Alex Hart

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Viva España!

Arriving in Madrid after the southern hemisphere winter, it’s as if someone has literally opened the curtains and let in the sunshine. The light is dazzling and all of the buildings and monuments seem so white. The first thing I notice is all of the green spaces around me and water features everywhere – the city truly is beautiful.

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

Close to Plaza de España is a huge park. The apartment where I am living is in a side street tucked away from the main square and is filled with tables from all the little bars and cafes here. Everything from cinemas, gym, supermarkets and fruit shops are all within a stone’s throw of the apartment. I couldn’t be in a better place. Even a nasty bout of pneumonia hasn’t curbed my excitement at being here.
Finding your way around Madrid is one of the easiest things – the Metro is clean, well air conditioned and not too crowded. Even when its 37 degrees outside I haven’t found myself jammed against a smelly armpit (London take note!!). In fact the Spanish are a particularly fragrant lot and you’re more likely to get a whiff of Chanel or Dior rather than last night’s pavement mess here.
Tourism is Spain’s biggest industry and keeping the city clean and beautiful is top priority. In addition to this, recycling is very important with separate bins for different types of recycling. Every morning workers are busy clearing the McDonalds and other debris from the streets and parks, ready for another beautiful day.

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

As you visit places such as the Royal Palace and the art museums you get a real sense of just how magnificent Spain must have been at the height of its empire. I can’t help feeling slightly uncomfortable however as I think of how South America was plundered to provide the opulence for a vain royalty and for that matter the countless indigenous people enslaved and exploited by the Spanish.
Its changed days here now – the Spanish pride themselves on being tolerant of other people. They were the second country to allow gay marriage and today you will see a huge welcome sign to refugees at the Cibeles town hall.

Cibeles ' complete with its welcome refugees banner

Cibeles ‘ complete with its welcome refugees banner

For now however I am going to sit back and revel in the culture. In fact I am not too sure why I have never visited this marvelous city before!