The perks of living in London? I can go to another country for a long weekend away. My countries of choice are anywhere in Europe. Within a couple of days of first arriving in London, I booked my first trip…..3 nights in sunny Madrid, Spain.
It was a budget flight I booked, so I arrived into Madrid, with only carry on, at 11.30pm at night. I’d left drizzly London behind for a city that was still hot that late at night. It was awesome. My taxi driver spoke no English but with my rather limited Spanish I managed to get him to take me to my Hostel in central Madrid. The Living Cat’s Hostel. One of Europe’s famous party hostels.
I crashed right away.
Up early for a free walking tour the next morning, I made my way from the hostel to Plaza Mayor, a central meeting place in Madrid and the starting point of the tour. I recommend booking a free Sandeman’s walking tour for your next trip, they’re available in many places, just check out their website. We were taken around the central and west side of Madrid by the awesome tour guide and irishman, Alex. After the tour was over I went back to the Hostel to refill my water bottle and map out the places I wanted to get to that day and the next. Luckily central Madrid isn’t a huge place so it was easy to walk from one place to the other and see so much.
Priority was food at this point in the day. I knew there was a famous market nearby that had lots of food stalls with tapas, drinks and sweets so I made that my first destination. It was absolutely packed but I managed to do a loop around, getting an idea of what was on offer, before using my basic Spanish to order myself a potato omelette from one stall and veggie paella from another. Paella, Sangria and Churro’s were my 3 must eat/drink whilst on this trip. Next up was dessert. The tour guide had recommended two places for the best churro’s in Madrid, so I figured which ever one I stumbled on first would be the one. Just off a main shopping strip, up a small alley was Chocolateria San Gines, one of the oldest chocolate and churro places in Madrid. There was a line out the door…..but it was so worth it. 6 churros all to myself and cup of hot chocolate (not the drink but literally hot, melted chocolate…..delicious!).
If you haven’t figured out already, a big part of experiencing somewhere, for me, when I am traveling is by trying their local food and drinks. I’d much rather spend my money on trying a bit of this and a bit of that at different local eateries then visiting museums. If the museum is free entry and I have the time, I’d happily check it out though.
Another goal I have when traveling to a new city, is to get up high so I can take in views of the city from a different perspective and I’ll always find ways to do so. Big department stores in Europe often have rooftop terraces with restaurants/food halls that are free to check out. On the way to one particular department store, that the tour guide recommended to me, I passed through Puerta del Sol, which is a central square in Madrid and came upon the ‘km0’ plaque which I couldn’t help but stand on to show I’ve stood in the most central point of Spain.
One of the best ways to meet new people when traveling is to head to the Hostel bar during Happy Hour. I sat at a table with my two for one sangria’s (a lot stronger then I expected, definitely good value for money) and started chatting to some German’s and Brazilian’s, all who were traveling solo like myself. Another Aussie joined the group, a Canadian, a guy from Switzerland and a couple of others as the night when by. We enjoyed the free pasta dinner feed, shared travel stories and advice and chatted about home and our own languages and cultures. Something I love about traveling, bonding with people from all over the world who are doing the same thing.
My 2nd full day exploring Madrid was spent on the east side of the city wandering around one of their biggest parks, the Buen Retiro Park. It was lovely being out in the Spanish sun, relaxing in the shade of trees covered in Autumn colours whenever it got too hot. Lunch near the lake eating more Paella and a siesta on the grass near the crystal palace where a bunny rabbit joined me. This park had so much to offer. Boating on the lake, paths to go for runs along. A rose garden with fountains and peacocks and ice cream stands every where for a cheeky treat to cool down with. I happily enjoyed a few hours here before heading back to the Hostel for another free dinner and to catch up with some of last nights friends. It’s nice to be able to travel solo but not have to eat alone.
My Flight home on the Tuesday wasn’t until the afternoon so knowing I had a few hours to kill I decided to join the Hostel’s free walking tour in the morning. After the walking tour I went back to Chocolateria San Gines with a brother and sister from America and a girl from the Netherlands who was living in Valencia so we could indulge in more Churros and Hot chocolate. It was a delicious way to end my long weekend in Madrid. I did make one more stop on the way to the airport and that was to Azotea Circle Bellas Artes to photograph more of the city rooftops from their terrace.
My plan for this long weekend get away in the sun was to spend as little money as possible but still experience plenty of Madrid. I feel like I managed to achieve this.
Money went on: Flights, Hostel, taxi from airport to hostel, bus to airport, food (and more food), drinks and tips to the tour guides on both walking tours. I took advantage of things like the free dinners at the hostel that were cooked up on two of the three nights I was staying and drinking during happy hour (2for1 sangrias, always a winner) as well as filling up on the hostel’s 2 euro brekky’s each morning. I booked a cheap flight and saved money by only taking carry on, which was more then enough for only a few nights, especially because summer clothes don’t take up a lot of space. I always take a re-fillable water bottle with me when I travel because I like to drink a lot of water. If you’re in a country where it’s fine to drink the tap water then definitely bring along a water bottle because that will save you money, because having to buy lots of water bottles when you’re traveling in the summer slowly adds up. Walking every where or as much as possible instead of taking buses definitely saves money and balances out all the yummy food being eaten!
My goal for my time spent overseas is to travel somewhere new every month. One trip down, many more to look forward to!