"it should be cool"
Well, it wasn't - it was very, very hot. Being in the very centre of Spain, Madrid is scorching. And wow, I loved it.
My five day, four night trip was cut short to a three day, two night trip by the 7th July bombings - I was in floods of tears trying to decide whether or not to fight my way out to Heathrow that Thursday morning or to stay put, all the while fielding panicking calls from my family and friends and frantically tuning in for news reports about my beloved city being torn to shreds. I wasn't keen on flying at all but flights in and out of the airport seemed fine so I knew I had to decide quickly what I wanted to do before my flight left without me and I was faced with a packed suitcase, an unopened bottle of suncream and a set of non-refundable tickets.
The decision was made me for me in the end. The entire tube network was closed, the roads were chaotic and though the Heathrow Express from Paddington was an option, getting to Paddington was unlikely. I tried to board a coach out of Victoria Coach station but just as I bought a ticket, it was announced that all buses coming in and out of London had been suspended and all roads closed. I went home. I couldn't go any where else.
I was secretly relieved.
And in the end, I got a flight to Madrid on Saturday morning with the necessary long delays, stressful and confusing ticket exchange business, small children fighting around me and, what was worse, their sniping, bickering, end-of-my-patience parents. I touched down with some relief and headed to Parque de Retiro with my little wheelie suitcase and joined my friends - at last! - and got my holiday started.
What did I do? Napped, went out for excellent tapas and Rioja, drank the best and strongest mojitos I've ever tasted, went to a night club inside an old palace where I bumped into my cousin dancing under a glitter ball in an old oak-panelled courtroom and rolled home giggling with my ears ringing at 5am.
Woke up some time after noon the next day and despite my best efforts to look as fit and healthy as the others, I had to excuse myself from the afternoon's activities to stay in the flat to be sick as neatly and tidily as I could manage. Oooh, I felt rotten. But then a short nap and some serious teeth-brushing later, I walked out feeling better and better with every step along the glorious Madrid boulevards, eventually encountering this:
which put a further spring in my step. Had a reviving lunch in the sun with friends and a really uplifting trip around the Prado, eyeing all the works of art recommended to me and more, then finally, finally met Prandial for a drink and a chat on his turf. What a dude and his friend G too.
Rounded off the evening with paella at a very chic little place towards the north side of the city and when we left, we all had flowers in our hair that had drifted down from the tree above us. Others had early flights to catch so we went back to the flat and went to bed with all the windows and doors open. Only the next morning did we dare to admit to one another that the coffee after the meal was a bad, bad, sleepless and exhausting idea. That was the end of my girlie, vegetarian weekend in Madrid. I wasn't getting a flight until 6.30pm and I still had a few things to do, people to meet and I lepat onto the Metro with my little wheelie suitcase for the last and most fun-packed (non-vegetarian) part of my Madrid adventure...