We arrived in Madrid around 8am on Saturday last. Our flight was surprisingly smooth and fast: 6 hours Toronto-Madrid instead of seven. New plane, greater speed. I’m all for that.
Nevertheless, we were tired and rumpled when we arrived but so far from the customs officers on, people have been warm, smiling, tolerant of mistakes, and just plain nice. They smile and wait while we try to explain in broken Spanish and often come to our rescue when we falter.
The architecture around Gran Via, the first street we walked along the day we arrived, is like the locals: opened and expansive, with fancy touches added to it, or again dramatic like a flamenco dancer, vibrant and brave like a torero.
The plazas, both Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor are always busy; they are places for meeting one another and one can hear as much Spanish as any other languages. From each square radiate many old streets, full of cafes, souvenir shops and restaurants. The effect is charming rather than frantic, even if you know that most Madrilenos wouldn’t be caught in one of those.
Even though Madrid seems to cherish its heritage–after all it’s been the capital of Spain since the mid-1600s — it is also a modern city that has kept up with the times. I can’t wait to start exploring.