Now I’m in my second year of university, it is getting much closer to the time where I’ll pack my bags and move to Spain to study there for a year. So naturally, when myself and my friend Siân wanted to go on a trip last year, where better to explore than the Spanish capital? Madrid was calling.
Saturday 31st October
After a comfortable two hour long flight on Halloween, including free wifi (apparently Tinder works from 30,000 ft up, folks), we landed at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport… bit of a mouthful. We found our way onto the metro and were met by the cleaning lady at our AirBnb apartment to let us in. We decided to set our cases down and go for a walk, where we managed to find El Palacio Real purely by accident and realised just how close we were staying to the city centre. After dinner (thank you, Siân) we explored our surroundings, which just so happened to feature the busiest street in the city: Gran Vía. All I could see were people with Dia de los Muertos make up on, which can be quite scary! However, we ended up at a taco bar, Maria Bonita, serving scrumptious cocktails which were definitely needed after our day of travels. All that left now was going back to our apartment for a well-earned night’s sleep… until we ended up being stuck outside our building for an age as the lock and key were super dodgy. Typical.
Sunday 1st November
So once we’d finally got into our apartment and slept, it was time for our first full day in the city. Starting our day off by stealing the wifi from the Starbucks near us at La Plaza de los Cubos, where the baristas predictably spelled our names wrong, we took the metro to Parque del Buen Retiro. While we were admiring the scenery, namely Monumento a Alfonso XII, a strange man walked up to us and said in the weirdest creepy accent, “que bonito tu pelo” (“your hair is beautiful”)… looks like Sian’s ‘mango intense copper’ hair was attracting all the locals. We continued walking, stopping mainly to take photos and grab some frozen yoghurt, only to realise when we checked our various maps we’d walked from one side of the city to the other without realising. All that leg work called for some dinner (a là me this evening) and a relaxing night/social media catch up in a super cute Mexican bar. Just don’t tell the locals we ended up in Taco Bell afterwards…
Monday 2nd November
Today saw us taking a day trip to Segovia, a town to the north-west of Madrid (and technically in a different autonomous region, Castilla y León). After somehow managing to navigate the metro and buy train tickets, we were on our way. The woman at the ticket desk realised we were foreign and spoke to us in English, which was kind of upsetting considering we study the Spanish language… however, once we were in Segovia (a train and bus later), we found a cute restaurant where we were able to order sandwiches and pay our bill in Spanish, making us feel much better. However, it didn’t take us long to slip into ‘English tourist mode’ and get dessert at the McDonald’s across the street – I tell you, when a girl doesn’t have wifi in her apartment, she’ll go anywhere for it! Segovia is so quaint, and even though the weather was horrendous, it didn’t dampen our spirits; we walked everywhere, exploring the Jewish Quarter and stumbling across an adorable bakery and café. Once we were back in Madrid, and once I’d finally managed to blow dry my hair without blowing the fuse in the apartment (sorry, Siân), we went to a bar we’d wanted to go to since we first arrived: El Jardín Secreto. When you first walk in, it looks like a fairytale grotto: covered in lights, flowers and coming with a very extensive cocktail list, we were in heaven. Ending our night with a live translation from Siân (the English lyrics to ‘El Perdón’ by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias are HILARIOUS) and sat in our wifi spot, we were spent. But it was worth it.
Tuesday 3rd November
Our final full day in Madrid! *cries* We decided to use as much of our day as possible to have a final explore, starting with visiting El Museo del Prado. I’m not the biggest art nerd, so a lot of this was lost on me, but it was nice to be able to look at some works from centuries ago – and all for free! Can’t really complain. We did our usual thing of stopping at a Starbucks and claiming the wifi, this time my coffee cup being branded with my new name, Casti… Throughout the day we found new parts of the city we’d not yet seen, spending a while in a book shop where I bought a Spanish translation of Bridget Jones’s Diary (lol) and trying to find a nice place to eat dinner for later. When it came to our final evening in the Spanish capital, we ended up walking down a street just off Gran Vía and coming across a bar that served beer and tapas for €5 each: sold. Saving the tapas until the end of our trip was definitely worth it, but we still managed to end up back where we started – those cocktails at Maria Bonita were just so good! That and their wifi connection…
Wednesday 4th November
Early morning alarms are never easy, especially not when you’ve not finished packing and have to get an early flight. Getting the metro at 6am was weird, but soon we were waiting around to check in for our flight. All I’ll say is, airport food in the terminal we were stuck in is absolutely vile (I opted for a box of Ritz biscuits for breakfast). Coming into land to the sounds of Stromae through popped ears and seeing gloomy, rainy Birmingham was very bittersweet.
Until next time, España!