Madrid – Festivals, Food and Freak Rainstorms

Ah Madrid. The city where it rains, on average, for a mere three days in July. Someone clearly slapped us with the lucky stick because when we went there, we hit the rain jackpot and got all three days in one week. And when I say rain I mean thunder, lightening, flooding and jet black skies all day. We came here to avoid going to a festival in the rain in Ireland (ah irony you cruel mistress) and let me tell you it is no easy feat trying to source raincoats in Madrid in July – Primark, sure where else.   

A group of six of us headed to Madrid in July 2017 for the Mad Cool Festival. Despite probably being the lamest named festival of all time it did have an unbelievable line up with Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon and Green Day all headlining as well as M.I.A, Alt-J and Foster the People.

When I went in 2017 the festival took place in the Caja Magica which is a multi purpose stadium although it has since moved to the Valdebebas-Ifem convention center. It has also grown in size from three stages and 45,000 people to a capacity of 80,000 and seven stages. It’s €175 for a three day ticket (€79 for one day) however it’s worth noting that this does not include camping and you will need to source a hostel, hotel or Airbnb.

When I attended it was only the second year of the festival and there were definite teething issues. The venue was simply not equipped for the volume of people and there were big steps and sudden level changes that were not properly cordoned off. Another big downside were the toilets, which devolved into anarchy after a couple of hours as there were not enough to cope with the volume of people.

Thunder Bitches are Go! And yes we do have Glow themed makeup…and hats….and badges…

Despite this, there was a great atmosphere particularly from day two when the sun finally came out. Because there were only three stages it was easy to see the acts from anywhere you stood and the sound and lighting effects were exceptional – especially for Alt-J. Additionally the drinks were reasonably priced (oh how I miss those one liter glasses of calimocho) and the bar queues went really fast.

It was definitely the acts rather than the location that were the big draw for me. I had already seen Foo Fighters but honestly can you ever see enough of Dave Grohl?! I do think they were better when I saw them in Slane (don’t hate me Dave) however this might have just been due to a fairly somber crowd at Mad Cool. In comparison to the Foo Fighters set, the Spaniards lost their shit when Kings of Leon played proving the crowd can really impact the atmosphere of a gig. For me though there was absolutely no topping Green Day.

My 15 year old emo self was in heaven seeing Green Day live

They were a major bucket list band for me and this gig still holds the title of best live act I’ve ever seen. Before Green Day came on stage there was a freak incident where one of the acrobats performing next to the stage tragically fell to his death. There was some criticism from the media afterwards who said that Green Day should not have performed however, having been there, turning away 45,000 inebriated fans was simply not an option. Despite the tragic circumstances Green Day captivated the audience and they might have even challenged Dave Grohl’s good guy reputation by giving away multiple free guitars to fans in the crowd.

Overall I liked Madrid but I didn’t fall in love with it. It may have been the fact that so many people had raved about it to me beforehand and it was overhyped or perhaps it was due to the location of our Airbnb. Despite having the friendliest host and being the most colorfully decorated apartment i’ve ever seen, was quite a ways outside the city center. Regardless it was a great break with some even greater people!

Matching hats so the kids know how cool we are

There is plenty to see and do here without going to a festival. If you are planning on visiting then check out the Royal Palace of Madrid and Retiro Park which is right beside the palace and full of incredible gardens. If you’re into football you could catch a match at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, alternatively, there are some world renowned museums here including The Prado art gallery, The National Archaeological Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art and The Reina Sofia Museum. There are also some great shops in the center including the famous Primark which has FOUR floors. We also got very lucky as Sephora was opening a new store and having a closing down sale which I’m pretty sure was the universe’s way of making up for the torrential rain.

I had to save the best till last and if there is one thing that everyone will rave about when mentioning Madrid it’s the food. Tapas – all day – everyday. Honestly anywhere I go where I get to eat a lot of different types of food at one time is perfectly fine by me. We went to The Plaza Major which is a renaissance square encircled by residential homes, restaurants and cafes. It’s an ideal spot to sit, drink and people watch. If you’re looking for a food market it’s definitely worth going to Mercado de San Miguel which is filled with dozens of different food stalls serving everything from tapas and beer to gelato and churros. Let’s be honest though, if its dessert you’re after then you need to go straight to Churros at San Ginés. Picture churros and cups of thick melted chocolate – need I say anymore. These guys have been open since 1894 so its safe to say they’ve got this churro thing down.

Now excuse me, after all this talk of Madrid I need to go eat some chocolate and day dream about Dave Grohl – adiós!

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