After a long and meaningful deliberation, Mirinda has come to the conclusion that she hates Madrid. Possibly the whole of Spain. She hates the queues, the rain, the fact that everyone speaks Spanish loudly and aggressively.
She’s read on Trip Advisor that the Spanish are rude at tourist sites. Not the tourists, I hasten to point out, but the people who work there. Restaurant staff as well. She announced this as we sat in the local branch of Mas Q Menos, a chain of tapas bars that also sell toasted sandwiches and the like, where we had lunch. There were two waiters who served us. One of them was very nice and patient. The other one, however, appears to have read the stereotyping and was unnecessarily rude. Okay, that maybe a bit strong but he was surly to the point of personal disfigurement.
This morning it was raining. Not heavily but enough to annoy tourists who only have a couple of days to savour a city. We had made a plan last night that if it was raining we wouldn’t go to the palace but head out for the Prado as it’s all inside. Little did we know that 3.5 million other people, all with different coloured umbrellas, had exactly the same idea and were already queued up outside the Prado.
We decided to skip the Prado and headed for St Jeronimo’s behind it.
This is quite a famous church in Madrid. The Castilian Parliament met there in 1510 and the present King Juan Carlos I was crowned there in 1975. While we were there, guests were turning up for some big wedding. We have no idea who it was going to be but, whoever it was, they must be some sort of Spanish celeb, if the outfits and demeanour of the guests was anything to go by.
There was, in particular, a plethora of fascinators stapled to the sides of the heads of the women. Personally I blame Princess Eugenie for the resurgence of these crimes against style and grace. And fur coats. We’ve seen a lot of fur coats since we’ve been here, generally worn by dyed blonde women wearing the most gaudy, chunky gold jewellery possible. Still, they do make for some great blog fodder.
Speaking of which, we were very shocked to discover that it seems perfectly reasonable for strange men to present their private parts to anyone who happens to walk down their road, in Madrid. Very odd behaviour in what we like to think is civilisation but is clearly nothing of the sort. Unless civilisation is a place where very ugly people display their ‘bits’ to the world for reasons known only to themselves…and maybe their therapists.
Be warned: When walking down from the Museum of Romance to the Gran Via, keep your eyes straight ahead because you have no idea what might suddenly burst out of a doorway and imprint itself on your retina for all time.
But that was later…After leaving the church of St Jeronimo, which, unlike the TARDIS, is actually bigger on the outside than it is inside, we decided to try out the hop on, hop off tourist bus. Boy, was that a mistake. Firstly, it was bloody freezing and wet on the top deck. This isn’t really the fault of the tour company though given it’s a Catholic country, it’s probably God’s. Secondly, the bottom deck of the tour bus is about as touristy as the inside of a shipping container.
We seriously did not get our money’s worth particularly when the buses stopped because of the big carnival parade that was due to start. In order for this to proceed, all the busiest streets in Madrid were closed.
In the middle of the day, after our delicious but not very courteous lunch, we walked up to the Museum of Romanticism, our first tourist site. I’m not counting the bus, obviously. This museum supposedly recreates the Romantic Period in Madrid which was 1820-60. There’s quite a lot of oil paintings of people who quite clearly weren’t. It just goes to show what will eventually happen when the gene pool shrinks to nothing but a drop on the head of a pin. The paintings of infants who actually look freakishly dwarfish and the young guys with the very odd fringes, are also worthy of great note.
But it’s not just genetics, some of them are just down right ugly. This woman, for instance is either her husband in drag or she just needs a shave.
The most interesting things in the museum were the bits and pieces of stuff, the ephemera of the Romantic Era. In particular the things in the children’s room. A doll’s house that was, in fact, some sort of strange convent full of nuns. I wonder what unspeakable acts, the children made the nuns perform in the safety of this adult-free room?
The people who hang around in the rooms, making sure no-one touches anythng they shouldn’t, were extremely intrusive. I’m afraid we’re used to the, almost, invisible people at National Trust properties who can be quite knowledgeable and helpful when you want them to be and, at other times, just sort of melt into the wallpaper. Not at the Museum of Romance, they don’t! They stand in your way, push by you, never smile and are anything but approachable.
However, apart from every Spanish effort to make us dislike the place, we both enjoyed our visit and even went to the cafe for a coffee and a cookie.
Possibly the worst part of the entire day was getting stuck on the hop on, hop off bus, crammed in with a bunch of very loud Spanish tourists who clearly weren’t interested in looking out the windows and enjoying their own country. They were far more interested in trying to talk louder than each other, non-stop for as long as I knew them (about an hour). Actually, it’s rather fortunate that they weren’t there to see the sites because the back seat of the bus, downstairs (because it was too cold and wet upstairs) are not exactly designed for tourists. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? However, it’s true.
Basically, the back seat, behind which is a solid wall rather than a window, is too high to see through the narrow slits of windows either side of the bus.
We had planned to get off at the library (a couple of blocks from the hotel) but, because of the all encompassing parade, were turfed off just after the Prado and forced to walk the rest of the way back to the hotel. Fortunately, this wasn’t very far and the roads were delightfully empty so walking was almost pleasurable. Actually, we’d had enough of the loud and annoying Spanish group – it reminded me of the Most Annoying Boy in Spain from the bus tour in Marrakech but increased with adulthood.
The day had not, exactly, been a success and, after buying some crisps and custard flavoured milk at a corner shop, we retired to our room for the night.
But I need to write about the corner shop. It was a small mixed business, the sort of place run by a family. In the case of this small shop, it was a Chinese family. Mum was on the cash register, dad was standing with a broad, slightly demented grin facing his wife and the 11 year old daughter was acting as security detail, making sure no-one stole anything. Clearly, Mirinda looked like she was up to no good and the 11 year old security girl decided to keep a ridiculously close eye on her.
Waiting at the counter were three of the living dead. They were friends of a customer, also one of the undead, who was buying four pieces of pick ‘n’ mix sweets. That doesn’t sound as weird as it was but the shop was quite small and these dead-faced goths were spending possibly the equivalent of 20p on confectionary and filling the space completely. I have no idea why three of them couldn’t have waited outside. Obviously these spawn of the devil wannabes, have no idea how to act in polite society.
Anyway, I managed to buy our packet of crisps and bottle of custard flavoured milk and we high tailed it out of there.
I realise Mirinda is just blaming the entire country for us having a bad day but I’m beginning to think that the Spanish are not very nice.
For dinner, we popped into the Japanese restaurant next door to the hotel. The Banzai, it’s called and it is fantastic. We had the taster menu. It was a taste of heaven. We thoroughly enjoyed the food, the service and even the price. The perfect end to a less than average day.