We got into Madrid pretty early in the morning and found our hostel, ‘U Hostel’, where they told us we had a 2:00pm check in time. After placing our bags in a holding room, we stepped out to find coffee and any form of breakfast. We were in a business district so everything was pricy, but we found a nice, busy café nearby. I had a version of French toast that had been soaked in cream, similar to Tower Café’s back in Sacramento but not quite as perfectly finished. Trevor had an omelet. I was also brought an omelet I didn’t order, but since our waiter was not friendly, didn’t speak English, and we were pretty hungry, we ate it.
Back at the hostel, we waited for our hosts to [ignore us, do Google searches for pictures that they didn’t know we could see in a reflection, and finally..] check us in. Unlike the last two hostels we stayed in, there was no tour of the facility, no smiling and no “Welcome to Madrid! Please take a free map.” We knew that in Portugal we had been in two of the highest rated hostels in the world, so our standards had to lower. The saving grace with this hostel was the fact that the air freshener they used throughout the place smelled like gummy bears, that was lovely.
We got settled in our room and met our new roomies, Morgan and Skyler. It turned out that these two had gone to Nevada Union highschool where Trevor had coached track and field and they knew some of his athletes. Small world.
The first night there Trevor and I wanted to seek out some authentic Spanish tapas. We walked around the busy city and came across a pretty unique meal. We had a couple beers from the tap, calamari and chose a couple tasty miniature bread bowls stuffed with different fillings. Trevor had one with tiny eels and mine had chicken and browned sweet onion. Mine was really tasty.
The second night we ended up going out with our two roommates to a delicious burrito spot (Madrid’s version of Chipotlé). I miss real Mexican food, but they actually had a pretty spicy salsa which is supposedly rare in Spain. Next, we went to a trendy gin bar (it was just OK, nothing like the one in Portugal!) and then to the bar under our hostel where we made friends with an employee. After the bar was suppose to close, our new friend kept it open so the five of us could sing karaoke into the early hours. Beers were a euro and he welcomed song requests. It was an epic ending to the evening.
Day three of Madrid was spent hydrating, relaxing and planning day four as well as our next city. We didn’t have a ton of energy so for dinner we actually settled for another burrito out of proximity and convenience. It was still very tasty the second night in a row.
A free walking tour through Madrid was on our schedule for day four. Our tour guide, Erica, was an energetic young woman originally from Columbia. We learned a lot from Erica about Madrid’s history and architecture, saw some nice views and checked out an open air flea market.
That night my wonderful fiancé made dinner of spaghetti and cured meat in red sauce with spinach salad and homemade balsamic. There was a market really close to the hostel which made most of our meals cheap and convenient.
Later in the evening we were surprised to see Erica again, organizing a social drinking game for those in the hostel who wanted to join. I don’t know what was funnier, playing King’s Cup in Madrid with people from all over the world, or the fact that we all were playing with sangria as our beverage. Either way, it was a fun game. When the game ended around midnight, a guy from New York ended up drinking the King’s cup and Erica said good night. Since the rest of us didn’t feel like going out on the advertised pubcrawl, we played another game, ‘Cheers to the Governor’. Hilarious. If you don’t know this game, do yourself a favor and Google the instructions for your next social gathering.
The next day would be our final full day in Madrid so we wanted to set foot onto parts of the city we hadn’t yet seen. We planned our walking tour around to the Parque Del Retiro and ultimately the train station so we could get information and possibly train tickets for the next days travel to Barcelona.
On the way, we stopped into an Irish pub (I swear, there is always one in every city!) for an espresso pick-me-up and WC break. For those of you who haven’t traveled to Europe yet, ‘WC’ stands for Water Closet and it is their bathroom/toilet. Further, most WC’s are not nice (i.e. no toilet seat, no paper towels, and you usually pay around €.50 to go). Fortunately, this pub had a nice WC and Trevor had a happy, caffeine-filled fiancé. We even met the very nice owner of the pub, an Irish man who had homes in both Madrid and a quiet suburb of Dublin.
Our first stop after espressos was the old post office of Madrid. I know what you’re thinking…but this wasn’t just some tiny building, this was the Cibeles Palace. Currently used as their city hall and located in Madrid’s famous Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid was not messing around when they built the headquarters of their postal service in 1909.
Nearby, across the street from the Cibeles Palace, is the Casa de America. Not quite as grand, but houses important government groups such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Madrid’s city council.
Casa de America http://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_de_Am%C3%A9rica
Finally, we made it to Madrid’s largest public park, Parque de Retiro. This park was beautiful and very well laid out with two huge ponds, manicured flora, budding trees, several different statutes, and, my favorite, a crystal house.
Palacio de Cristal
We even stopped by the smaller pond across from the Crystal Palace to have a picnic on a bench. If you look closely at the picture below you can see our lunchtime entertainment. You won’t be able to make out the man playing jazzy tunes on the saxophone for tips, but there is a man across the pond, squatting in front of the stairs. This man proceeded to squat for the entire time we ate our lunch. Arms stretched out straight, parallel with the ground, he rarely took breaks for over an hour. We were too far away to tell if he was a little crazy or just doing his crossfit W.O.D.; which, let’s be honest, those are one in the same (only kidding crossfit friends!). Either way, it was impressive.
On the way through the last part of the park we passed a field of flowering trees. This is where we noticed a bunch of green parrots eating the buds. These pretty green birds are known as Monk Parakeets and although they are nice to look at, they’ve become overpopulated in Madrid.
We did eventually make it to the train station and got the information we needed for the trip to Barcelona. Madrid was great, but I was looking forward to the fun energy I’d heard Barcelona holds, as well as being close to water again.