Madrid advances the holidays | Madrid

Not Friday, not Saturday, not Sunday. The terraces of the capital are not full as they have been for months. It is no longer a problem to book a table in a restaurant, nor to support the voices and the laughter of the most night owls and alcohol lovers. Especially, if you live in a first. Those who hesitate to use public transport can park at any time without any problem, even in Chamberí or Malasaña. And it’s strange not to have commented with a friend or acquaintance that ‘Madrid looks like August’.

Last Friday, rush hour traffic fell 18% between six and ten a.m. compared to July 2019 — before the pandemic —, according to the city council. EMT data also bears witness to this: on Thursday July 22, 828,087 passengers used the bus service, compared to 1,152,412 on the same day in 2019. More than 30% less. The DGT recorded a 1.86% increase in travel between July 1 and July 26, 2021 compared to 2019. The holiday break was brought forward this year and people from Madrid escaped to other less urban and more calm to take advantage of the second pandemic summer.

This is the case of Beatriz Acebo and her companion Carlos López, aged 32 and 35, who left the capital for Galicia one minute after leaving the office on July 16. After a week spent visiting several towns in the Galician provinces, she made a technical stopover in Cantabria to rest for a few days before heading to Cadiz. “I needed to breathe, it’s the second summer of a pandemic and still being in Madrid made me feel locked in,” says Acebo.

A young man checks his mobile phone in an empty square in Chamberí. David Exposito

He, a diving enthusiast, is one of the many Spaniards who have chosen to go to the Maldives, as confirmed by data from Iberia. According to the airline, the international destinations most in demand this summer by Spaniards are the Maldives and the Azores. Right from the start, they had to add an extra frequency due to high demand right after they offered it. In Europe, the most requested flights are Italy, Croatia and Portugal. From Iberia Express they claim that the percentage of routes they offer to the Balearic and Canary Islands is 20% higher than in 2019. “They all have in common that many outdoor leisure activities can be practiced. It’s the ideal plan for most,” they add from the company’s communications department.

The trains run with reinforcement

Not all journeys from the capital start in Barajas. Renfe explains that the most requested destinations on these dates are those of the trains that run in the Madrid-Málaga, Madrid-Alicante, Madrid-Valencia, Madrid-Cádiz and Madrid-Barcelona relations. On weekends, the trains run with reinforcement, that is to say that in the frequencies of greatest demand, two trains are grouped together. Currently, Renfe offers an average of 500,000 seats per week.

From the communication office of Viajes El Corte Inglés they explain that in their case the start of the holidays for the people of Madrid is similar to other years and that the concentration of reservations is on the Spanish coasts and islands, although they make him point out that the people of Madrid “are going to extend their summer” and also have many reservations for the month of September and even October. “Domestic tourism is the greatest demand right now. We perceive an increase compared to other years of travel in northern Spain, with special mention for the areas belonging to the Camino de Santiago. We imagine that the natural environment and that Xacobeo 2021 is a holy year are part of the reasons for this success”. In outbound travel, the Caribbean is one of the most popular destinations, they add.

Two men on a terrace without other customers, in the Chamberí district.
Two men on a terrace without other customers, in the Chamberí district.David Exposito

The hostel is closing this summer

At the Campiello restaurant, located at the General Álvarez de Castro roundabout, they are going on vacation this summer. In the past they have decided against it, due to the months they remained closed or half-down due to the pandemic. They also made the decision to close every Sunday in July, although they normally only do so in August. The cause is the lack of public and the need to recover energy. This is how Alexandra Anghle, one of his waitresses, tells it while chatting with a colleague on the empty terrace of the place at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday while waiting for the arrival of a customer.

Accustomed to an intense pace of work and a diverse audience between the inhabitants of the Chamberí district, taxi drivers and young people who have found in this terrace a central place to exhaust the forgotten and the curfew, they recognize that there are far fewer people at the time. “It’s a lot more like life before the pandemic, they also leave a lot earlier and we can close earlier. It opened up Madrid and left a lot of people out,” says Anghle. This spring, and even in winter, the terrace was buzzing at all hours.

A little higher up, in the well-known district of Ponzano, the tranquility of certain streets which, until a few months ago, were crowded with young people looking for a party is surprising. At seven o’clock on Friday evening, the terraces are still empty, the reggaeton sounds inside the places where only the waiters are present, and booking for dinner is no problem. One of the workers at La Bientirada restaurant, on the corner of Santa Engracia and José Abascal, says this scenario was “inconceivable” a few weeks ago. “You see that there are fewer reservations and we are also fewer employees, but after nine in the evening everything changes and it is mainly a young audience. This month there are also many more foreigners: English, French and Portuguese”.

Ana Banks is one of the employees of the La Cuenca cider house, located in Calle de la Cruz Verde, very close to Gran Vía. She says she “can’t wait to go on vacation” and that “it’s very obvious” that people have left the capital. “Since June, there has been a lot less work. Most of the customers are foreign, especially Americans and French, but we never have a full room like in 2019, which was day after day”. The waitress agrees with the vision of other hoteliers in that the atmosphere heats up a little after 9:00 p.m. “because it is also less hot”, but she assures us that it is not comparable.

At the restaurant Los Galayos, one of the best known in the Plaza Mayor, they watch tourists, distracted by street vendors, waiting for someone to come and sit on the terrace. Fernando Grande, manager of the premises, says that this summer the holidays of his regular customers have been a little anticipated, that he “knows very well”, but that he has more public than last year. “We’re lower than other years, but better than 2020. There are more foreigners than Spaniards and it usually picks up after half past nine at night.”

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