Day 4: ¡Hala Madrid!

Yesterday was a chill day but I did something I’ve always wanted to do, I went to a La Liga game, in season!

I rested the early part of the day since I walked so much on day 3 but then I got ready and had to go run an errand.

I stopped at the place just near my AirBnB and finally got some Churros con Chocolate. I took them to go and sat in Plaza Mayor in the sun to enjoy them. They were so good but definitely too sweet to have on the regular. I definitely recommend Chocolateria San Ginés. It’s a huge tourist spot so it’s always busy but I was in and out in about 5 minutes and the churros and chocolate were great. You could order a “completo” (6 churros and a cup of chocolate) and then extra churros for each person in your group and share the chocolate with up to 3 people, at least. One “completo” is 4.5 and extra churros are 1.40.

I had tried to find a place to print documents here (like a Staples or UPS) and everyone on Reddit recommended Work Center San Bernardo. I decided to walk since this is a little further on the outskirts of the central part of the city (like my neighborhood in NYC) and I wanted to see what it was like.

Ria Currency Exchange

I was walking down Calle San Bernardo and happened to pass a Ria Money Transfer & Currency Exchange that had a sign out front that said “imprenta fotocopias” along with a host of other services. It looked a little sketch but I thought it would be worth a try. It was SO easy. I needed to print my ticket for the soccer game I was going to later that evening. I walked in and there were 3 men working there and another guy who was a customer exchanging money. They gave me the business email address to send the document and I sent it to them. They printed it for just .20 and were super quick and nice.

Since I was done with the errand that was meant to take me further into the Malasaña neighborhood, I decided to saunter a bit more slowly and see what I could see. I already knew that the Almagro neighborhood was home to most of the embassies and was sort of posh so I adjusted my route to San Bernabéu and walked from Malasaña to Trafalgar through Almargo to Castellana and ultimately up to El Viso.

One of my other favorite parts of traveling is seeing different neighborhoods. This can obviously be a bit risky since you don’t know “bad blocks” if you aren’t from around a certain area but before I left I made sure to ask Reddit if there were any such blocks to avoid and they helped me out. Again, they don’t have the same issues with drug addiction and mental health here so most of the advice was just about not going out at night drunk etc.

I walked through some beautiful areas where I would love to live. Specifically, around Almagro…but of course, it’s one of the most expensive neighborhoods here. I am not a big souvenir person and prefer to buy stuff I can wear, share or use. I stopped into a used book store, La Libreria Re-Read, and bought a hardback copy of Don Quixote in Spanish for only 3. I cannot recommend this place enough. There is a cafe next door and the staff of the bookstore was so friendly and ALL the books are only 3 or 2 for 5!

After the book store, I wandered over to the El Viso neighborhood just short of the soccer stadium and stopped in at Taberna del Volapié. I simply cannot recommend this place enough either (I’m not hard to please if you’ve noticed). It was clean, the tapas were great, the beer was cold, the staff was nice and hardworking, and the prices were reasonable (I was expecting them to be astronomical due to their proximity to the stadium. I had a coffee, two tapas, and a few beers for 14!

Gilda de Anchoa: olives, pickled peppers, and anchovy. My favorite tapa so far!

I was quite early so after killing some time at Volapié I walked over to the stadium to watch Real Sociedad versus Real Madrid. It was a madhouse but there was lots of crowd control and I never felt unsafe. I made my way to tower C and then up the escalators to 513-N where an attendant showed me my seat, row 9, seat 22. Why so detailed you ask? Well about 15 minutes later some middle-aged man and his three friends came up to me showing me his mobile ticket and said I was in his seat…well his seat was in 515-N and this was 513-N but I showed him my ticket and he said I was in the wrong place (even though the attendant had shown me to this spot minutes before). I wasn’t in the mood to argue just in case the attendant was wrong so I just moved one section over. The seats started filling up and I got nervous someone would actually confront me since THIS time I was in the wrong seat so I got up and went back out to the perimeter to make SURE I had been in section 513-N and not 515-N and of course, I had been. So, I decided to go sit in a row and seat right behind the group that made me move so that if anyone else did confront me I could at least show them these guys were in my spot and that I hadn’t taken a wrong seat by mistake.

Well, before the game started, the row of guys seated behind me were going ham. They weren’t belligerent but just young and drunk and yelling. Before the kick-off, they had warm-ups and a tribute to Ukraine so I was recording bits and pieces. One of the young, good looking guys from this group who was sitting behind me could obviously see what I was doing because he was a row behind me/above me. He taps me on the shoulder and asked me in Spanish, “Are you going to record the whole game or watch it?” and I just said, “No…” and turned back around.

Maybe he was trying to flirt or impress his friends (or both) but I am SO bad at those kinds of social interactions. They make no sense to me at all. He wasn’t a dick but it’s just like…if you think I’m hot or annoying or whatever the case may be, you can say that instead of playing around. Not to mention, I can’t speak Spanish that well so there was no way I could turn the situation around by being coy like I would do if I were speaking English. Just strange to me that men everywhere are ultimately the same and use nosiness and dominance (even when they’re wrong) to get attention from women…especially when they are good-looking–they could get attention without doing all that, haha!

After getting booted from my seat and having my phone usage critiqued I decided this was a space to sit and be quiet and blend in so I put my phone away (the service was terrible since so many people were using their phone’s in such a small area anyway) and enjoy the game. It was the BEST soccer game I’ve ever been to. It ended 4-1 RMCF and there were two off-sides goals so there were 7 goals and it was so hyped and fast-paced!

Despite these two interactions (of men just having the audacity like they do everywhere else on the planet) I never once felt unsafe–with the crowd, with Covid, with any weirdos, none of that. I went to a Jets game in New Jersey about two months ago and this was like night and day in every possible way.

I got up to go to the bathroom at halftime and that was amazing. Everyone was so patient and quiet and the line moved fast. You had to stop at a little area to grab a few pieces of toilet paper then continue in the line and wait for a stall. I notice like 1/12 people washed their hands after BUT there was no one fighting or yelling or anything like you see at US sporting events. I think one reason for this is they sell NOTHING in the stadium. There were zero concessions of any kind and the only time people left their seats what to go smoke. Security was patrolling every aisle every 10 minutes and making sure everyone kept their mask on too.

It was a really fun, pleasant experience and really showcased, for me, the juxtaposition between American and Spanish culture and the superiority of the latter (in this situation at least).

After the game, I took the train back to Opera where I’m staying and that was another quick and painless experience. Despite the crowds, I was able to walk right through the station, scan my ticket, go to the platform, wait approximately 3 minutes and get on the train. I transferred one time without issue and ultimately was back to my apartment (after stopping for a quick kebab from Bosforos to-go) within half an hour.

Yesterday was my most expensive day at 135.50 but I got to make some great memories and I’m done with my “shopping” (even though I’m not a big shopper). Although, my first critique of the trip is for Viagogo. This is the third-party service I used to purchase the soccer ticket and I realized after printing it that they marked the ticket up over 100%! A 48 euro ticket was 89 euros on their site. That was a big disappointment but I was originally told you couldn’t use US credit cards online to purchase these tickets from the stadium directly (I have since found out you can use AMEX). So, don’t use Viagogo, they are crooks!

I don’t really have any other big things planned for the rest of the trip but I do have to go get a Covid test on Monday in order to reenter the US so that should be an adventure.

I’ll be eating and drinking my way around for the next couple of days and I am bound to have some other unique experiences so subscribe and check back in tomorrow!

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