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EuroTrip: Madrid in 2 Days - it has its parks

This article is part of a series of my visit to different European cities. Read about my visit to Barcelona here. 

Like Milan, Madrid is another capital city with not much to offer, unless you are a football fan. However, unlike Milan, Madrid does have some soul and even prides itself as the gay capital of Europe, which is a title that Berlin also claims.

My transport option from the airport in Madrid was the subway, which I found dependable. Alighting at the Plaza De Espana, I slightly got lost before making my way to the Nemrut restaurant for a late lunch and early drink, followed by laundry at the highly recommended Open Wash Lavandería Autoservicio. It is more automated than my other laundry at Milan and I had learned not to shrink my clothes, yet, the setting I chose was not as satisfactory in cleaning my clothes.



Laundry was followed by my hotel at Abel Victoriano, which was a small and pleasant place. The room only had a window opening to a dark staircase, but it was well done and came with a fan. I also think I had picked a cold somewhere and it peaked here. 


I did not do as much of the neighbouring streets as I intended as there was a visit to an Ikea to be done. Having picked a smaller city store, I found it did not stock the paper lampshades I was looking for and I was in no mood for a visit to the suburbs. The mosque opposite the Ikea was worth the stop, as so was the large frog sculpture along the way.


A street in central Madrid, a city which prides itself as Europe’s Gay Capital

After the Ikea, my next stop was at the Balenciaga shop where I was looking forward to getting shocked by their outrageous designs. It was underwhelming. Besides some Chinese shoppers, there was not much at the shop and there was also the fact that the staff had their eyes glued at me in my short time there. A freak on the internet but unremarkable in the streets.

Next stop was across the city at the “seven tits” hills. It was a long walk that took me past a Bentley dealership where I had the luxury to take in the Bentayga, and there was also the quirky burger shop inspired by the Bentley shop. Then, I crossed the road into the park, which has some interesting brick structures and is also a worthy stop by itself, though one I did not have time for.

I broke my long walk at 100 Montaditos for a couple of 1 Euro mini-sandwiches alongside large 2 Euro beer mugs, with my favourite mini-sandwiches being the pulled pork and the feta cheese.

Well rested, I was soon back on my walk to the park, which would soon bring me to an encounter with the entire six lanes of the M30, which I came to learn is billed as Spain’s busiest road. Crossing it was possible by way of a footbridge which was less than half a kilometre ahead, which also allowed me to pause and take in the traffic as it zoomed past both ways.


The El Retiro Park and Garden in Madrid
The bridge brought me to the brick-walled apartments of the Vallecas district in Madrid, and about two kilometres later, I was finally at my destination. While the area around the park gradually rises, the park suddenly juts from the ground as a series of steep, almost flat-topped hills.

The slopes are carpeted with grass with a sprinkling of shrubs and trees, with gravel paths snaking their way around the slopes to the top. You can choose to snake your way around the gentler paths, or should you feel sufficiently fit, there is similarly the option of taking the steeper and shorter paths to the top.

The park is littered with people walking their dogs or those running around, trying to catch up with their breath. Closer to the top, you will find groups of people, especially younger people lying by the sides taking in the views of the city. The paths around the top also have benches here and there, where you can also sit.

Siete Tetas Park quickly proves that it is worth the trip from the excellent view that you get of the brick apartments in the foreground and the expanse of the city in the background. The view especially becomes golden as the sun sets, painting the landscape in a multitude of shades right before your eyes.

I left the park when the sun had just set, with a goal of walking the more than six kilometres to my hotel as fast as possible. I now had a better sense of my bearing around the city and with few detours, the walk back to my hotel was pretty much straight forward.


Madrid’s M30 motorway
I walked down the streets of Vallecas, crossed the M30 and this time joined the Avenida de la Ciudad de Barcelona (Avenue of the City of Barcelona) before walking down along much of its length. At some point, there was what looked like a promising pizza eatery offering 7 Euro pizzas that I really wanted to stop at, but I was afraid that it was getting late and I was not familiar with how safe walking the streets would be. For extra safety, I stuck to the wider main avenues that I was sure had more people and vehicular traffic.

The Avenia de la Ciudad de Barcelona led into the Paseo de la Infanta Isabella (Boulevard of Infanta Isabella, a princess who was heir to the Spanish throne and who died in 1931). The boulevard shortly ends at a roundabout that can be quite the obstacle for those new to it and crossing on foot, after which I crossed into Calle de Atocha (Street of Atocha).

Branching off Calle de Atocha are the Calle de Carretas and Calle del Carmen which take you straight to Central Madrid’s Gran Via (Great Way). The Gran Via preserves a good chunk of its dated architecture and neon style lighting denoting its role as a shopping district. One thing that is important to mention is that even at night, Gran Via is teeming with human beings and may aptly be described as a sea of people.

The brick structures of Nuancia, Madrid
I branched off Gran Via into Calle de San Bernardo, which was the street leading to my hotel - the Abel Victoriano. Feeling more relaxed now that I was near my hotel, it was time to look for dinner. Relief came in the form of Cerveceria Lena, a restaurant by the street which has photos of its offerings and the pricing right by its door, giving budget customers like me some confidence on what we would like to eat and spend on.

The Cerveceria Lena is a restaurant with about two rows of seats and tables, and also a long bar which separates the open kitchen from the seating area. It also has a TV set mounted right on top of the door and seems to be a favourite place for those looking to catch up with football or the latest Euro-show. Seating at the bar results in lower prices compared to being served at a table, and you can guess what I chose.

There were about two other people in the restaurant who seemed to be there for some international football match that was showing. I ordered some fries, pork, egg, lettuce alongside starters of bread. There was also the obligatory beer. Altogether, that should have set me back somewhere between 11 and 13 euros.

Well fed, it was time to walk back to my hotel and call it a day - one in which 18 kilometres were walked.

Madrid from the Siete Tetas Park 
When the sun rose, or rather, before the sun rose - it was time to wake up, pack, have breakfast at the restaurant downstairs and start heading for the airport. It was a shock for me when I stepped out into the street at 7:30 AM and found the sun was not yet up. The second surprise was the Madrid subway. I might have been on holiday, but clearly, Madrilenas were needed at work, for the trains were not only full but were packed like a can of sardines.

Next in these series, we hit the island resort of Mallorca! Come back next week to read about my experience. 

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