Sorry about the radio silence lately, I’ve been off on an adventure! In fact, I’ve just returned home to Ireland from a week and a half in lovely Spain. This trip was actually planned back even before I had arrived in Ireland. My friend Erin and I had made plans to do some travelling together before she made her final move to Australia (happening in November).
Because we managed to see and do so much in the nine days we were together, I’m going to break my posts up into cities. Today we’ll cover Madrid, next post will be Toledo, after that Malaga, and finally Morocco! I hope you’re ready for a bunch of posts of fun and frolic in Spain (and nearby Tangier), because that’s where we are headed!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a little bit paranoid about one thing when I’m travelling…getting from the airport/train station/bus station to where I am staying. Thankfully, my hostel in Madrid (Way Hostel) couldn’t have been easier to find! No more than a minute’s walk from the Tirso de Molina subway stop, I have nothing but good things to say about this hostel. The people working the desk were very friendly and remembered nearly everyone by name, there were free churros and coffee/tea every morning, and most evenings there were activities you could participate in as well as cheap food on certain nights.
Since I arrived closer to 11pm, I went to bed pretty early. I was up by 8am, had my complementary churros, and was out exploring by 9am. Erin wasn’t due to arrive until between 12:30-1:30pm, so I had all morning to myself. It was on this meandering wandering around the area of the hostel that I first discovered that we were smack dab in the middle of the garment district!! I had fallen in love with hand embroidery when I was living in Korea and threw myself head first into sewing when I returned to Canada. You can imagine my glee when I discovered that there was entire floors dedicated to specific fabrics at this one location. Let’s just say that the time waiting for Erin was not idly spent ^^ (You may recognize this photo from my other blog here where I was talking all about the fabric stores in Spain.)
Much of Erin’s first day was spent snoozing thanks to the jet lag, but we still managed to get some neat things done. One such thing was attending a flamenco show put on by our hostel. A guide came and lead us all towards a bar with a stage where we were given a glass of sangria and got to listen to the singer and two guitarists play as the the dancer performed.
Our second day we partook in the free walking tour that left from our hostel. It was a interesting tour, our tour guide Herriet was actually from England but had been living in Madrid for the last 4 year. She was knowledgable on the area. She took us to many of the main tourist sights in Madrid. Such as:
The Puerta del Sol,
The ‘Zero Kilometer’ (this is where all distances are measured in Spain; for example, when you see a sign on the road saying ‘blank km to blank’, it was measured from here),
The Madrid Opera House (where you can get very affordable tickets if you show up 4 hours before the show. Alas, the next show was on Monday and we were leaving Sunday),
The Palacio Real ( The Royal Palace),
I’m also going to throw in these two pictures here. I had asked our tour guide to take a picture of Erin and I and she snapped two. One which is very fine and lovely…and the first which makes it look as if I’ve just witnessed some sort of shocking event. This is also one of my favourite pictures of the trip ^^
and the Cathedral. Fun fact: The front of the cathedral, as well as the Opera, have a strangely plain exterior. The reason for this, is that they both face the Palace. In order to not take attention away from the Royal Palace, both of these landmarks were stylized down…until you walk behind them…
That’s right! The back of the Cathedral is every bit ornate as you would imagine a Cathedral to be in the highly Catholic Spain.
It was at this point that the heavens opened up and decided to drop a torrential downpour of rain on to us. The whole tour attempted to take shelter and wait out the rain. 30 minutes later however, it was becoming evident that the rain wasn’t going to be stopping any time soon the tour decided to part ways. Erin and I were chilled and both ravenous! We looked for the first place within a reasonable distance away and sat down to warm our bones from the cool rain and had coffees Erin’s with a shot of whiskey, mine on its own and finally have a late lunch.
This is also where I got to have one of my new favourite foods for the first time: heuvos rotos. I cannot even begin to describe how delicious this is! Crispy cubed potatoes, thin Spanish Serrano ham, two perfectly fried eggs, and a smattering of salted fried pepper. It exceeded my taste-buds and I wished for more.
*ahem* yes…back to Madrid ^^ We spent the rest of the day at the famous Museo del Prado (which I am shamed to admit that I kept calling it the Prada Museum all day). We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but it was huge! We spent the better part of 3 hours in it and I only think we covered all (or at least most) of it.
The very next day we travelled to Toledo, which will be the next post up. For our last full day in Madrid we spent the morning having a lovely breakfast at the nearby La Rollerie, getting our train tickets for Malaga, and then touring around the Parque de Mariano de Cavia.
On our way to the garden.
Not only was this garden massive (1.4 km2), it was still in very much bloom! Coming from Canada where at this moment it is more likely than not to see snow, and from Ireland where everyone is bundling down for a wet-damp winter, the sight of roses warmed my heart.
The entire garden was a maze separated into different sections. In each section there was a highlighted feature. Such as the monument to Alfonso XII.
The monument from another angle. The scale was impressive!
It was built in 1887 for the Philippine Islands Exhibitions, as was the artificial pond out its entrance. It was originally used to display flower species indigenous to the archipelago for the exhibition.
All of the rocking chairs in the pavilion had a book attached to them, which in my opinion is completely fantastic! The books were a smattering of English and Spanish classics. The one I’m holding had an English version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Around the World in 100 Days, and a Spanish version of a Sherlock Holmes story (I know it was Sherlock Holmes from the illustration…I have no idea what the title was in Spanish). If I was a citizen of Madrid, I would most certainly spend my lazy Sunday mornings with a coffee or tea and enjoy the exquisite beauty of with these books.
The park was full of very interesting statues. I’ve been to my fair share of museums and I have to say, the statues here were unlike any others I’ve seen throughout Europe. It was most interesting! They held very unique features and dress.
A lovely lady and an admirer.
We spent several hours wandering the gardens and I could have likely spent several more. Every direction you turned there was something new to see.
After the park, Erin and I caught a train and had an adventure trying to find an outlet mall on the outskirts of the city that involved catching a cab with a couple from Guatemala. Alas, I have no pictures of that. When we got back we walked around a bit more in the now bustling night city.
We found this store that sells take out meat cones.
For the final night in Madrid, we tried one of Spain’s iconic snacks: Churros Con Chocolate (churros with a thick drinking chocolate to dip them in). It was decadent and delicious. I wish I had more time there. They had entire series of churros you could try! Including ones stuffed with chocolate and cream.
Our final morning before we caught the train was reserved for seeing the El Rastro Market. This open air flea market is only on Sundays and is one of the largest in Spain. The entire area gets packed with vendors and people shopping. Located between the Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo, the market also extends into the side streets in all directions.
The stalls all had your standard market fair. When you reached the square where the locals were placing down their mats and goods you could find a plethora of goodies and delights. They did expect you to barter however. I wasn’t quite in the mood to barter down the pretty silver pillbox from €20 to a more reasonable price (I don’t think it would have been hard. I had her down to €10 by just standing up and moving to walk away).
It was down this side streets where I discovered a fantastic hole-in-the-wall fabric store (as talked about in my other blog here)!
There was a large amount of religious antiques and icons being sold throughout the stalls.
There was also an entire store dedicated to dolls.
After the market we grabbed our bags from Way Hostel, picked up some snacks from La Rollerie, and made our way to the Madrid Atocha Train Station.
Wow..okay, this post finished at 1729 words. Yikes! Well, I did have a busy week! Hopefully the lovely pictures kept you interested ^^ Next up is Toledo!
Till next time~