Scrolling through Twitter a little while ago, I saw a tweet from someone asking for recommendations for Madrid. They’re going in April, they said, and they wanted to hear about it before they go. So, being the Spain-lover I am, I instantly clicked on the button to reply, and then had to think for a moment. What can I really say about Madrid?
I went to the Spanish capital once, when I was living in Sevilla for my year abroad during university. It was at a time when I was suffering from depression, and wanted to escape Sevilla for a weekend and make a trip to Madrid. After all, I had been living in Spain for four months and had never been to its capital city! So I flew up with a friend from university, and we met with other friends from university, and we ate food and we went shopping and clubbing and we had an amazing time that I will never forget – I wish.
I mean, we did eat some great food, and we definitely went shopping, and to an amazing club in an old theatre. And it was wonderful to see one of my closest university friends for the first time in around six months. But I don’t remember the weekend with a hell of a lot of fondness. Sure, it was fun and it was good to finally go to Madrid, but it wasn’t the best weekend in my life. There is no glowing edge to the picture in my mind when I replay memories of the trip. In fact, my favourite part of my time there was going to see Interstellar, not realising that the audio would be in Spanish, but then understanding 95% of the language anyway. (Always so proud of myself for that.) But is that Madrid’s fault?
It’s a little difficult to tell.
Being with my friends was great, but there were clashes within the group, and tired, hungover people don’t make for a great atmosphere or comfortable company which, of course, didn’t help the light in which Madrid was reflected. But I can’t shake the feeling that part of my “meh”-ness towards the city isn’t just because Madrid was just a bit boring. And I hate to say that, because I’m sure it’s a wonderful place, but it left no real impression on me. The avenues felt the same as any major city, the Plaza Mayor lacked character, and it all felt a little bit cold to me, and not just in a meteorological sense.
But still, I feel like I should give Madrid another chance. I never made it to the famous Parque del Retiro which so many of my university course mates raved about. I never saw it in the sunshine, or felt the heat of the summer bouncing off the pavement. I didn’t visit Madrid alone, which I’ve recently been finding out is the best way to really, truly get a feel for a place. And I didn’t research the city properly before I went – I was going mainly to visit friends and go clubbing, something that of course is never going to really show me the city itself.
I am truly in love with Spain as a country, and I would live there again in a heartbeat. And so for Spain’s sake I feel like I should try Madrid at least once more, to give her a chance to show me her true beauty and maybe even fall in love with her too. She’s no Sevilla, or Zaragoza, or Salamanca, but she is Madrid, and I’d like to get to know her a bit better.