Friday, September 25, 2009

Visiting Spain - Madrid

This year has been a busy one for us, and I have to thank Andra for it :).
She found two flight bargains: one to Spain - Madrid and the other one to Italy - Venice; both in the spring time.

1st - Madrid.
I don't recall exactly the number of days we stayed there, just the fact that none of us wanted to return home :).
There were so many difference between Bucharest and Madrid, and an equal number of reasons for staying there:
- Madrid was well in the spring season, while in Bucharest we had cold weather with rain that lasted for days.
- It was a very clean city: no cigars on the ground; no spitting (like most of the Balkans use to), no nothing...(and I'm not talking just about the city center, but also surroundings).
- The people looked so peaceful and everyone minded his own business; also they said "thank you"/"gracias" at about everything.
I won't forget one event: at a subway entrance I kept the door open for an old couple; the man smiled, said gracias a few times and came to pat me on the back, like I did them a great favor.
- The roads were in a very good condition (we did not see any holes, and felt more than ok in the public transport);
- The drivers were also calm, everyone kept the legal distance and we didn't see anyone aggressive in traffic (changing lanes constantly, speeding over short distances etc);
- There was also a certain respect for motorcyclists and vice versa.

Now, let's go a little back and start from the actual arrival moment.
Our plane landed at night (around 3:00 in the morning). We learned with this occasion that it is usual for the cheap flights to have a "catch" like this.
Because it would have been hard to find accommodation at that hour, we decided to wait at the airport until morning.
Prior to the trip, we decided to stay at a hostel and we found one right in Madrid's center.
It proved to be a wise decision, as we were free to spend more money on visiting, rather than on accommodation.
Also, at the hostel we made a new friend: Joe from Japan. Of course his name was not really Joe, but we couldn't pronounce the real one :), so he was prepared with a surrogate.

Here are some picture in chronological order: airport, subway, random pic from the city, Retiro park, visiting Madrid's Zoo & Aquarium, feeding a peacock that was wondering freely :), seeing pandas and dolphins (a first for us), learning from locals about the "petanca" game, and some pictures taken with & by our always happy and funny friend - Joe.

A few hints for other travelers that might read this post:
- in case you have a PDA, there is a free software called METRO. It is very useful in case you use the public transport as it tells you what bus number (or subway line) to take - depending onto the present station and the destination station.
It calculates combined between outside transport and subway, and can also determine the shortest route or the one with fewest connections.

- hostels are a great place for making friends (people are talkative there), they are cheap, many have double rooms for couples (not just rooms with more than 2 beds in it). So, in case you don't like paying too much for accommodation, this is one way to do it. The other one is presented below:

- Couchsurfing, is a way of meeting new people, learning from them about their culture (more insights can be received), and sharing experience with others that might think like you.
More about this in the next post, when we'll present the trip to Italy - Venice.

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