My day and a half in Madrid

The start of my day and a half in Madrid was a 6-7 hour bus journey, from Torrevieja to Madrid. I had bought a bus ticket which left from Alicante, as I somehow missed the fact that there was actually a few buses which went directly from Torrevieja to Madrid.  Not that it made much difference, the cost and travel time was almost the same, but it would have been a bit quicker and more convenient. Anyway, starting the day early, I got the bus into Torrevieja bus station, changed bus to Alicante, and then changed again in Alicante for the bus to Madrid. The whole thing went very smooth, although it was slightly scary to not understand anything and most people not speaking much, if any, English. This was my first time traveling  completely alone in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and it was easier than I had expected. I actually managed to get on all the right buses and not get lost.

The royal palace…looks pretty cool

My friend Marina met me at the bus stop in Madrid, and after a quick trip to drop off my bag and get some food at her place, we were off to Madrid. For the next 5 hours we wandered around in Madrid, seeing the royal palace, a cathedral, a number of statues, a park or two and a number of streets with really nice buildings. The night was of course finished in a tapas bar so I could try Spanish food. Which turned out to be ok, some parts I liked, but others not so much. Spanish food is apparently not my favourite kind of food, but it was interesting to try it. This evening was during the Euro 2012 football championship, the night Spain won 4-0 against the Netherlands, and while football isn’t something I care much about, it was still pretty cool to see bars crowded by people in football outfits and being able to count the goals from the loud cheers. The atmosphere, the city, the people and the food…it was a great introduction to Madrid.

Some of them were brave enough to eat from my hand

We got back and slept in pretty late, but eventually got up and out for more sightseeing in Madrid around noon. Only problem was that my shoes had started falling apart the day before, and given me several blisters in the process. Great starting point for a day of walking. At least there was a pharmacy nearby where I could buy some horribly expensive, but very,  very effective plasters. I also ended up buying two new pair of shoes that day, the first because I was getting desperate, and the second because it was more comfortable and prettier. Unfortunately the shoe hunt took time away from doing more interesting things. We still saw a lot though, such as a lot more cool statues and buildings, a huge park where we had lunch and fed some really cute sparrows and even an Egyptian temple. Finally getting back to her place at 9 or so, we didn’t have much time to get ready to go out and meet some of her friends. But we managed to eat, shower and get dressed quickly enough to get there (almost) on time.

I’m fabulou..I mean, look at that pretty palace and cathedral from this angle

We then went to get several free drinks, which apparently is easy in Madrid if you’re a girl and you’re out early enough, as promoters for clubs and bars will often offer a free drink if you come to that club/bar. Which they’ll usually offer more often to pretty girls, which again makes it easy to take advantage of it when you are such a young, pretty girl . Later we joined up with Marina’s boyfriend and another friend, sat and talked for a while before going to dance. We danced for hours, and my legs were so, so painful afterwards, but it was so much fun! The club music in Spain is more varied than here and in Britain, it wasn’t just the same songs they play everywhere, but also Spanish music, which was a lot more fun to dance to than the usual  crap music. We eventually got to bed at 6, completely exhausted, and having to get up at 10 for me to catch my bus back.

View from the road…want some salt?

On the positive side I managed to sleep parts of the journey. The rest of the time I watched Alice in Wonderland, without sound and with Spanish subtitles, which is a strange experience when you don’t understand anything, you don’t know the story that well and you’re really tired and slightly hungover. And such ended my day and a half in Madrid. It was completely worth it though, even with the long travel time, and I only wish I had more time to see the city. I’m definitely coming back when I get the chance.

Have you ever been to Madrid? What did you think ?

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7 years ago I was only a few blocks away from a terrorist attack

7 years ago I was in England for the first time, on holiday in London with my dad, sister and grandfather. 7 years ago there was a terrorist attack in London, 4 bombs went off the morning of 7th of July 2005, three in tube trains and one on a bus. Two of those bombs went off in the streets next to the hotel we were staying at. While we were there. I was quite young at the time, but this is what I remember of that day.

The day started as any day on holiday, with breakfast and talking about what we were going to do that day. Whether to get the bus, the tube or get a taxi, that sort of stuff. We were almost finished when a waiter came over and said “Please come with me, there has been an incident”. So we did, along with everyone else in the hotel we were led to a conference room and asked to stay there until they had further information. At this point we had no idea what was happening, no one did, it was probably within the hour of the bombs going off. So we sat, and waited. Talked to people. Everyone wondering what was going on. Trying to not get too scared or freaked out. Sitting like that waiting and not knowing what’s going on, while knowing that something bad actually has happened really freaks out out. It was clearly something serious since we were all put in the same room and asked not to leave, yet not judged dangerous enough for us to have to leave the building. Was it some kind of attack? A big one?  Was it over, or was this just the beginning?  Would it be more that would hit us? Who was it? Another country? Terrorist attacks? Just some crazy individuals? Were we in danger? At this point, these and other similar questions were running through the minds of everyone, as we had no idea what had happened.

After a while we were told that there had been bombs going off nearby and that the police was working on finding out what had happened. It was scary. The whole atmosphere in the large conference room was filled with worry and fear. Hearing what was going on wasn’t very reassuring, even though it made sense that it probably weren’t any more bombs, as there hadn’t been any more explosions for hours. Phones were brought in so people could call their relatives to let them know that they were ok, as at this point it was in the news all over the world and the mobile network wasn’t working properly. Probably overloaded.  Seeing people sitting along the walls talking in phones or waiting for a free phone, in all kinds of languages is something I remember clearly even now.

We were updated relatively regularly, as more information about what actually had happened was found. We were still not allowed to leave though, other than some people being allowed a quick trip up to hotel rooms to pick up books or something else to help the waiting. I remember my dad doing that, and even though there probably weren’t any danger at this point, I was so, so worried the whole time he was away. It felt like he was gone for ages. Of course he was fine and it probably didn’t take more than 10-15 minutes, but I still remember my stomach hurting because I was so afraid that something would happen while he was there and that he wouldn’t come back.

The streets nearby was closed for traffic, and so there were no food deliveries that day. While several hundred people had to stay inside the hotel, many of which hadn’t even had breakfast, or at least not finished eating it. Luckily there was supposed to have been a conference with lunch included that day, so there was food to serve us. Even so it was rationed out, so there would be enough for everyone. People with children first, meaning us, along with some other families. For me it was enough food, or at least I can’t remember being hungry afterwards.

Eventually, sometime in the afternoon or evening, we were allowed to leave. I don’t know how many hours we sat there, but it was the better part of the day. Outside the hotel, two of the streets  directly next to the hotel were blocked off. And I don’t mean a small fence, but a huge plastic sheet going from one building to the other. We could see reporters standing a block up the street filming and talking, as they weren’t allowed as close to the barriers as the hotel was.

We didn’t do much the rest of that day, other than having dinner and going to our rooms. With express command from my dad that me and my sister should not turn on the TV in our room. He didn’t actually command it, he never commands things, but it was a very strong suggestion, and as we both respect out father, as well as having no great wish of seeing the damage, in spite of curiosity, we didn’t turn on the TV. Even today I still haven’t seen any pictures or video of what happened, or even know more than the general story of what happened. And I’m ok with that. Even though we weren’t in any real danger at any point, we didn’t know that at the time, and it was still a frightening experience and I think not seeing news stories has made it easier to deal with it.

I don’t know how many were hurt or killed or how much damage was done, but my heart goes out to everyone who were killed or hurt in the bombings and I hope everyone who were hurt have recovered and have no lasting injuries today.

Going to Spain!

About a week before I left Scotland, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and when she told me she had just moved to the south of Spain and that I was welcome to come visit her, it didn’t take me long to look for and find a reasonably cheap flight. Which happened to be in the middle of June, meaning I left Norway again, just a week after coming home, after being gone for 10 months. Cause, like, who wants to be in Norway? (Ok, so I kinda really like Norway, I just like to be other places as well.

The view from my friend’s flat

So I left for Spain, and as the flight was cheap, it also arrived late, which meant it was too late to get the bus the hour or so from Alicante airport to Torrevieja, where my friend lives. She and her mom were awesome enough to come meet me at the airport, even if they didn’t have to, and we were planning to get a taxi back, costing 60-70 euros or so. Luckily I happened to sit beside a Norwegian couple on the plane, who were going in the same direction and had a rental car, who were really nice and offered to drive us most of the way. We got a taxi for the last little bit, as it was very out of the way where the couple were going, but still, it ended up only costing us 20 euros. Win I say!  Acts of random kindness are awesome 🙂

I was there for 10 wonderful days, most of the time spent on the beach right outside my friend’s flat or in the market and restaurants in Torrevieja, as well as reading books (all three of us loves reading), having great dinners and talking about everything and nothing. We also went to Tabarca, this tiny island off the coast of Alicante, which was very pretty.  Just annoying that there were 5 or 6 classes of school children there at the same time, who almost seemed to follow us around and were SO noisy. One of my good friends from the year in Scotland is Spanish and lives in Madrid, so naturally I had to take the 6-7 hour long bus trip there to see her, even though it was less than 2 weeks since we both left Scotland. And so I did, and it was definitely worth it!

Tabarca

 

The whole trip in general was great to be honest, although I almost didn’t get my flight home. Because in Spain there are a lot of black guys who illegally try to sell sunglasses and whatever crap to tourists, they wander about carrying their wares and approaching tourists (one guy tried to sell my friend what he said was Rolex sunglasses..) or display them on temporary cardboard “tables” so they can just pick it up and disappear if they see any police. If they are illegal immigrants or just don’t have a permit for selling I don’t know, but either way they were protesting in Torrevieja the days around my departure date. Which normally wouldn’t have been a problem, except that they happened to block the street in front of the bus station, where I needed to get the bus to the airport.  Fortunately I was getting an early bus, but even that one barely got past the protesters, it didn’t even drive all the way into the bus station(as he’d have to drive through the guys again when getting out of the station), the bus driver just stopped outside, hurried over and told us this was the bus to the airport. We followed him to the bus, and as the last people were getting in, things turned violent. The majority of the protesters were just behind the bus, so I and the other passengers could see through the window how some guys started using trash containers and pushed them hard into police cars and policemen who were trying to keep control. I don’t know what happened afterwards, but I assume the police got control of the situation. If the street was cleared however, is a different question, and I doubt the later bus I could have taken would have managed to get to the bus station at all.

Anyway, even with this slightly dramatic end to my trip, it was wonderful, can’t wait to go back sometime!

Have you ever been to Spain? Where did you go?