I had passed through Madrid, or should I say, Madrid-Barajas Airport, five times already.
Madrid. It has always seemed like an annoying necessity; a stop-over when travelling to Peru, the closest city with an airport when heading to my Year Abroad destination, Salamanca.
Although only a 2h45 minute journey from Salamanca and the closest city of interest, you would have thought I would have visited Madrid sooner – but I didn’t. Instead, the capital was the final trip during my semester in Spain after a determination to visit everywhere but.
Whenever people had mentioned Madrid to me, words such as “underwhelming, overrated, not as good as Barcelona” soon followed. The ‘idea’ of Madrid just didn’t reach out to me all that much because of this. It seemed like a trip to visit the city for a few days would be worthwhile, before I headed to the airport to fly home, just to see it for myself. I had really wanted to go to the Hammam Al-Ándalus baths again which are in Madrid as well as Granada and other cities in Andalucía, plus I found out there was a cat café there too, so it couldn’t be all that bad.
Perhaps going to Madrid with no expectations at all made my experience better, but all I can say is this – I loved it! Yes, I actually absolutely loved Madrid, who could have seen that coming? I am kicking myself for not wanting to go earlier, even after three days there I didn’t even manage to go into the Prado or the Reina Sofia… (well you are talking to the girl who has gone to Paris twice and has yet to even go inside the Louvre…). It is indeed extremely different to Barcelona, and although Barcelona is fabulous to visit, I wouldn’t ever consider living there, whereas Madrid gave me the vibe “Wow, I could totally see myself living here, but why it is so hot?!” So that was good. I’m pleased Madrid surprised me but I understand it may not be for everyone.
I stayed at SunGate Hostel which was in a fantastic location near Puerta del Sol and loads of shops. The vibe in the hostel was great and I met some truly lovely people to enjoy Madrid with. They do free evening meals every evening which proved to be popular but I didn’t manage to actually go to any during my stay. Still, after staying in the luxurious Gallery Hostel in Porto the week before, I wasn’t used to some of the issues with normal hostels and I was utterly disappointed with breakfast which was cold churros con chocolate and nothing else.
My first thing was to get some tapas at El Tigre. If you order anything there be warned, portions are massive. A tapa is more like a ración (sharing plate) and I ordered a plate of pimientos de padrón to feed 100 people.
That evening, I ended up going to the Templo de Debod at sunset which was the most perfect moment. As I was there on a Monday evening, it may have been less crowded than at a weekend which was great for taking loads of photos! The light on the temple was beautiful and it was amazing to look at as the sun was going down.
The following day I walked all the way to Retiro Park which is somewhere you have to visit when in Madrid. It was boiling but it was lovely to walk around and enjoy the quiet of the gardens in the center of the city. Next time, I am hiring a rowing boat on that lake!
Oh and what is Spain without a bit of frozen yogurt in the afternoon? Smooy were handing out an offer for a free extra topping on your frozen yogurt – perfection!
As I said, I also went to a cat café, but I was the only one there and the cats didn’t seem to want any attention as they were already so spoiled with affection and were quite moody. But there were free unlimited drinks which was much needed! It was right by the Reina Sofia which I intended to visit, but I was walking around ages trying to find the right entrance and I was exhausted -a siesta sounded much more appealing at that moment in time instead of walking around one of the most amazing art galleries in Spain (next time?).
After a well-earned siesta, it was time to go to the Hammam Al Ándalus baths which I wrote about here – the perfect way to relax during my final evening in Spain before going home!
The following day, my flight was not until late at night so I had all day to see more of Madrid. I took the Sandman’s Free City Tour of Madrid with my hostel, as I still hadn’t seen anything at all of the historical center of Madrid (cathedral, Royal Palace etc.). It was well worth it as Madrid has a very interesting history from humble beginnings which is not very well known. Plus, it only lasted 2 hours which was good as any longer would have been unbearable in the heat.
Next, I purchased some cookies from a Convent by talking to some nun’s through wall without seeing them which surely was an experience, with some new friends from the hostel. We also intended to visit the Royal Palace which apparently is even larger than Versailles (can you imagine?!), but it was closed for an official event which was a shame, so it is worth checking before you go if it is open to the public that day. It is no longer the offical residence of the monarchy but is still used for state affairs.
We made a quick detour inside the cathedral but I must admit, for being the cathedral of the capital of Spain, it is so ugly and it was quite sad. It has nothing on Barcelona, Sevilla, Salamanca, Toledo… the list goes on. It could be at the very bottom of a long list in all honesty.
We stumbled across the Mercado San Miguel on the walk back. It’s a beautiful building although quite small with a wide selection of stalls offering tapas, patisserie, wine and other products, but it does seem to be high-market and quite touristy.
It wasn’t long until it was time to head to the airport, to say goodbye to Spain for the forseeable future. Yet due to the air strikes with Ryanair, my flight was delayed an hour and a half and I didn’t manage to get home until 2am! Spain obviously didn’t want me to leave…
So all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Madrid and what I saw of it. I will definitely be returning in the future.
But for now, VOU PARA LISBOA (I’m off to Lisbon!)
Beijinhos (getting into the Portuguese vibe now),