It was two years to the day since I last visited the Spanish capital when I touched down in Madrid on Wednesday evening. Looking out of the window at the hazy metropolis prompted me to think how past couple of years are likely to go down in history as some of the hardest.
Since my last trip the county has been to the polls. The elections called four month earlier than expected in November 2011, amid the financial crisis as then Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero refused to pass the 2012 budget. The People’s Party won by an overwhelming majority, and retuned to government following seven years as opposition.
Speculation of Spain leaving the Euro reach a critical level earlier this year with the downgrading of the country’s credit rating, and the media tarnished the Spain with the same brush as Greece.
However, as I’ve walked around the city for the past two days its hard not to think of my last visit. In Plaza Mayor, the same man walks around making bird noises (yes really), the same little Irish bar, where I (embarrassingly) watched Germany trounce England 4-0 in the World Cup, continues to draw in the crowds, and the small tapas bars that line the narrow alleys are still bustling.
In the world of travel, the Spanish flag carrier has been taken over by British Airways, in a merger, making the combined operation the third largest commercial airline in the world. However their fortunes in sport have been far greater, particularly football; in 2010 I watched the nation defeat the Dutch in the World Cup final, sat in a packed restaurant on the Spanish Rivera, and tomorrow night I’ll be watching the Euro 2012 final somewhere in Barcelona.
I write this as I hurtle across the Spanish countryside at 300hm/h aboard a high speed train, and looking out of the window at the parched fields I think it’s fair to say, deep down inside, despite everything, we all envy the Spanish somewhat. The Mediterranean climate, the relaxed pace of life, and their little continental bars.