We have met a lot of people on our travels around the world, and have contacts on several continents. A decade or more ago, it would have been impossible to keep up with them after leaving. They would have served as nothing more than single serving friends.
Why I Love Facebook
People have a love hate relationship with Facebook – they either love it or hate it, or minimally are indifferent. They hate the lack of privacy, or think it is a giant time suck – nothing more than voyeurism run amok.
I look at Facebook as my window to the world. Most of the travelers and locals I meet are on FB, which allows me an opportunity to find them after my trip, share photos, and to hopefully meet up again. Our experience in Madrid was the result of the genius of FB (as much as it pains me to say that).
In August 2009, while stuck aboard a Yangtze River cruise in China, we met some wonderful people, including two Spaniards, a Dominican, and a couple from Italy. In February 2010, towards the end of our first round the world trip, we stayed the weekend with the Italian couple, Silvia and Ricardo, in Lucca, Italy. We had an amazing time eating fantastic Tuscan food in country restaurants that tourists just don’t find. Silvia taught me her recipe for tiramisu. Thank you Facebook.
We have had amazing times in Mendoza, Argentina, because of an intro through FB from a friend of a friend. We drank wine, ate Argentine fusion cuisine prepared by an asado evil genius. Now, we have good friends there – we even went to Langdon and Chrissie’s Argentine asado wedding reception last year. Our Lisbon foodie extravaganza was predominantly the result of Chrissie’s recommendations.
We met a Slovene, Irena, in Belize, who was living in DC. We kept in touch after Irena returned to Slovenia, and a short time later, we were staying with Irena in Ljubljana. Through Irena we met Meral, our Serbian unofficial tour guide.
Steve and Eric worked together light years ago in DC. They reunited on Facebook. In fact, Steve is the reason why Eric and I joined FB in the first place. We crashed with Steve earlier this year in Budapest, where he has been living for over 10 years. He introduced us to his Brazilian friends, and we spent all night chatting.
We met Jamie in the common room of a campsite on the South Island of New Zealand in February 2009. After spending about 4 hours chatting it up with Jamie, we kept in touch through FB, became “Facebook Friends,” and crashed with him and his fiancee in London in November, leading us to have a wonderful time in a city that I was not entirely inclined to visit.
What This Has To Do With Madrid
Now, over three years after that Chinese cruise we had the opportunity to meet up with Inma and Isabel, and Isabel’s boyfriend, Ramon while visiting Madrid. It was one of the only reasons we were heading to Madrid (besides the ability to use miles to get back to the US). And, we knew this group would help us in our goal of eating like locals in Madrid.
Inma planned an evening of Spanish tapas and vino out in her neighborhood near Anton Martin metro. She took us to her locales – where the young folks of Madrid hang out, drinking and eating fusion style tapas, in the pintxos style – a single tapa, generally on a piece of bread. But these were on steroids – so large it was almost impossible to eat. Chicken curry on a toasted bread, salmon rolls, a Madrid “hamburger” with mushrooms and a fresh quail egg. Everything was amazing, even if less than traditional. After all, we were eating like the locals in Madrid.
After tapas hopping all night and drinking until late, we promised to meet up again in Asia. We said adios to Isabel and Ramon, who live quite far from downtown.
But, Inma did not stop there – she took us on a damp and breezy tour of Madrid the next day, tempered by the rain, and brought us to some of her favorite places – Revuelta for fried cod fish fritters, and a stop for her favorite home made vermouth cocktails.
We had lunch with Inma’s cousin, Irene, at a local restaurant, La Caleta, known for its specialities from Andalucia, Spain. We ate some of the most amazing fried fish bites, with fresh breading and a little bit of a bite from vinegar, called cazon. We met a strange Flamenco singer, who dragged us around the neighborhood before finally taking us to a cafe for a drink, where he performed a song for us, and then asked the girls for money to buy condoms before he snuck away. Yep, that’s how we roll. It was also about 3pm on a Sunday afternoon.
On our last night, we made our way to Irene’s flat for Inma’s home cooked tortilla – egg and potato casserole, with plates of freshly cured meats and wine. We were able to see the inside of a fancy Madrilena’s home, eat home a cooked meal, and chat with locals.
These are experiences that are hard to come by as a tourist, and for us, we have Facebook to (begrudgingly) thank.
Facebook Strikes Again
It was not just the Chinese cruise gang, but we also met a guy from Barcelona, Marc, on the Croatian-Montenegrin border. He was in Madrid one night for work, so we met him for a beer and had a lovely conversation about travel – he has been to way more countries than we had, the upcoming US election, and the Middle East.
So, for all of Facebook’s faults, I love it for helping me keep in touch with people I would otherwise be unable to locate. I would not be so bold to say that FB has changed my life, but I have made some wonderful friends and had some amazing experiences all across the world, as a result of Facebook. Just don’t tell Zuckerberg.