July 12, 2009

Blood and glitter

Ah, there's nothing like being back in Western civilisation! Clean streets, easy-to-navigate public transport and toilets that don't require you to hold your breath until pass-out point.

As much as we loved Morocco, we were more than ready for some serious cleanlinesss – enter Madrid.

Stepping off the plane was like stepping into a completely different stratosphere, things were just, well... easy. The ATM we used actually dispensed money, we found our pre-booked hostel easy peasy and we cooked up a yummy risotto as we were back to the land of supermarkets and self-catering facilities.

We hadn't heard anything particularly magical about Madrid, so we went in with no expectations, which is probably the best way to go into any destination.

Mardi Gras was in town, so one night after devouring some delicious tapas and downing some beer and wine, we inadvertently stumbled upon the main parade. It was glitter and hotpants galore as we followed the the party procession through the streets, sipping on gigantic sangrias. Once the revelry died down on the main drag, we headed back to our hostel, coming across an awesome drum band along the way, they had everyone dancing in the street and an en cour was demanded when they tried to finish up.

Our time wasn't all party hardy, it was also a sportsfest. First there was a tour of Real Madrid's Santiago BernabĂ©u stadium – the pitch was dug up and there was construction taking place for Ronaldo's big unveiling (bummer!) but the museum and trophy room were pretty cool. We'd missed way too much Wimbledon in Morocco to miss out on the men's final, so it was off to an Irish bar to cheer on Federer to his 15th Grand Slam title in a nail-biting match against Andy Roddick. They finished up just in the nick of time, as we had tickets to the bullfight that night and we were running out of time to get there.

The bullfight, while totally gory, was an awesome experience. The fanfare, the theatrics and the traditions made it an experience to remember. While the bull never stands a chance – it gets stabbed numerous times before the torro even starts the one-on-one fight – they are bloody tough buggers and don't give up until their very last breath.

With numb bums (concrete seats) we left the bullfight a tad early as we had an overnight bus to catch. Destination: San Sebastian.