Virgen de la Cabeza de Madrid
On our first day in Madrid, we heard a procesiona in the distance and followed our ears to the source.
Random passersby from our hostel window. People at Plaza Mayor. Dog walkers. Restaurateurs on their smoke break. Weird old dude throwing bits of meat to stray cats and pigeons. A random juxtaposition on a metro platform. And our favorite sight, neighborhood guys giving each other BS in the bar on their lunch break.
The mop was due for a mow by the time we got to Madrid, so I decided to check out this little place close to Plaza Mayor. The first chair that opened up was closest to the window and looked like it belonged to the patriarch of the crew. He was just tall enough to look me in the eye while I was sitting in the chair and he knew about as much English as I knew Spanish.
I rubbed my hand over the top of my head, showed him about a half-inch between my thumb and forefinger and said “un poco.” Then along the sides and back, reducing the visual measurement down to 1/16 of an inch and said “mucho poco.” He smiled and nodded, combed a bit to size up the situation, then started working a few choice snips with his right hand without any guidance from the comb in his left.
His wall was covered in photos of what I assume were locally famous guys, some looked like politicians and soccer players, all sitting in the same vintage chair I was in. He started in with the buzzers then immediately stopped, removed the attachment, showed it to me and said “tres“. I pointed at the bare buzzer, which received a concerned look, so I pointed to the hair behind my ear and said “Uno… dos… tres…” slowly dragging my finger up the side my head. He nodded giving a big smile of approval and got to work.
Back to studying the photos… There was a smaller one in an older frame that wasn’t grouped with the others. It didn’t quite have that vintage orange haze that you could replicate on Instagram, but was a little out of focus and maybe 40 years old. It showed three men all wearing white smocks, one quite a bit older between the other two, and the short one on the left looked a lot like a 25 year old version of the same peluquero who was just finishing up the tightest taper fade I’ve ever received.
Shot from the hip: El Palacio Real de Madrid
There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t take photos in museums. Maybe most of them are valid. Hundreds of thousands of flashbulbs on a daily basis can degrade the art. If you take a picture, maybe you won’t buy a postcard at the gift shop, thus depriving the museum of additional revenue. Maybe your photo-taking distracts from your (and your fellow visitors’) experience. Maybe your photos are only crude captures of masterpieces. Maybe people will see your lame photos and decide they don’t need to see it for themselves.
El Palacio Real de Madrid (the Royal Palace of Madrid) doesn’t allow photos, probably for most of those reasons above. We kept the flash off and our backs to the security guards. Here are the photos that weren’t too blurry or partially obscured by the ropes that keep the the fancy stuff safely out of reach. It’s amazingly ornate. If you’re ever in Madrid, it’s definitely worth the entrance fee. And buy a postcard while you’re at it.
In Iceland we spent two nights in a guesthouse, two nights Couchsurfing, and one night in a hotel. In Scotland we stayed with friends in a historic mansion. Spain has been all hosteling so far. By popular request (hi mom), here is what it’s like to stay in a hostel.
Los Amigos Hostel on Calle de Arenal, between the Sol and Opera metro stops, and is on the fourth floor. It’s just a few blocks from El Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor. From what we can tell, it has 50 or 60 beds. Rooms have anywhere from two twin beds to six bunks. The smaller rooms have their own bathroom, but the bigger rooms all share a co-ed community bathroom. Your bed includes a fitted sheet, a top sheet (sewn together at the bottom, kind of like an unzipped sleeping bag), a pillow, and a comforter with a duvet. The rooms all have lockers and you can either use your own padlock or rent one. Toast, cereal, tea, coffee and milk are served in the morning.
You can upgrade to a smaller room that has its own private bathroom, but we found that you felt bad taking a shower or using the bathroom for any extended period since you were still sharing it with other people, so we have been just staying in the 12 person room and using the co-ed bathroom. The shower stalls go down to your ankles and are deep enough that you can hang your clothes on the hook inside without them getting wet. Everyone is very respectful, so it’s not awkward at all.
The place isn’t spotless, but the housekeeper is sweeping and mopping and cleaning most of the day, so it’s about as good as it’s going to get with that many people coming through. It reminds me of camp in that respect.
We really like staying here. It’s actually pretty cosy. The front desk staff are all so friendly and speak English so they can help us out when we need it. Sometimes people come in late from partying and make too much noise, but that’s to be expected at any hostel. We didnt do much research, we pretty much just showed up and asked if they had two open beds. So that’s where we are.
Edinburgh Day Trip
Here are some non-castle-y photos from the day we went to Edinburgh. Somehow, almost all of the best photos we took that day were vertically oriented. Not pictured: the massive servings of fish and chips we ate on Grassmarket.
Bonus points if you can find the word “KILTS” in one of the pictures.
Day Trip to not-Luss
On our last day in Scotland, most of Stanely House and its guests decided to go to a picturesque village on Loch Lomond called Luss. Getting there involved taking the train to Helensburgh and then getting on a bus, but we missed the last bus of the day. So we hung out on the pier, had lunch and ate ice cream. Helensburgh is located on a loch in the Firth of Clyde, which is a pretty great name for a body of water, if you ask us.
On the way home, an extremely jovial man told us all about the best football team on earth, the Glasgow Rangers. “Rrrrrrangeers! Hup hup ho!” When he found out a member of our party was from Texas, he sang a poorly-enunciated version of Dixie to us.
Another great day with great people. We also learned how to snap a whole apple in two with our bare hands. Thanks, great people.