My Iberia Air flight is quick, comfortable and on-time. I say my goodbyes to Paul at Schiphol Airport at make my way to my gate for the 8am departure. He will leave from another part of the airport at 10:30am to fly back home to Australia.
It costs me just five Euros to catch the Metro into the city from Madrid’s international airport. There’s a change part-way and I find myself navigating multiple layers of Metro station to find the one that I need to get onto. But it’s okay. I’m used to this now. I’m not the same person as the one who was totally discombobulated arriving in Seoul all those months ago.
I step off the Metro at Tribunal and am greeted with my first sight of the city proper. There’s narrow cobble-stoned streets, buildings painted in the orange spectrum and tiny little balconies. It’s like I’m in a whole new world just 90 minutes flight from where I’ve been the past weeks. It’s crazy.
I drop my bag at the hostel I’ll be staying at and set off in search of some lunch. It’s Sunday but there’s a green grocer open around the corner from the hostel. The fruits and vegetables look so fresh and delicious, and the prices are incredibly cheap. I buy a bunch of stuff then duck across the road to the bakery where a full French stick sets me back just 60 Euro cents. I’d seen a plaza near my hostel so head back up there to eat a banana sandwich and take in the sights. Children play soccer and dogs wander dragging their leashes behind while the owners chat.
I return to the hostel and put my groceries in the fridge before settling in for an afternoon of work. I have about four days before Mum arrives so want to make the most of it by knocking over some work. This will allow me more time to spend with my mum. It’s well and truly dark by the time I’m ready to hit the town. There’s a free rock climbing area about 4km from the hostel so that’s my destination. Out in the streets I notice the difference between Spain and every other country I’ve ever visited. And it’s most visible in one thing: couples kissing passionately on the streets as if no one were watching.
I find my way to the bouldering wall without any trouble. It’s well lit and there are other people working out. The graffiti is disgusting and over the coming days I will learn this is a normal part of Madrid’s landscape. Personally, I hate it and it makes the city feel unloved and dirty. But for now I focus on my training. I pull off a couple of overhang moves and put my body through a good session.
I feel invigorated so take a long winding way back to the hostel. It’s late by now but the city is still alive and kicking. I take it in and photograph some of the more beautiful buildings.
The architecture is passionate and voluptuous. There’s no other way to describe it. Nothing could be further from Holland’s classy old styles and Poland’s romantic beauty. Here the shapes are sexy and the sizes grande
And the lit up delicacies seem to pop up at every turn. It’s a feast for my eyes and a massive culture shock after the past month in the north. But more on that later because this is nothing compared with the culture shock I will experience later. This is just a taster … my first impression of Madrid.