I had not planned on going to Madrid. I was traveling out of Basque country and heading due south to Seville. I saw that my bus had a scheduled stop in Madrid so I decided to take the opportunity to wander around the new city; by this time in my travels I was overcome by wanderlust. Having spent the week in the countryside, I was excited to see what sort of city life Spain had to offer.
The mad bustling highway that is Madrid… Madrid is an enormous city located in the heart of Spain. The city is a lot busier than the smaller sister city (Bilbao) to the north. The streets packed thick with people, maze like alleys lead to courtyards where city folks gather and rejoice. Though my visit to Madrid was short, it was spent well. My travels coincided with the Spanish fiesta holiday, San Isidero.
San Isidero is a treat. The city is livid with cheer. Markets flourish with colorful plates of tapas and rivers of wine and sangria. Live festive bands and performances fill the city squares and rouse crowds of dancing people. The cheerful mood is contagious; everyone finds themselves having a grand time.
I made friends with a rather large group of university students. The group was diverse with students traveled from different parts of Spain to study in the robust city. We all exchanged good laughs, shared stories of our hometowns, and talked of our aspirations for the future. We spent the day relaxed; sharing stories and lightly drinking sangria and as the night approached our group conversation grew into a fiesta. We navigated our way to one of the large city parks where we joined an enormous crowd for drinks and festivities throughout the night. The darkness of night was pushed away by the rich lights of an enormous carnival planted in the middle of the park. Large matts were laid out across the hills of grass and occupied by groups of friends drinking and singing aloud to music. Vendors sold holiday treats and auctioned off Jamón ibérico (cured ham). The entire night was truly a grand experience.
The days following the holiday are tranquil. Though large in size, the city is easily navigated. The bus and metro make for easy means to get around. A beautiful transparent crystal palace sits humbly in the large public park. The palace is elegantly hidden within the trees and looks out to a pond of placid green water inhabited by swans and small turtles. The sun glistens on the water and is reflected by the glass walls of the whited metal-framed palace – The entire area is presented like a sculpture. The glass walls shelter different art exhibits throughout the year. Exhibiting art in the middle of the grand park is a relaxing break from the typical stark white air-conditioned museums.
My time in Madrid was a reminder of the beauty in adventure. Had I stuck to a rigorous planned schedule, I would of missed the fiestas of Madrid and I wouldn’t of met such great friends. When we travel we are searching. We often need to ask ourselves what it is that brings us joy rather than what it is that we are looking for.