop Jamaica deosn’t mean the same thing that it would in Amsterdam.

Viva Madrid!

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