Eurotrip 2016: Part 3 (Madrid)

See Part 1 here and Part 2 here. 

The final leg of our trip was Madrid, Spain. Doug and I were both eager to experience Madrid since neither of us had been there before—and we were going to see our friend from college, Jonathan! Actually, having a friend in Madrid was one of the main reasons we booked a trip to Europe in the first place. We want to travel, well, everywhere, but were drawn to the prospect of seeing an old friend in a new place. We were glad to finally see the sun!

madrid-1

The first day in Madrid didn’t quite go according to plan. Originally, we were supposed to arrive around 2:30 p.m. and check into our airbnb right away. However, as you may have read in my last post, our flight from Paris was cancelled and we rebooked the next, cheapest flight available. It happened to leave Paris around 6 a.m. which meant we woke up between 3:30 and 4 a.m. since we were worried about getting to the airport, checking baggage, and everything. (Paris’s airport is kind of far outside the city and it’s worth adding in extra time to get there). Anyway, our flight put us in Madrid around 10 a.m. We couldn’t check into our airbnb, so we had 4 hours to kill in a new city with all our luggage in tow.

We ate at a nearby restaurant called El Madroño. The staff were a bit confused about Americans eating a full-fledged lunch at 11 a.m. because most of the restaurants don’t even open until around that time, and the lunch rush at most places is closer to 2. (note: I discovered that I loved running on Madrid Time). Anyway we really tried to drag out the meal because we didn’t have anywhere to go with all of our stuff.

madrid-12

 

After we’d overstayed our welcome at the restaurant we headed up to Plaza Mayor, which is probably the most famous sight in Madrid and wasn’t very far from our airbnb. [Cut to us dragging rollerbags up a cobblestone hill.] Plaza Mayor is a nice, open square with a statue in the center. There are lots of restaurants and gift shops around the perimeter. We made a couple laps and stopped in the tourist center to get pamphlets and use their wi-fi. We walked a little farther to just outside an old monastery where we found a concrete bench. Doug read a book while I napped (comfy!).

Finally we were able to check into our flat. The wait was worth it! Out of the three airbnbs we stayed in this was… well, tied for the most picturesque, with Paris, but it only had four flights of stairs instead of six!

madrid-3

After another nap and a shower, we were ready to explore some more, meeting our friend when he got out of work at 6pm. He showed us around a few more parts of town including Catedral de Almudena, which we went into; it is an old cathedral filled with interesting art, and the Palacio Real, or royal palace (we just looked at the outside).

madrid-4

madrid-5

madrid-6

We continued to trek around the city—including to his apartment in the south part of the city to drop some stuff off, then we checked out Mercado San Miguel (below), had tapas for dinner, did more exploring out to the east, then back to our flat to stay up really late catching up and talking about old times—the best kind of conversations in my opinion. My fitbit clocked over 26,000 steps that day!

madrid-2

madrid-14

The next morning we were exhausted and a bit under the weather, due to the rain in London and rain+stress in Paris. So, I slept in while Doug went out to explore the city. He didn’t find much because nothing really opens before 10. So, we had a lazy morning. Then we went to Retiro Park which is a beautiful huge park that has a variety of things to see, including Palacio de Cristal, and a large lake where one can rent a rowboat and paddle around. I bought a comic book (in Spanish) from one of the bookseller booths and we sat on the grass trying to decipher the plot using intuition, Doug’s beginner Spanish skills, and adapting my French knowledge to fit.

madrid-7

madrid-8

madrid-9

During the evening was more bumming around with our friend. We had a fancy dinner at a culinary art school (so it was fancy but inexpensive) and checked out more of the Centro neighborhood. Lots of walking, but not as much as the day before.

On our final day in Madrid we went to Reina Sofia, the modern art museum. There is also one of the world’s top art museums, Museo Nacional del Prado, but we’d seen a lot of classic-style art in the Louvre and overall, we prefer modern art. (Also, Reina Sofia was a bit cheaper and we were nearly out of Euros by this point).

madrid-10

madrid-11

That evening, we were able to see Jonathan in a variety show! It turns out there is a thriving expat performing arts community in Madrid. I was really excited to be able to attend—he does stand-up too, usually on the weekends. This show was on a Wednesday, fortunately for us!

The next morning we made it to the airport with plenty of time, and didn’t have to get up at 4 a.m. to do it. Ah, it’s so nice when things go according to plan.

The beat of life in Madrid was much more slow and leisurely, which was a great change of pace after busy, bustling London and cosmopolitan Paris. By this point in the trip Doug and I both had full-fledged colds so it was nice (and necessary!) to slow down.

Busy-busy-busy trips have their pros, and so do relaxing trips. What pace of life do you look for on a vacation? 

Advertisements

Paella. Believe the Hype.

Spain was, in short, glorious.

After a morning of Arabic (I was the only one who had class Friday which made it even lamer) and a four-hour, sweaty bus ride to Tangiers (a place that would merit its own weekend excursion, actually), we got a taxi to the port and took a ferry across to Tarifa. The orginal plan was to continue on to a city called Algeceiras but by that time it was 8:45 and the last bus to Algecerias was leaving at 9. (There is a weird time zone change from Morocco to Spain).

So, throwing out the idea of Algeciras, we asked the people working in the cafe for a hotel (not hostel) recommendation and they gave us some directions. Upon arriving we found the hotel clean and adorable. And only 100 Euro for all three of us for two nights! I’m not sure if that’s a good rate but sounded reasonable to me–a little over 15, each, per night. After putting our stuff down (I love that I packed the lightest out of us three–even lighter than the guy in our group) we went out and got dinner in a cafe. Brynn and Pete took every opportunity to drink something alcoholic–drinking in public (even at a cafe) is severely looked down on in Morocco. Those two sure can put it away.

The next day we slept in until “ten” (really nine, Morocco time) and went to the beach until around one or two. I had to buy a towel since I completely forgot to bring one with me… across the Atlantic… at all! Haha. Now I have a cheapo towel to remember Spain by. Its pretty at least. I was very careful not to get sun burned and it was delightful. Even though its seperated from Morocco by only a little bit of water (one could actually see Morocco from the beach) it was so much less humid and several degrees cooler. When we’d had enough sun we went back to town to do some shopping but realized that all the stores were totally closed until like 5pm for the siesta. So that was a bust. We went back to the hotel and napped. After our nap we ate at a pretty nice restaurant, then did some window shopping and finished up the evening with dinner.

To your left, a handsome young man. To your right, um... not so much.
To your left, a handsome young man. To your right, um... not so much.

Since we were in Spain but we weren’t really going to any historic sites or anything we took the opportunity to delight our tastebuds in hyped Spanish foods–namely, tapas and paella. First off, tapas. OVERRATED. Don’t bother. They give you what looks like potato salad and put it on  bread and expect that to be your meal. First off they totally skimped on the bread so half of our tapas went uneaten. Secondly, the stuff we chose didn’t really taste that good. After the disappointement of the tapas, we were delighted when the paella was brought out and it was ~delectable~ even though it contained all manner of questionable seafood. Steering clear of anything that wasn’t chicken, fish, or those small shrimp I’ve had before, I scarfed my portion of paella in no time. I am determined to learn how to cook it when I get home.

Yummmmmmm.....
Yummmmmmm.....

The weekend ended far too quickly. Being in Europe reminded me what its like to eat with a knife and fork, and how lovely it is when people follow traffic laws.

Other notable moments included a crazy Spanish bachelorette party at a club we went to, Pete being convinced the flamenco dancer outside the restaurant we ate at was a tranny, and wearing a tank top the entire time I was there.

Weekend Trip #1

So, I’m the only one that has school tomorrow morning, and really I’m not sure why I do and the others don’t… but I’m not asking questions because I want to get full credit… so yeah. I’m bringing my bag with me to school in the morning and the others are meeting me at 12 after I get out of class and we’re heading over to the train station. I’m taking a train! How exciting, right?

Now readers, you know I’m just stringing you along, because the train may be part of the trip but you clearly don’t know the destination yet. So, our train ride should be a few hours, and we’ll get into Tangiers (the top, pointy part of morocco where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet) around like six PM…

Then…. we’re going to take a ferry to SPAIN! That’s right, sail across the glorious Strait of Gibraltar and spend a day basking in the delightful sun of l’Espana! I mean, we’re only going to be there for a day, it will probably be pretty similar to Morocco… and its going to be ungodly expensive compared to our past two weeks but… you know what… I get to add another country to my map!  I’m excited. I want to buy a souvenir with a bull on it or something :D

I’ve never done something this spontaneous… I mean there was that spontaneous trip to Las Vegas, but I definitely had a place to stay when I got there. We have no place to stay so this should be rather interesting! Adventure, right?

That said, I’m leaving my computer at home so it doesn’t get stolen on our journey. So I will be incommunicado until Sunday evening. :) Leave me lots of lovely commentsto read and smile at when I get back! Hopefully I’ll come back with an interesting story or gorgeous pictures!

Note that the #1 in the title implies that there will be subsequent weekend trips! Probably not to other countries but hopefully just as exciting :)