20 January 2010

Alans article in the Leinster Leader

Schnitzels European Adventures.
Madrid and Alvarro.

We were meeting friend in Madrid, Alvarro a guy who had done his erasmus in our college in Limerick last year. We were hoping he might have a driveway that we could pull into and sleep without any fear of being moved along by the police. We did not have his phone number so we spent the first 2 or 3 hours in Madrid walking around the lamp lit streets looking for an internet café. Alvarro had left us his number in an email. By the time we actually got out to his house it was 2am, his mother and sister were still up. This was not france. They did not have a driveway, but what they did have was bundles and bundles of kindness and generosity. Not only did they talk us into sleeping on their lovley warm couches, they also fed us, washed our clothes and told us about cool things to do. After two weeks in the van it was paradise.
Because of Alvarros wonderful family we found it very hard to leave Madrid and so we spent about a week on those couches eating that food, enjoying tremendously free warm showers. This gave us a lot of time to really explore the city. I suppose I was previously ignorant to Madrid. I knew it was the capital of Spain so it would be a big city, I knew Real Madrid were from there, but I was ignorant of the New Yorkness of it. Its really a massive city with bright lights that never cease. The town does not sleep, the massive Schwepps advertisement, akin to one of Times Square, would keep the streets alight with lack of sun.
The streets are crowded, mobility on Gran Via, the main street is no easy feat. If you were a thief escaping the scene of the crime you would be much better off trying to hide, fit in, camoflauge, with the masses than to run through them which I’m sure would prove impossible. Many of the streets when viewed from a raised focal point, ie the low wall of a fountain, are filled completely with just heads. On these streets the only option is to move with the crowd, there is no overtaking.
Madrid is really wonderful for its old architecture with enormous palaces and cathedrals and museums. Even a beautiful garden designed by none other than Galileo Galilei. All of this stuff could be studied and looked at for days on end. But I have to admit that possibly my favourite thing about the city was a little café bookshop called JJ’s. It is well off the beat and track, hard to find even if you have directons and a map, but when you find it you realise that there a few things more beautiful than an Irish accent in a foreign country. Its an English speaking establishment and the full downstairs area is a second hand bookshop in English. We sat there for hours drinking tea and coffee and I read about half a book which I was then forced to buy by an overwhelming urge to finish it. I highly recommend this little place to any English speaking people living in Madrid.
We racked up €210 worth of parking tickets in this great city, luckily for us they have municipal police and they don’t know where we live.

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