As the capital of the nation that once colonized the Philippines, Filipinos will certainly discover an immediate connection with madrileños, whether it be the predisposition for fiestas and naps (siesta!) or the number of Spanish words that has assimilated to the Filipino lexicon. And while Filipinos probably won’t embrace football as much as the rest of the world, the festive atmosphere brought about by the Red Fury’s win feels similar to how the Philippines revel at every victory of a boxer who has eventually pounded his way to a Congressional seat. Madrid, simply put, is a place that’s very easy to relate to, and therefore, easy to love; no sooner than you’ve reached the city, you’re already planning your next trip here.
Streets leading to the Puerta del Sol, where we base ourselves, erupt into euphoria as the Spanish football team defeats Honduras in a pivotal game. Fans clad in jerseys of the national squad and carrying Spanish flags pour into the streets to celebrate what eventually becomes a historic run to the championship. As our hostel receptionist says, “With all the craziness going on, good luck finding a restaurant that will serve you.”
But there’s good luck indeed, as we find one that’s not only willing to serve us, but one that also does with the typical Spanish flair. As such, the paella tastes much better and not just because it’s served with fine sangria.
We tour the Palacio Real and Plaza del Oriente early the next day. Shortly after lunch, though, shops close for siesta and the lethargy of the moment is so contagious it makes one want to return to the hostel and sleep. But perhaps, the practice holds justice for Spaniards, who apparently charged up from the afternoon nap, go full blast in the evening. Dinner isn’t normally served until sundown and the day doesn’t end until further into the wee hours of dawn.
After a takeout at a Museo Jamón, some of us go to Las Tablas to witness a flamenco show. To be honest, the performance — especially the singing — is a polarizing experience. Still, one can’t deny that to witness it is to somehow get into the heart of Spain and the passion brought forth by the performers is unquestionable.
On our final day in Spain, we just do a little more walking tour, concentrating on the Gran Vía before a shopping spree at a department store near the Puerta del Sol. We later have a dinner at a buffet restaurant, sharing the second-floor space with rowdy Spanish youth who are talking at supersonic decibels despite sitting at one table. To say that we have to shout just to hear each other among the noise isn’t exaggerating it.
Normally it is annoying. But I was soaking up the atmosphere with a tinge of sadness, as I am fully aware that once the noise abates, so would the euphoria of this trip. A few hours later we will be packing up our stuff and go to the airport for the flight back to London. We won’t even have enough time to sleep. The noise in the restaurant acts as some sort of a catharsis to the separation anxiety.
Two months away from home is enough to develop some sort of addiction to travel. Not that I didn’t have it before. It’s just more pronounced now. So in my mind I know that I’ll be back.