I’m writing this post from cool and cloudy Melbourne, after a very long and sleepless flight – always the least enjoyable part of a trip but essential if you want to see the world, and more importantly return home to family and friends.

The last five days of my travels were spent in Madrid. I’ve stayed in this fabulous city before and was excited to be returning, eager to revisit Les Maninas at the Prado Museum, stroll along Gran Via, and stand in the magnificent Plaza Mayor. The Plaza, built in the early 1600s, was once the scene of bullfights, football games, and public executions. It now hosts pushy waiters, buskers performing cheesy acts, people dressed up as cartoon characters hoping someone will pay to photograph them, and street vendors trying to sell things that no-one wants. They’re all jostling for a piece of the action and are an essential part of the colour, movement and fun of Plaza Mayor and Madrid.

For me though, the real Madrid is in the countless smaller plazas and back streets that you discover while walking about the city. Eventually you stop, sit at an outside table, order a drink and some tapas, and watch the locals pass by. And just like every Spanish city we’ve visited, they’re out there on the street, young and old, strolling, arms linked, and enjoying the last of the year’s warm days and nights.

I loved being in Madrid again and will no doubt return one day. But there are a few things I won’t miss, like paying 10% extra to sit outside at a bar or restaurant, seeing the same tapas menu almost everywhere you eat, and having street vendors constantly harassing you while you sit at a bar or restaurant. But these are small niggles and are far outweighed by the many, many positives – the stunning architecture, beautiful parks, friendly locals, delicious and very cheap food, and near perfect weather.

Some newer architecture

The people of Madrid

 

So my travels have ended for the moment. Thank you for being a part of them, I’ve loved reading your comments, even though I’ve sometimes forgotten to reply. I’ll be leaving this site open for future trips and may even publish some travel tips I’ve picked up along the way.

And finally, a special thank you to my many travelling companions, who’ve made this trip so much more fun.

In Fiji – Robyn, Roger, Peter, Pat and of course Phantom Mist. Also our marina neighbours and friends – Barry, Greg, Tracey, Jules, Danny and Gordon.

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In Paris – my ten new friends, and a special thank you to Valerie who taught me so much.

In Iceland – my brother Terence, old friend Andrew and new friend Mark (and bunny).

In Spain and Portugal – my family – mum, Terence, Andrea and brother-in-law Brett.

Until next time … goodbye.

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