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Madrid is old, big, and expensive.
There were daily demonstrations outside of our hotel, Hotel Regina, every single day. Demonstrations in Spain seem to be a recreational activity. Yelling and screaming, marching, waving around of signs, nobody really caring. Sometimes there are just too many demonstrations going on at the same time. One has to wait for the other. Everyone yawns and goes about their business. Small children blowing loud horns. Seems to be a substitute for sports. Why aren't these people doing something productive ? Maybe fixing the infrastructure in the hotels for example.
Things in Madrid just don't seem well thought out, compared to Chicago. Taxi's are limited to 4 people ? We were firmly told that for 5 people (two adults and 3 children), we would have to take 2 taxis. Seemed unintelligent to us, especially considering the high costs of Madrid.
Madrid has a gigantic international airport that few people use. Not easy to find it on the metro -- three changes from the big plaza downtown. No electricity for the few travellers in the gigantic airport. This is dumb in general -- why make it so tough on tourists ? No seating for the travellers in the airport that has miles and miles of corridors -- why so unfriendly ? No conveyer belts at the security check points. People stagger around, dropping their laptops. Not well thought out. One wonders, how does Spain pay for this thing ? How did they come up with such a beautiful physical plant, with such poor human factor engineering ?
Getting to Madrid from the US and back was problematic too -- Iberia airlines also seems poorly thought out. They take the prize for worst airline food of all time. Military K-rations would be better than the curry that I was served. A baked brick of rice and chicken -- dry, tasteless. I threw it out and ate crackers. My daughter's meal (pasta) had the appearence of a squashed caterpiller. Threw it out too. Surely they must get daily complaints from tourists. Iberian airlines has trouble keeping their VCR's working in the cabin. The lights would flicker ominously, and the PA system would make odd scratchy noises. An airline that can't operate a VCR and a PA system? Our plane ran out of gas and we had to land in Indianapolis. Four hour delay. Would not take Iberian airlines again.
Madrid traffic isn't bad (although it would be crazy for a non-native to drive here due to the spider web of streets). Even parking doesn't look terrible. Perhaps because of few cars. People seem to largely take the Metro -- an immense interconnected mesh of trains, on which one can use the same ticket and go anywhere. Trains come pretty quickly, are clean and comfortable. A good system. Compared to Tokyo, the single Metro ticket system is far preferable. Perhaps they should charge more. There are abundant taxis too, all looking exactly the same.
Street musicians are good in Madrid. Great string quartet. Odd zither like instruments. Quirky boxes with puppets, clever people who seem to be in very good humor. Sometimes a bit on the obnoxius side.
Madrid is much more expensive than the United States. Food is pricey -- everywhere. A short taxi ride to downtown -- $50 (30 Eu). Airport van -- costs $75, but it is only 8 miles away ! Nearly everything -- food and basic stuff -- is priced more than US. In fact prices are like Japan. The main exception is shoes (!). Exchange rates in the airport -- American express -- are exhorbitant. Bring your bank card, and get money from the ATM's. This seems unintelligent - -Madrid should be encouraging tourists, not driving them away.
Madrid is loaded with public buildings, tiny old museums, and parks. Great to have the resources, but why do it this way ? Why not consolidate some of the 1000 tiny museums (each one with hefty entrance fees), into a few gigantic and worthwhile museums ? Or provide a day-pass for tourists that covers all of the museums. There is a couple of hours when one can get into the Prado every day for free - -why not advertise this to tourists ? We had a bad experience at the Palace museum. The information lady, after I told her I couldn't read Spanish (not really true), delivered a string of lies to me designed to extract maximum dollars from the ignorant US tourist. And they talk about ugly Americans !
Madrid is not very diverse. We saw very few people of different race in Madrid.
Overall -- a lot of potential in Madrid, but the place needs better management.
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