Monday, June 20, 2005

madrid

I went to Madrid over the weekend, I've never been there before and I wouldn't have gone if it wouldn't be for my boyfriend's project, he is there for a week and a half and requested my presence to get his mind off work and to see Madrid which he hadn't really either, even though he's been there quite a few times for work. This project he's been working on has been frustratingly slow and drawn out and one of the main problems seems to be a crucial difference in mentality, the manana attitude, saying one thing and not following it. Spending 48 hours in the city definitely puts you in a different frame of mind so some of this almost became understandable. It was extemely hot and at first it was really quite difficult to get our head around the city. The hotel was just outside the city centre next to a really wide avenue leading all the way to the train station, and there was at least 4 lane traffic in all the surrounding streets, really bad air, too much traffic, and really confusing somehow. I started to hate it there when we decided to get a cab to Chueco, the gay village, a mad, heaving weekend nightlife area with lots of bars and little clubs over a series of parallel streets circling the tiny heart of it all, Plaza de Chueco. We got hammered and watched half of Madrid walk by, very mixed and raw, it seemed to hit its peaktime around 3 am, we were sitting on some trashcans drinking enormous portions of spirits out of plastic glasses. After that everything changed, as our outlook adjusted to the rhythm of the city: sleeping til very late, tapas, half-hearted walk into the city centre only to be overcome by the collective fatigue of the siesta hours, extreme heat preventing to walk any further, retiring in the Retiro (really! collapsing into solid shade), later in the afternoon checking out the cruisy part in some lush overgrown shady lanes further into the park, not managing to see the Prado, in the evening pretty much the same programme as the evening before, tapas etc... We finally managed to see the Prado on Sunday and it was amazing, especially seeing the Bosch pictures, Velazquez, Goya, etc. I felt better about being there in the end too, i actually eventually liked the tension and the heat of the city.

There was a huge demonstration on Saturday which turned out to be against gay marriage and 'for the family', it didn't really look homophobic so I didn't even understand what brought about a million people together, but apparently that's what it was, I found out later at the airport that it was a million people and it was against gay marriage and it was on the front of all the papers. People were walking around in colourful t-shirts with placards saying that 'the family is important'. Now, while I'm not a huge fan of the idea of gay marriage (even though i'm practically married as it is), I've got to say that gay people are integral parts of families too, if the family is important then all members of the family should be equally important, and gay people can form families or family-like structures in their lives too. Spain, particularly in the large cities, has a pretty big gay scene and high visibility, especially compared to other mediterranean countries (I've recently been to Palermo, a fairly big city which has just one totally gay bar, for instance), but seeing a large demonstration like that makes me wonder how conservative and traditional parts of the country still are. What was also weird was that not far from where the demonstration passed it was business as usual in the gay bars and on the streets as if nothing had happened, we spent some time in one bar where the DJ played Spanish music nonstop and everyone apart from us was singing along to every word, and there was never any trouble, as if it existed in some parallel universe. This part of town is in no way a ghetto either, it's where all the young people seem to go too, so it makes for a heady hedonistic mix.

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