I’ve finally arrived in Madrid. I actually arrived in Madrid last Thursday at midnight, but I’ve had a few days to settle into my new location. I travelled from Paris to Madrid by TGV and AVE high speed trains. It was a far more expensive and longer journey than if I’d travelled by plane, but I think it was worth it. It was much more comfortable, because it was easier to get up and walk around, and it was just a case of walking up and jumping on a train and getting off again at the other end rather than having huge security controls and waits for planes. It definitely didn’t feel like 10 hours of travelling. My noise-cancelling headphones were definitely a great idea though. The main bonus of the train journey was the views of the French countryside, and the hills on the edges of the Pyrenees mountain range. I was a little disappointed that the Spanish/French border was under a tunnel. The sun had pretty much set by the time we arrived in Figueres, so I didn’t get to see any of the Spanish countryside or of Barcelona this time.
I’m living in a small suburb of Madrid called Villa de Vallecas, which is just to the south east of the city. The area had a reputation of being a working class area, and a strong resistance to Franco’s regime, but the area has improved in the last few decades. The flat is in a fairly new development very close to the metro station, and just around the corner from the Church of San Pedro Ad-vincula, which is a very pretty building. The flat is a one bedroom furnished flat, with a double bed, shower, television, kitchen with dishwasher, washing machine and freezer. There’s also a decent sized dining table I can use as a desk to work from. I don’t have internet installed yet, which is coming next week, so I’ve been relying on using my mobile internet connection, which has worked pretty well other than having a low data limit, so I’ve had to restrict my internet usage.
I’ve spent a lot of my time watching Spanish television, with Spanish subtitles, to help improve my comprehension of spoken Spanish. One thing I’ve noticed is that I understand what is going on pretty well, but I think this is more down to reading the subtitles than listening to the speech, but even this is forcing me to read quicker, and to understand the words in a shorter amount of time, which will help with the speech, as it’s the speed of understanding which I’ve struggled with. I tend to end up watching mostly dubbed American television, because it’s a better quality than some of the Spanish drama/soaps and is more likely to have subtitles.
I have noticed a few things with Spanish television though. They have considerably longer adverts than I’m used to in Britain. They think nothing of having six minute long ad breaks, compared to the usual three I’m used to. Also, they will happily cut programmes in the middle of scenes. I was watching La Caza De Octubre Rojo (Hunt For The Red October) last night and they cut away from Alec Baldwin mid-sentence. They also often don’t bother with title sequences or end credits. I was watching a run of episodes of Dos Hombres y Media (Two and a Half Men. Don’t judge; listening is more important than what I’m watching) and it was very hard to know when you had switched episodes unless you were watching the show carefully. The final thing I noticed is that they’re far more open about sex and nudity in the middle of the day. They were happy to show full frontal female nudity and sex scenes at 2pm in the afternoon, which would have been restricted to after the 9pm watershed back home.
I have been out to the city centre a couple of times. My friend/landlady, Rosa, took me on a tour of the touristy parts of the city centre, showing me from Atocha station, past the botanical gardens and a few museums to (the vodafone sponsored) Puerte de Sol, Plaza Meyor, the Royal Palace (and the Almudena cathedral which looks like it was built from a blue concrete). Rosa also introduced me to a couple of cinemas that are showing Versión Original films, which will have Spanish subtitles, so I can keep watching films. I was one of the things I was going to miss about Brighton, having visited the wonderful Duke Of Yorks and Komedia cinema so much over the last year.
On Sunday night I met up with a local friend, Aitziber, who showed me around the slightly more fashionable/cool area of Tribunal, where we had a few drinks. I have to admit that we mostly spoke in English, but I will have to attempt to work on talking more Spanish. I can understand her pretty well when she does speak Spanish, but I think for the first meeting, it was better for the experience to not be too frustrating for both parties. We did also go to an Irish pub, because it was across the road from our metro station, where the best beer they had was Tetleys on draught and was served with an inch of head.
They’re most of the things I’ve remembered so far about my first few days in Madrid. I’ve got plans to see a film tomorrow and another on Thursday, and to meet up with an American girl on Friday, because I think it’s important to make sure I have an active social life in my new city, even if I’m only here for a few months.