Well Madrid was very much like the Tiger Temple in Thailand. I went in with low expectations and it turned out to be awesome. Neither Kel nor I have been to Europe and I had conjured up in my mind that Madrid would be a bit like KL but with old buildings.
It was nothing like that, it is just beautiful. The old part of the city stretches in all directions as far as you can walk and we wandered round the city for a full day constantly looking up in awe at all the buildings and doing a whole lot of people watching. It was a Saturday and all the wealthy Spanish were coming out of the central city Catholic churches dressed up like you wouldn’t believe. There is no way we would dress up like that in NZ, not even for a wedding! Family and food are obviously the priority here, there were whole families (kids and grandparents included) everywhere right up to late into the night and drinks and tapas seem to start at about 2 o’clock.
We were fortunate enough one night to be dragged along by an Aussie to a Tapas bar. Whilst we are definitely feeling the pinch parting out Euros instead of Bart or Ringet now, this place was great value. About NZ$12 for four small beers and two plates of delicious tapas.
While in Madrid we also went along to watch an ITU Triathlon race and support the Kiwis that were racing. It was a really good day and although none of the kiwi guys in the field did very well, Andrea Hewitt came in second in the women’s race. There was quite a strong Spanish field in both races and their supporters had turned out on mass. It felt a little bit like it was just us and the Spanish at the race. Well Two-kiwis can make quite a bit of noise on our own, so that doesn’t matter too much. We got a few strange looks from the Spanish from some of our seemingly random cheering.
Well I think we were a bit spoilt with Madrid, Valencia is ok but a bit more like I had expected KL would be. Much to our surprise Spain is far harder to get around than Malaysia or Thailand. There are not many who speak English and we usually have to resort to a hello in Spanish then frantic pointing at whatever we are after. Valencia is frightfully difficult to navigate round, I of course could get lost in my own backyard, but even Kel has been having trouble here. We have got lost in the old part of the city (which once you get inside is like a maze) numerous times trying to find food or transport. Despite initial reports of sensational Spanish food, we have not really found too much in Valencia There seems to be a lot of deli type places with lots of cured meats, cheese, chocolate and seafood, which all looks great, but a lot of it extends beyond our current budget.
Well one of the main reasons we have found our way to Valencia is the America’s Cup sailing that is happening at the moment. We have managed to catch two races, which has seen Team NZ win the Louis Vuitton Cup. It has been a very strange experience after not meeting any Kiwis for a month to be absolutely surrounded by them here. Each day we have gone down onto the south side of the canals to cheer the teams out and then retreated back to an area nicknamed the ‘woolshed’ with all the other Kiwis to watch the racing live on a big screen (with English commentary yay!). Then it’s back off to the canal area to cheer the team back in again. There are basically too types of kiwi supporters here, the young backpackers who are either traveling around Europe, or have come over from London and older sailors who have made the big trip from NZ. I must say the older generation are by far the most fanatical. They are the ones decked out in all the gear, with the big banners, making the most noise, etc. It’s the opposite to what it would be at home and quite a laugh really. We were sitting next to a bunch of retired Taranaki farmers the other day… Not exactly what I thought I would be doing in Spain!
There is certainly a contrast between the Kiwi supporters and the Italians. They are all dressed in white Prada gear and designer sunglasses, whereas the kiwis are getting round in their black t-shirts and jandals. We really are an unstylish bunch.
Well since Team NZ have done so well this week, we have decided to head off and explore through some other parts of Europe before coming back to Valencia to add our support for some of the America’s Cup. I’m sure there will be even more Kiwis around by then.
Tonight we are off to a bullfight to see what that crazy Spanish tradition is all about.