After my whirlwind affair with the East Coast, my best friend and I boarded an Iberia plane to Berlin. But not without a pit-stop in good ol’ Spain! Aka a 12-hour layover in Madrid. Your first reaction might be a sigh of sympathy, but believe it or not my friends, we chose this option. Why not have a free day in Spain?
But first, a few things to note about our flight. Just to preface, I have nothing against Iberia. Number 1: Playing 19th century classical Spanish music during our take-off and landing. Is that truly necessary? Never before have I experienced turbulence with dramatic instrumentals to match, and I must admit, it really heightens the whole “what if we crash?” thing. Number 2: I will forever have the phrases “quieres cafe? quieres tee?” playing in my head. Just some nice little anecdotes alongside a flurry of my ancient and forgotten high school Spanish rushing back to me in stupid blips. Y tengo dolor mi cabeza! La tienda de descuentos!
Now back to my riveting tale.
Terminal 4 of the Madrid-Barajas Airport was a joy to land in. Inaugurated in 2006, Terminal 4 is extraordinarily spacious and welcoming. Full of natural light reflecting off of silver plates and large, glass walls, this semi-new section led us easily to the metro, which we took to Buen Retiro Park. One of the largest parks in Madrid, Buen Retiro is composed of many environments: ponds, sand, forest, gardens, palaces, monuments, etc. While running through the rain with two heavy backpacks to boot, we came across the monument to Alfonso XII standing before an enormous pond. One of those breathtaking moments when you see how much there is to stumble upon.
Although we didn’t stumble upon the Crystal Palace, that soon became my other favorite spot in the park. The building was immensely beautiful, and since it is now used as a gallery, the center floor was dominated by another glass sculpture. Blue broken glass piled within a glass box, gated by fishing poles and sheets of paper spelling out the Spanish alphabet.
Later, we walked around the city looking for food, and eventually, took the metro to a more central, touristy place, in order to avoid going into a local haunt without any Spanish-language skills. We stopped at a basic cafe and ate paella. Both of us were excited to eat a traditional Spanish dish in Spain, but it soon became clear that our paella, provided by the company Paellador, was the most common, quickie paella in Madrid. Getting gypped (or simply being ignorant, desperate, and hungry) was no fun, and being awake for an entire day when we are normally asleep was no piece of cake. I kept passing out every time I sat down. It was beyond my control. I’d actually begin dreaming within five minutes of sleep. So eventually, even though my best friend had been fighting off the sleepies, we took a full-blown nap in the park. Afterwards, fearing a return of the rains in Spain (many My Fair Lady references were made, don’t worry) and needing to get to Berlin, we returned to the airport exhausted and still unsure about the next phase of our travels. But lemme give you a hint, it worked out just fine.