Monday, August 12, 2013

Spain, Part I: Madrid

I just got back from a last minute vacation to Spain!  I spent 12 days exploring Madrid, Mallorca, and Barcelona with my good friend Lauren. It was so nice to get away for a while and to explore such a beautiful place.

I spent the first two days in Madrid on my own.  I had never traveled abroad by myself before, so I thought it would be fun to try it out.  There is something so rewarding and pleasing in being able to get around a foreign city by yourself when you don't really speak the language.  After traveling for 18 hours, taking the metro and then the bus, and walking to where I was staying in Madrid at 10 am, I felt like a million bucks for finding the place on my own.

I quickly dropped off my stuff and headed out to see as much of the city as I could in a day.  First, I went straight to the Museo del Prado and enjoyed all of the Goya's and other wonderful art.

When I left, I was starving, so I headed over to Mallorca, a take-out tapas place.  Such a cool restaurant!

They had quite the array of macaroons!  I had an orange one and a purple one. :)

I also loved how they boxed up all my stuff.  I felt so European!

I ate my stash of food in Parque del Buen Retiro, where I took off my shoes and rested my feet for a bit.

The park was nice, but it was pretty hot out, so anytime I left the shade it was uncomfortable.  After some exploring, I found this beautiful glass exhibit hall.

It was stunning.  The trees in the lake were really cool too.  They were some kind of cyprus tree and live underwater like that.  Bizarre.

After some further exploration, I found the rose garden, which was quite lame.  I think the roses were about as fried as I was feeling at that point.

I grabbed myself a Fanta (love those so much) and headed over to Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which is home to Picasso's Guernica.  I'm going to write another post about all of the art and architecture I saw, because it seemed to be a continuous theme throughout my trip.  So more on the actual art later!

After a few hours at el Centro, I was ready for dinner.  To continue cramming as much as I could into my day, I ate dinner at a Flamenco venue.

I had a lot of fun practicing my Spanish with my waiter- he was very nice and patient with me.  I ordered these delicious spinach and pine nut stuffed ball things.  Quite good.

The show was fun too.  The dancers are kind of scary though- they never smile and look so serious!

But man, they have great butts!

I know, inappropriate...

Anyway... I had made it my goal to make it to midnight.  I was pretty wiped, but the rest of Madrid was hopping.

This was at 11pm... I think I was the only one ready for bed.

I headed over to a roof-top bar for a drink.  I got a fabulous mojito that accidentally cost me a fortune.  Oh well.  At least they brought out some rockin' bar snacks.

And yep, that's ham with some bread sticks.  Funny.  Ham is totally a condiment in Spain.

After my 12 euro mojito (yeah, that's like $18...oops), I had one last stop to make...chocolate con churros!  I headed over to Chocolateria de San Gines, which reminded me a lot of San Francisco, strangely.  The alleyway just reminded me of one of my favorite SF bars, Irish Bank.  The only difference was Madrid was still a million degrees outside.

I know this might sound crazy, but the chocolate was almost too rich for me.  And I had eaten so much by that point (and slept so little), I was not feeling so hot.  But it had to be done. :)

I made it back to where I was staying a little after midnight and crashed hard.

In the morning, I couldn't figure out how to turn the hot water on in the shower, so I only took a quick dip after about 48 hours of no shower. Sick.

I had one of the best breakfasts of my life at Cafe de Oriente near Palacio Real. It was so simple- a ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg, and a cup of Rooibos tea.  But they cut the top of the sandwich so that the egg could peak out. So awesome.  And it came with french fries.  Best. Breakfast. Ever.

I did a quick walk around the palace...

 ...and then took a look at Plaza Major.

I could have spent a lot more time in Madrid, but I had to high tail it back to the airport for my flight to Mallorca (which I can't talk about- such a disaster.  NEVER fly Ryanair. Trust me.)

I think I've photo-bombed enough for one post, so Mallorca and Barcelona will be coming soon!


  1. Awesome pictures!! (especially those crazy trees...I wonder if they are related to mangroves in any way). I'm glad you had such a good time even while daring to explore on your own. Also glad to read that you had a tasty's only the best drink in the world (except in the US), and particularly fun to drink because it seems to have tasted slightly differently in every country I've been to.

  2. Alex- Yes! Why does Fanta taste less awesome here? I think it's the sugar (?), but it always disappoints me when I try it in the US. But so good abroad...

  3. I'm so impressed that you were willing to travel on your own! You didn't get that from me!

  4. I don't know why I just saw this, but I want to say 2 things:
    1. I am so proud of you for travelling solo! It's so scary - and so worth it.
    2. I went on Ryanair once. The plane didn't have a bathroom. In the future, consult with me before booking any discount travel deals :)