What a wondrous sight was our place of breakfast on Day 2 in Spain – the Museo de Jamon. Museum of Ham. Pure poetry. All that wonderful cured ham, hanging from the roof, waiting for discerning punters likeourselves to come and enjoy it. Apparently the pigs are brought up in a completely stress free environment – presumably some kind of porcine paradise with lush grass, burlbing brooks, and birds twittering in the background – and are then silently killed by ninjas, so that they don't have the feintest idea what's going on. You can taste the relaxation.
The Madrid lifestyle seems to readily lend itself to lots of wandering about, nibbling at tapas, and generally not getting stressed about much. I don't know if it was a contrast to London purely because of the attitude of the people, the vibe of the city, or the fact that we didn't have ourselves booked up to be in 15 places at once, but it was a really cool & relaxing place to be. Not as relaxed as those mythical happy pigs, of course. But bordering on it.
Other points of interest in our travels were seeing a gum tree in what must have been some kind of botanical garden or park (including getting momentarily sentimental after crushing gum leaves in our hands and smelling them),
visiting the Plaza de Toros (even though we'd mistimed our trip and wouldn't get to see a bull fight),
visiting the Museo del Prado (despite the fact there was only 45 minutes of opening time when we got there),
checking out the bizarre indoor garden thingo at the main train station,
and of course – in case I haven't already mentioned it – the tapas.
Bullfighting plays a very important part in Spanish culture, and its lure was too strong to keep us away, so we did a tour of the Plaza de Toros. I reckon there's something wrong with me, cos all I could think of the whole time was the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he fights a bull. It turns out that the matador is awarded a sort of points system based on his skill at killing the bull, insofar as if he does a good job he can be awarded one ear, both ears, or the tail of the bull for his work. As fascinating as it was, it also sounded pretty grisly and depressing, and I think one day I'd like to go back and see it, just to get a sense of the vibe of the whole thing while it's happening. I couldn't fathom how these matadors could be so popular, famous, and well paid ?! There'd be loads of Aussie backpackers in London who'd do that stuff for free, just for the buzz!
On the last day we also visited Bernabeu Stadium, which is apparently the home ground for Real Madrid – one of the most significant soccer teams in the world. I had no idea what it was all about, but Paul seemed pretty moved by the whole thing, so we nipped into the bar for a quick commemorative pint.
Other points worthy of mention were the endless amusement we found in things with “Colon” written on them – granted it only ended up being 2; an underground station
and a box of laundry powder
but still, it's the spirit of the thing after all.
In closing, I've got to say, I really really dug Madrid. Obviously, not speaking Spanish was a small barrier, and I'm sure that it's the only one between the idea of packing up and shifting there. The hecticness of their airport aside, it just seemed so relaxed, chilled and civilised compared to the intense ratrace here in London, and I think I genuinely found myself regretting having to go home. Well, until I thought about what was happening during the upcoming week, and then it all made sense. But more on that shortly…