What is the walk away percentage at the Chili’s restaurant in JFK airport? 15%? 20%? Thoughts while waiting for my buffalo chicken salad: wondering whether the people in Spain aspire to be Flamenco dancers and Bullfighters the same way Lawyers and Doctors once were in the states. I’m put at ease once my salad arrives and I remember that the residents of Madrid still believe in the siesta and call all hats sombreros.
It is still dark when we arrive at our hotel in Madrid’s Plaza de Santa Anna. A square located near Old Madrid, in the center of the city. Our hotel, the ME Madrid, used to be a Hard Rock Hotel, it now bears little resemblance and there are no cheeseburgers in sight.
Given the time our hotel isn’t ready and our friends Terence and Olya (you may remember them from such adventures as Amsterdam and Dublin) have yet to arrive. We walk around the block to enjoy an Espresso and Cappuccino. Once our friends arrive we decide to begin our adventure and head toward Old Madrid. On our way we are greeted by soldiers and pedestrians dressed as soldiers with horses. It is a lot to take in this early in the morning so we head to a restaurant near Plaza Mayor and have another round of Espressos and Cappuccinos.
A walk around Old Madrid and The Palace is followed by several beers at a couple of the thousand of tapas bars lining the streets. After, we head back to Plaza de Santa Anna for more beers, a shoe shine, and pictures with an accordion player. It is midday Thursday and the plaza is full of locals drinking and having a good time. It’s at this time we make a plan to have a short siesta, have dinner, and turn in early because tomorrow is museum day.
Back in Old Madrid we eat pizza and have wine, beer, and Mojitos at a tapas place just outside one of the Plaza Mayor arches. Feeling a little bit too touristy we head down Cava Baja where the streets are lined with sunken wine and tapas bars. After much more wine and beer we decide to head back closer to our hotel. On the way back we decide we need to make another stop so we have another round inside Plaza Mayor. As we are enjoying our drinks an elderly woman approaches (too closely) and startles me. Thinking she is there to take away my libation I quickly brush her away only to realize that she wanted to do a caricature of the table. Realizing my mistake I chase her down and she joins our table, sketching our comical faces and presumably cursing us under her breath.
Back near the ME Madrid we find a back alley of bars, settling on one with live Flamenco singing (called La Flamenco). We order wine and Margaritas, followed by tapas (two hundred fried jalapeño peppers on a plate), followed by wine and beer. As the locals belted out the songs with the singer we sat in the back enjoying the show and the bull hanging on the wall. After the show we all agreed we should meet around 10am the next morning to head to the museums.
It was around 1am when we all came back to our room, had another drink and decided we should go see our hotel rooftop club called The Penthouse. After several Margaritas, wine, and several more Margaritas we decide we should go back out for food and a nightcap. We found a bar where we all had a glass of wine and came up with some chant that started with the word “ole” and ended with the word “ole”. It was after 3am Terence and Olya split to find food while Beth and I ducked into a little wine bar near our hotel. This is where we met the Spanish Richard Branson. Despite appearing as if they were closing we were waved in two have not one, but two nightcaps. Branson, who spoke English, talked to us and invited us to come back to his bar during our stay.
Friday Morning (actually afternoon)
After ordering sixty Euros worth of breakfast food we hardly touched we slowly got ready, trying to recall the previous night. Eventually we met back up with Terence and Olya in the hotel lobby. It was approximately 1pm.
On our way to the Museo Del Prado we stop at a tapas bar for food. Terence orders Gazpacho, Beth and Olya Cappuccinos, and I order an Espresso that quickly leads to an Abbot and Costello type routine of the Spanish waiter yelling “GUZPACHO!” and me saying “No, ESPRESSO!” This went on for ten minutes. At one point another glass of gazpacho was brought over in an attempt to convince me this is what I wanted. Eventually an Espresso was brought over and peace restored.
Inside the Museo Del Prado rooms and rooms of paintings covered the walls. Easily to get lost and not know what you have seen or not seen it didn’t help that we were all very hung over and sweating out our cocktails from the night before. In addition to the glorious works on display it was the many paintings of little people (or dwarfs or midgets) and the penitence works of men holding a stone debating on whether to kill themselves – with the stone. It was a lot to take in after a rough night.
After Museo Del Prado a stop not on the itinerary is made. Welcome to Burger King, home of the Whopper! Most ate cheeseburgers and then we were on our way to Reina Sofia museum to view many Picasso works and be lied to by employees when asking where specific works were on display. Outside the museum we find an information booth and receive information on potential bullfights.
We find a pizzeria nearby, drink wine and eat pizza, and then navigate through more alleys to our destination: Corral de la Moreria, a Flamenco dancing show. We are early so we have another bottle of wine then go in and are poured more glasses of wine. The show itself is nothing short of magnificent. The men, women, and stomping take us all by surprise. Tears are shed. More wine is drunk.
Back at Plaza de Santa Anna we decide to have one more bottle of wine and then retire because we have a busy day of travel (Toledo) the next day. We have another bottle then go back to our room and make a run at emptying the mini bar. A video is shot for the song “My name is Terence”, we decide Saturday night will be “a heart pumper.”
Saturday morning (actually early afternoon)
Inside the train station we get our tickets and head on a full train (kicked out of random seats we attempt to sit in) to Toledo. On our arrival, still in a haze from the night before, we mistakenly get on the white bus. After pictures in front of the old city, waiting for more horses (it was police day so there was a parade) we eventually pull up to the city and take the escalator up to the center part of the city. Once inside we are starving, and still in a haze from the night before, we pick the worst restaurant in Toledo. Unsatisfied, we continue our walk and tour the cathedral (Beth cursed ninety seconds after entry), then peer into the stores of souvenirs and knives. We find our bus back to the train station and before we know it are back at the ME Madrid taking a brief siesta, preparing for the “heart pumper”.
A short taxi ride and very long walk found us starting our night in the neighborhood Malasana. Known for rock music and eighties vibe it was also very young. Inside a loud death metal bar young white power appeared to be in full swing contradicted only by the song being played titled, “Don’t Call Me White”. After much walking, bar hopping, and four rounds we headed back to Plaza de Santa Anna. Two more rounds were had and then another back at La Flamenca, we danced with the Mariachi players, and then ducked into the Spanish Richard Branson bar.
With a Mojito bar on site (a guy only known as Rico Suave) the drinks began to flow freely. After the second round Terence decided he needed to go back to the hotel to use the facilities. After he left something happened. We started to get free drinks from Spanish Richard Branson and friends.
Sunday Morning (actually mid afternoon)
With our hearts still pumping, Beth and I order room service and slowly get ready. We meet Terence and Olya and slowly make it to the park. It is a very slow walk. At the park we walk more and see greenhouses and a statue of the devil (the only one in the world I believe). Food is ordered at a tapas bar, but never received. We drink Diet Cokes and then go to McDonald’s and then off to the bullfights.
Given the bullfight lasts two hours I was under the assumption it would be more of a production and “last” two hours. With a packed house of locals the bull appeared and within ten minutes was down.
We start off at the two for one happy hour block (we have bottle of wine #1) and then trek through the shady area of Madrid looking for a bar that doesn’t exist. Back near Plaza de Santa Anna we have bottle of wine #2 and then bottle of wine #3. Venturing out (a block) we stop at Viva Madrid and have bottle of wine #4 and then decide a nightcap should be had so two blocks over we have bottle of wine #5. It was 1am when we decided to go back to the rooftop hotel bar and have another two rounds of drinks. Sometime after 2am we made it to Terence and Olya’s room where a dance party broke out.
Monday Morning (7am)
After a very early wakeup call Beth and I were stuck in traffic due to a car accident. After one hour we are realize we will not make our flight. Nursing a four-day hangover we somehow check in, check our luggage, and make it through immigration and security in less than fifteen minutes.
As I was walking on the plane with my severe headache thoughts of the past late nights rushed my brain. Madrid is a place of partying late and enjoying life. The next day trying to remember what happened the night before while at the same time making new memories. Days pass, weeks pass and still memories (or flashbacks) from the four nights returns.
Madrid is the type of hangover that never goes away.