So you want to hear more about Madrid, eh? I didn’t bore you with all my talk of trip prep & somehow taking a 16 day trip for less than $1400 for all travel and lodging through Spain? Great. Let’s get to it.
When we last checked in on Celia and Remy, they were exchanging hugs and Afrin in a small hostel in Madrid. Celia majorly jet lagged, Remy a little sniffly, but resilient. The first order of business was to get something yummy in their hungry American bellies while heading towards their next destination at the Hostel Alvaro. Together, they rolled their suitcases, backpacks on backs, and started a steady uphill climb to the next hostel in the dry 95 degree Farenheight Madrid heat, stopping only for some freshly squeezed juice and a “panepinno toasta” at a spot on the way.
I wish I could tell you Celia lasted longer, that she defeated jet lag with the strength of someone that had just recently left college so all nighters were no-biggie. But sadly, Celia was three years out, and her frail eyelids could not hold themselves up. After arriving at the private double bunk-bed room, Celia resolved to napping for two hours—NO MORE THAN TWO HOURS. And Remy, well adjusted to the time zone at this point, pledged to wake her my 3 at the latest after she herself had showered and looked into planning the day.
Another problem with jet lag from a red-eye is that though one may be exhausted, one also might be too exhausted to sleep. And so Celia lay in her lower bunk, eye mask on, for approximately 45 minutes before finally drifting into a light sleep. What must have been 5 minutes later, Remy woke her, informing her she had in fact slept for two hours (give or take that 45 minutes). From there, it was off to the races.
As the two left the Hostel ready to get their first real glimpse of Madrid, we will, dear reader, depart from third person omniscient and back into first.
Out of the Hostel and Into the City!
There. After changing into something a bit more hot-hot-hot Madrid appropriate – some lightweight flowy pants and a sleeveless top, a nice departure from the t-shirt and jeans I’d been wearing on the plane Remy and I exited the Hostel and began to do what one can only describe as guided wandering. A friend of Remy’s who had spent a significant amount of time in Madrid had sent her a massive list of things to do, and we were determined to do them all. Perhaps not that day, but within the three we were there.
We first wandered to Plaza Mayor, which as you can guess, was the “Main Square.” We’d find out on our walking tour the next day that it had been around for centuries, among other interesting facts. One in particular about why the horse statue in the center stank for centuries. While in the Square, we wandered over some headless Matadors & Flamenco dancers, and got into position to take a photo with our heads in their heads’ steads (say that 10 times fast.) A nice woman came by and offered to take a photo of the two of us. As it turns out, she asked for a tip afterwards. And that is how I lost my first two Euros to the Roma. It would not be the last time on the trip. But I think I got away with not losing 10, so that’s good?
Mercado de San Miguel
From the square, we meandered down to the next place on the list, the “Mercado de San Miguel,” a large classic indoor market with many varieties of Spanish food, tapas, and drinks to try. Remy and I shared two chicken enchiladas first, while she went on to get a goat cheese croquette and some patatas bravas. I had a big cup of freshly cut fruit because between the plane flight and the heat I was craving some fresh vitamin C.
Finally, Remy finished off her Mercado excursion with some Sangria Blanco, but I, not ready to stomach wine in addition to my sleep deprivation ate the fresh olives that came with the Sangria. I was SHOCKED. I am not an olive person. Never have been. These green olives…were AMAZING. Refreshing, not too salty, a nice texture…wow! This is probably because they were just that—very local, very fresh. We later learned on our road trip to Granada that this is probably because most of the Spanish country side (at least from our vantage point) really is just 100% olive trees.
The Search for Lightweight Pants…
The rest of the evening we spent walking around the city, not really knowing what impressive buildings and statues we were looking at as we went (thank goodness for the walking tour the next day!) We also did a lot of hopping in and our of the various clothing shops. I quickly realized that I did not pack right for the weather. Spain. Was. Hot. And also in a heat wave. The fabric of my maxi dresses and the majority of my pants just weren’t going to cut it. I should have tested them out in Atlanta…but I guess I don’t get outside in non-exercise clothes much in ATL.
I found the perfect pair of very lightweight flowy pants at a reasonable 20 euros after multiple stops, and by around 7 we were again hungry for dinner. We stopped at a Tapas restaurant where we sat at a table inside a large open window/doorway. Which was excellent because it provided us a nice view of the street and a cool breeze from a fan. But also not excellent because multiple times we were approached by Roma trying various ways to get our money.
One man went so far as placing a lighter on our table after saying something we didn’t understand, then coming back 5 minutes later and demanding money for the lighter we hadn’t touched. Another man, also seeking money, just started talking to me, first in Spanish (which I don’t speak). I then, (UNABLE TO NOT ENGAGE, it’s a serious issue), told him that I “didn’t understand” in French (which I do speak). I chose French because I’d noticed most everyone in Spain also speaks pretty good English. AND THEN he started speaking in French!
The natural solution in my head was to start speaking in some kind of gibberish. It was like that scene in the recent Wonder Woman where the two characters keep changing their speaking language, only I was not, in fact, fluent in Ancient Greek, or really anything. It wasn’t until Remy pointed out “Celia. Just ignore them.” that he went away. This was a tip I had to be reminded of constantly.
Omg. Huge Tapas & Chocolate Churros
The food was very good. And also way more food than I expected for the price/th
e name “tapas.” I ordered a gazpacho and a brie/steak toasta. The gazpacho was an enormous bowl. The Toasta FAR BIGGER than the other’s I’d seen earlier. (Although, I supposed those had all been “panepinno” tostas…. i.e. much smaller toastas.) On top of these, I indulged in the bread basket, the wine, and some of Remy’s patatas bravas. Her Patatas Bravas order was literally a dinner sized plate stacked high with fried potatos! Living the dream! Needless to say, I was quite full. I saved half of my brie-steak toasta to have at a later time at the hostel. Because I still had to reserve room for the chocolate churros we wanted to have for dessert!
Not far from the restaurant was a Chocolate Churros shop (that seemed to likely be a type of chain) with all variety and shapes of Churros dipped in all variety of chocolate. Quite full already, I opted for the thin pretzel-shaped churro covered in cooled dark chocolate. A few days later in Madrid, we learned that Chocolate Churros were actually a breakfast item and that we weren’t eating them the traditional way anyways. Nevertheless, these were super yummy.
From there, we returned to the hostel to sleep. Though in bed by 10 (despite the sun still being down), I did not fall asleep until roughly 2am. Curse you, jet lag!
What I learned on my first day in Madrid:
- I should have packed shorts, or even more lightweight clothing than what I did.
- “Tapas” are WAY BIGGER than what I’m used to in the States.
- A sleep mask is very helpful to bring for afternoon naps/early turn ins, because the sun is downright on a different LEVEL in Spain
- Having a hostel with your own adjustable AC is amazing.
- I carried a 40oz water bottle with me around all day, and it was the best decision ever.
- Madrid gets really into Pride. I forgot to mention—the “Pride” events technically wouldn’t officially start until four or five days later. BUT there were more rainbows in Madrid than on Facebook in June 2017, and it was amazing.
- Just do. Not. Engage. Otherwise you’ll lose money you didn’t intend to, or get swindled, or both. A lesson I would have to learn many times over.