Our last visit to Ohio brought us to Matt’s parent’s home in Findlay, Ohio around the Easter holiday, and what is Easter at the Urbanski household without Easter baskets full of candy, and a house warmly decorated for Easter? This Easter was no exception, and it was also special because Matt’s mom had found one of Matt’s favorite childhood books, Home for a Bunny. The story is about a cute, lovable bunny trying to find a home.
So what the heck does Home for a Bunny have to do with Madrid, Spain? A lot, actually.
Matt and I arrived at the Madrid airport yesterday around early evening, and we immediately felt at ease after traveling in Italy for the last three weeks. Italy is great, but when we don’t speak Italian, and when we just spent 6 weeks learning Spanish, communication and getting around are quite a bit more difficult than we anticipated. Once we landed in Madrid, we felt reassured, knowing we could at least speak the language, read the signs, and get around much more easily than in Italy. We also realized that we probably spoke better Spanish than some of the Italians on the flight, as the Italian next to us was reviewing his Italian-Spanish dictionary before getting off the plane!
It was a smooth transition from the flight, to the airport shuttle, to our hotel, and after getting our bearings in the hotel, we walked around our part of town for about an hour, getting to know our surrounding shops, restaurants and Metro stations. We also feasted on the cheap in a Kabob restaurant with falafel sandwiches, and a falafel salad; we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and were able to get three entrees for about $15!
This morning we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the city. We went for a 90 minute run around the city, running about a half hour in one of the well-known parks, the Buen Retiro. It was a runner’s paradise that we didn’t want to leave. Wide, dirt paths make up the perimeter of the park and the inner network of trails, and it felt so good on our joints after pounding the pavement for the last few weeks. The Buen Retiro was one of those places that you run in and say to yourself, “I could run in this every day and probably never get sick of it.”
Speaking of pavement, two things that have struck us as pleasant surprises here in Madrid are the cleanliness of the city and the lack of dog poop on the sidewalks. While on our run, we saw several street cleaners, and hardly saw a piece of trash lying on the sidewalk or the side of the road. Areas in both Guatemala and Italy have surprised us with their vast amount of trash in the street, and the citizens’ (from our perspective) lack of concern for its presence. It’s been drilled in my head to never litter, and though I always refrained for fear of punishment by fine or jail, I now see that it also just looks better to have a clean city. It’s a win-win situation for both tourists and residents, so I applaud the efforts of Madrid to keep the city clean. Also, just before leaving Naples, I stepped in a huge pile of dog poop, and still have remnants of it on the bottom of my shoe, 2 days later. Not a fun experience no matter how I look at it, so another “thank you” to Madrid for its lack of dog poop on the footpaths.
This afternoon, after cleaning up and breakfasting after the run, we ventured out of our hotel, a little nervous about getting around. Armed with a plan and our metro map, we found it quite easy, and dare I say fun?, to get around the city using the public transportation and our own two feet. We used a combination of the metro lines and walking around to see several sights of the city, and to just enjoy the crisp air of Spring in Madrid with the other thousands of people out and about in the city. Getting around Italy has been difficult at the very least, because there never seem to be set schedules, or set places to buy tickets, and the different modes of transportation don’t seem to overlap or work together. This could very well be simply because we don’t speak the language, but regardless of Italy’s system, Madrid’s network of public transportation is fantastically organized, relatively cheap, and easy to use. We bought a 3-day pass for all the inner-city public transportation for $15 per person, and we can go wherever, whenever, and however often we want in the city for the next 3 days. Just as a comparison, we are going to pay $13 per person for just one ticket to get from the Rome airport to the city center. If we did that in Madrid, it would cost just $2, as there is a metro line directly from the airport, while there is not such a cheap, easy line in either the Rome or Naples airports. The metro lines in Madrid seem to cover every inch of the city, and they are incredibly reliable. Every train we rode was crowded, so it seems that most of the citizens and travelers have also discovered these positive aspects of the Metro to get around the city.
After less than 24 hours in Madrid, both Matt and I have said several times already, “I could definitely see living here.” In all of our travels, though we’ve enjoyed ourselves immensely, it’s rare that we truly say, “I could really live here and call this home for a while.” Spain is the first country abroad that we’ve said that, and we have never seriously said that about any US city. As we were running in the park this morning, it hit me that I could see Spain as our own “home for a bunny”, or bunnies, since it’s Matt and myself. I could get used to a clean city with opportunities for nearly every interest in life, great public transportation, and nice running locations. And just think of how great our Spanish would get!
Lastly, it seems that on nearly every block there is a place to buy coffee and pastries, loves of my life, behind Matt of course. And though we’re already sad to be leaving in a couple of days, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of the city during the marathon on Sunday, hopefully further solidifying the possibility of Madrid one day being a home for these bunnies.