On 21 July the the Think Tank that I work for organised an event in Madrid and since my work paid for the return trip I decided to stay for some additional days. To my delight my friend Esther, a madrileña currently living in Paris, was also going to be there from Wednesday 22nd onwards, so we would have some time together.

After the event ended at lunchtime on Tuesday I was exhausted. The dinner the evening before lasted until midnight and for some reason I woke up around 3 in the morning and was unable to get to sleep again. Finally I managed another hour of sleep before the alarm woke me at 7. So after checking into Hotel Santo Domingo I mostly felt like lying down on my bed. But knowing that the centre of Madrid was just outside the door was too much of a temptation, so I headed out instead. I was not expecting to see much, being too tired for a long walk, but many of the tourist attractions are all relatively close together. On my meandering amble I passed by Gran Via, Puerta del Sol, Opera, Mercado de San Miguel and Plaza Mayor.

While I walked the relentless Spanish sun beat down on me from a bright blue sky and by the end of the afternoon I was stumbling around in a daze. I returned to the hotel, showered and headed back out for something to eat. It was only 6.00, too early for dinner in Spain and in any case I simply wanted something to fill my stomach. So I grabbed a slice of pizza. With my hunger out of the way I realised that what I really needed was sleep, so I got some crackers at a supermarket and ate them in my hotel room before falling into blissful sleep at 8.30.

During this first walk through Madrid a couple of things caught my attention. Firstly, how beautiful and clean the facades are. In a big city like Madrid you would expect the buildings to turn grayish from all the air pollution but in Madrid facades look as if they were newly painted. There are strikingly beautiful buildings wherever you look.

The signs giving the street names in downtown Madrid are hand-painted on ceramic tiles. They are lovely little works of art to be found in any street corner.