I have done a lot of walking in Madrid. A LOT of walking. Which is good for a couple reasons:
- It’s a city that seems pretty well made for walking with all the twisty and narrow cobbled streets.
- The amount of eating I’m doing necessitates some form of physical activity.
So, I’ve already pointed out that there are some amazing parks. What I haven’t pointed out is that there are a plethora of them. Every street you turn on seems to have another park, littered with people lounging in the sun, or kids running after giant bubbles, or dogs chasing each other. It’s just a little too perfect, I wonder if this is all staged?
I think I’ve also made it clear that there are a number of amazing buildings. By “a number” I mean a very large number. I wouldn’t want to try to count that high:
However, in my ambulations I discovered that Madrid also has a suspended cable car (teleferico)! What fun! This way I’ll be able to sit on my butt yet still see the city, and from a great height so as to understand how it all fits together better. Perfect.
So, I wandered into (yet another) park, and found the building where the cable car runs. As it turns out, this was opened in June 1969, which means it is precisely as old as I am. It’s like fate determined I should be here.
First off was the long wait, filled with expectations (and tourists). Then once inside, you get to see the machinery at work:
As my turn came around, I read a sign that said “For audio guide in English, German or French, please tell your assistant on boarding the car”. Fair enough, my Spanish is enough to pick out some words, but full phrases I sometimes (often, always) stumble on and require multiple repetitions. I might as well get English so I can actually learn about the city, no? I ask the kid letting me into the car “Por Favor, el audio en Englis?” He nods, and selects a Union Jack flag on a monitor that seems to control an array of cars (the rest all have the Spanish flag). I wonder briefly how he knows which car relates to which icon.
And like that, I’m in!
I’m greeted by Phil Collins gently crooning “One More Night” at me. I wonder if this is what the English speakers get, and a Spanish speaker gets some Spanish elevator music. Do the Germans get Kraftwerk? These are important questions.
But no; Phil is interrupted by the must upbeat Spanish girl I’ve ever heard. She basically sounds like a Japanese teenager on a game show, except she’s rapidly and excitedly spewing facts about Madrid in Spanish instead of enthusing about “Super Happy Fun Dance Dance Time” or whatever goes on in a Japanese game show.
So my question is answered: the kid has no idea what car relates to what icon. I briefly feel pity for the car in front or behind me as they are subjected to whatever personality Madrid saw fit to assign an English speaker. Texas drawl? British tea lady? I will never know. Still, I can enjoy the view, right?
So the ride is nearly done, and I can see the stop coming up. The peppy teenager girl is replaced with a serious sounding woman giving me disembarking instructions in Spanish. I’m able to glean that food is available for purchase from the top floor, and something about “danger” (Peligroso), but I’m not sure what the danger is. Are there lions when you get out? Do you have to jump over a fire pit? The severe woman is done with her spiel and Phil comes back on to remind me that he “can’t wait forever. Give me just one more-”
And it’s over. I’m out the other side. A brief tour of the facility on the other side of the valley yields a very expensive cup of ice cream, the same view that I had just enjoyed from the cable car, and a bunch of kids in a ball pit having a birthday party. I jump back on the cable car to return, asking again for English. This kid checks the number of my car, then selects an icon on his screen, again putting up the British flag. I feel much better this time seeing the diligence he took to ensure the correct car selection.
As the car heads out, Phil implores me one more time to give him just one more night. I bear with him remembering that it took a couple minutes before the tour sets in. On my way back I notice there is a large Space Needle type building across the way, and I vow to go see that and compare it to my home city’s version. I try to take a picture, but from this far out it doesn’t really work.
Phil finishes with his entreaty, and moves on to ask me “Do You Remember”. I’ve never noticed it before, but Phil certainly chooses some dour and depressing topics to sing about. The only upbeat song of his I can think of offhand is “Susudio”. And I guess if you are dating a girl named “Susudio”, perhaps things are just eventually going to go badly.
The day is perfect: blue sky, 78, tiny puffy clouds, low humidity. Visibility is clear for miles, and the city beneath and in front of me is stunning. This ride is certainly worth doing.
Phil finishes asking me if I remember. I wonder where my guide is. I’ll take Spanish at this point, but I’m not sure I want any more Phil.
As luck would have it, Phil comes on to ask me again: will I give him just one more night?
No, Phil. No more nights. Thankfully the ride is over before he can ask me if I remember again.
So, I head out in search of the Space Needle. It’s a couple miles from the cable car, but is quite a lovely building. However, it’s not nearly as tall as the Space Needle once you get up close to it. Shall we call it the Troposphere Needle? In Spanish that turns out to be “Aguja Troposfera”.
Since I couldn’t get in there, I looked around for what else I could get into. Turns out they have put America in a Museum!
Sadly, this too was closed. I can only wonder what is in there? Covered wagons? Elvis? Since it’s “America” not just “United States”, One has to assume they have bits from Canada, US, Mexico, and South America. Maybe they just have one deli in there with food and drinks from America. Maybe one drink has Tequila, Cachaca, Maple Syrup, and Coke. Hmm, that actually sounds like it could be made passable. If one of you young budding bartenders attempts this (I’m looking at you, Zak), I insist you call this the “Continental American”.
In my wanderings I also found there are a lots of “street performers”. Everything from “Fat Spiderman” (no picture, sorry, but you should be able to imagine that one), to guys with strollers built around them and baby bodies built around their heads that go around scaring tourists. It’s scarier than you are imagining. I did get a picture of this guy, but he’s far shinier in person, and his mouth is going constantly with a loud “clack clack clack”.
I’m not sure it he taunted the kids more, or the kids taunted him more. It was kind of a toss-up.
Also I stumbled on a real honest-to-goodness, Punch-n-Judy style puppet show! Very exciting.
The best part: the script was all basically 1 or 2 word utterances, so I could follow along. Near as I gathered while watching, a monster was eating different parts of a puppet’s body, and the puppet would yell “let me go”, to which the kids in the audience would whoop and holler and laugh and scream. Good times for all.
Lastly, I closed out my wanderings at sunset, ready to go dive into more Tapas. Madrid is a fabulous city. If you come, bring comfortable shoes.