Western Europe Summer 2011

Breaking Laws and Taking Naps

Danielle (my girlfriend) and I, arrived in Madrid this past Saturday at around one in the afternoon local time. It was our first time to Madrid, our first time to Spain, and my first time ever setting foot in Europe! After an overnight flight on a discount airline with fellow passengers competing for the “who can talk the loudest at 3am” award, we arrived exhausted, but very excited for the 3 ½ months ahead of us.

Our time in Spain began with us stumbling through our first attempt at the Madrid subway system. It’s bad enough that we are from Florida and underground transportation is as familiar as walking on the moon, but add in a language barrier, and you can easily see why we spent a vast majority of the adventure staring blankly at each other, unsure of what to do (I’m happy to report a full three days later we are now professionals). Our subway (or metro, as it is called here) ride took us into the heart of downtown Madrid to the home of our couchsurfing host (we’ll call him Leopold) who we’d be staying with for our first two nights in Madrid. We were greeted with open arms, and, for Danielle, some cheek kissing, which definitely caught her off guard. I laughed at her a bit, but it wouldn’t be long before I was the one forgetting this custom and looking like a silly American…

We could have easily dropped to the floor and slept for hours right then and there, but we were invited out for some exploring and a typical lunch with Leopold and another guest of his, a girl from South Korea. We couldn’t possibly turn it down and we were told not to worry, after lunch we would have a siesta before the nights events. It was at this moment, that I began to fall in love with that six letter word… S-i-e-s-t-a would become my favorite letters over the next few days! We headed out and were treated to a lunch including fresh apple cider that had to be poured in a certain way to get the correct taste, potatoes covered in a grayish aged cheese that had I taste I will probably never be able to put into words, and a few other traditional dishes from the region. It was a great time, and only the beginning of a truly memorable night.

Back home, when getting ready for a night out on the town, it’s common to get together at around 9 or 10 to drink a bit and socialize before heading to the bars and clubs at around 11. Here in Spain a very similar chain of events takes place, the only difference is the time of day that they take place at. We met a group of friends of Leopold’s, and other couchsurfers living in Madrid, at around 11pm in a square in one of the many entertainment districts of the city. Here we drank, socialized, and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. At about 1am (an hour before closing time back home) we started to walk towards the club we were going to that night. Immediately upon seeing the front of the club the people with us started commented about how we were so early that there wasn’t even a line yet. Danielle and I were in shock. “Early?!?!? What do you mean early? It is 1:30 in the morning!” I found out 1:30 in the morning is early when the clubs stay open until 6am. We were some of the first people to even walk into the place, and we were so exhausted that we left about an hour later, just as people began to arrive.

Party in the Plaza (Madrid)taken with a point and shoot camera

As entertaining as the club was, it was our time in the square, drinking, that was most memorable for us. Picture any public square or park in whatever city you live in. Now picture 500+ young adults scattered in every single direction you look. Some sitting, some standing, a giant movie screen playing music videos, and the local chinese population scouring the crowd selling beers for a euro each out of plastic grocery bags. That is exactly what was taking place on our first night in Madrid, and, apparently, it is a usual occurrence.

As we sat and sipped and discussed life and the way of the world I noticed a few cops meandering about the crowd. I started to wonder about this whole drinking in public thing, as it is a pretty big no-no back home but these cops seemed to be tolerating it. I asked if it was ok and the people around us laughed and replied, “No, this is completely illegal. (Explicit) those cops.” “Wait, what?” I replied. My first night in Europe and I’m already breaking the law? At least give me a week to get settled in! But there we were, drinking our one euro beers, meeting people from around the world, and breaking the law as cops looked on. We’d later find out this was just one of the many ways the current youth are protesting recent actions of the government, but then and there, for us, it was harmless fun, and a chance to truly experience what it is like to live in the city of Madrid.

  1. Grace

    Wow I didn’t know people hung out in the square. It’s like an urban picnic

    1. Matt

      A drunk urban picnic 🙂

  2. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    This sounds like a blast, but I don’t know if I could head to the clubs at 1:30 in the morning! I love dancing, but I’m so not a night owl; I’d head to the clubs at 9pm and get home by midnight if I could. 😉

    1. Matt

      Yea it is a bit rough… At home we head out pretty early as well, and, well, the latest we could stay out even if we wanted to stay longer is 2am…. Needless to say this is quite a bit of a change and it will take awhile until we make it until 6!

  3. Jeremy Branham

    Oh Matt – such a Spain rookie!! 🙂 Get used to the late nights in Madrid. They are the most sleep deprived country in Europe and siestas are a necessity! Hope you have a great time in Spain. FYI – from my experience, Spain is one of the worst English speaking countries I have visited (I’ve been to 15). That’s not a bad thing or a condemnation – just be prepared. There are people that speak English but it is definitely a big obstacle for your first trip to Europe. The rest of the countries will be easier.

    1. Matt

      I am definitely a rookie, no questions about that! I’m not too worried about the Spanish as I have enough basic skills from my time in Central America to get by and find what I need to find. I won’t say it is always easy, but it is usually doable as long as nothing really out of the ordinary comes up.

  4. Sophie

    Siestas – such a fabulous tradition, isn’t it… Sounds like you had a good start to your adventure.

    1. Matt

      Yea I think I’m bringing it back to the states. I think we’ve had a siesta like 4 out of 5 days!

  5. Red

    Funny post…I can imagine the siestas quickly become your best friend when the party doesn’t start until after 1:30am! I can’t imagine doing that on a regular basis, but it looks and sounds like fun.

    1. Matt

      Yea they are just used to it here… I’m not going to lie, I feel like I’m sitting around wasting time as we wait for things to get going…

  6. The Travel Chica

    I’m in Buenos Aires, and 1:30am is considered early here as well. I just tell people I’m old and like to go to bed early 🙂

    1. Matt

      Haha, that works, I’ll keep that in mind when we aren’t feeling up for it.

  7. The Dropout

    Matt! You rebel!
    A party in the town square sounds like so much fun. Clubbing at 1am doesn’t, though. I need my sleep these days, after becoming a mum.

    1. Matt

      Well that is a good excuse to need some sleep 🙂

  8. Andrea

    Madrid is one of my absolute favourite cities ever! Sounds like you’re enjoying it =)

    1. Matt

      Yea we had a blast there. We go back to fly to London so we’ll get some more time to explore!

    1. Matt

      It was a really cool atmosphere and experience being out in the open like that. Definitely the way to do it if you can!

  9. Liz Brumer

    I’m glad to hear you and Danielle are having fun! It sounds like your starting to get a real spanish experience!! Have fun and party hard 🙂 You’ll come home and be pissed the bars are closing at 2.

    1. Matt

      I’m annoyed even thinking about it… It doesn’t make any damn sense…

  10. Cathy Sweeney

    Sounds like you got into the Madrid lifestyle quickly. Such fun! But be careful, I don’t want to hear that Interpol is looking for you.

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