The sultry air hits you when you step off the plane. It always brings a smile to my face, too used to the English summer which doesn’t always get off the ground as soon as you want it to. I felt irresponsible, not knowing too much of the language, and not having a detailed route to get to my accommodation. I could have prepared better.
But I had instructions on which metro station to head to, and the ease of finding the metro, buying a ticket and finding the correct platform gave me the confidence that I would manage. Within 20 minutes I was out of the correct exit from the metro station and heading the right way along the street. One thing about Madrid, and Spain in general, is that there is impeccable street labelling.
Settled in and needing to find a supermarket, I ventured out and happened upon my nearest park. A slightly concrete affair, but with green beds and a children’s play area. The next day we had found a yoga class in the park and this was when I knew I could feel at home.
Retiro park is a haven for runners, walkers, body builders and yogis. Surrounded by big, busy roads, once you’re inside you can really breathe. Our entrance took us under a subway and past a saxophonist working hard to set the atmosphere. We found our green triangle and had an hour to soak up the morning sunshine, stretch and move gently to welcome the day. After breakfast across the highway, I decided I would spend some more time exploring the park: the formal gardens, the Crystal Palace, the boating lake and the roses. It was like a field of floral scent and colour. Ordered – but not the formal uptightness of an English garden – a more free-flowing approach of mixing together and sharing space.
Day two was Parque del Oeste. A more higgledy-piggledy collection of spaces and rumours of another rose garden. We ran out of park a couple of times on our jog-sploration of it, but there it was. A beautiful arrangement of roses and ponds and fountains and pergolas. Leaving the rose garden we climbed the hill to finish our tour at the Templo de Dobod – an Egyption temple dismantled and rebuilt in its current locations guarding a most magnificent view of the casa de campo.
It was no surprise to me that I found more parks on my stay in Madrid. What I liked about them is that they are living, breathing, communal spaces. The community use them for exercising, for meeting people, for picnicking. It’s a real extension of the home and a perfect representation of the sociable Spanish culture.