Madrid

Underestimating walking a few miles in a new city is always a fun way to start getting to know a new place. A map doesn’t always show the elevation change, right? I hope the guy who let is into the super modern studio wasn’t totally offended by how much I was sweating. He left quickly partially because there wasn’t much to talk about, partially because he didn’t really speak English [or because I smelled?]. This apartment was a super modern studio. The bathroom was crazy. The entire thing was the shower. A small glass wall kind of contained the water from the dual shower heads. There was a floor squeegee. It was awesome, if a bit messy. The location was [again] really great for getting on the metro or walking to the more touristy parts of the city.

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Madrid is huge. I wasn’t expecting that at all. We stayed right off Calle Gran Via which is a wide street line with huge buildings, mostly full of chain restaurants, shops, and theaters. It was a nice change of pace from the smaller, sleepier cities we’d already been in. It’s very metropolitan, and there seems to be a museum or a square on every other block. It felt like it could accommodate a lot of tourists without it feeling overwhelming. When you come across a park, it’s a stark contrast from the looming buildings. A breath of fresh air. Literally. With big cities comes more begging and homelessness than you see in the smaller ones, but it’s still not nearly as bad as Portland or San Francisco.

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We spent an obscene a lot of time at the Museo del Jamon over several days. When I see legs of cured meat hanging in the all over the place, it is hard to tear myself away. It didn’t hurt that a small beer with random ham snacks were 1.20€. A plate of mixed ham and cheese? 4.00€. It was so awesome. Speaking of ham snacks, have you ever had ham flavored Ruffles potato chips? I’m not one for processed junk food but my god they’re good. We went through at least two bags. I meant to bring some home, but forgot. They wouldn’t have made it home anyway, let’s be honest. At one point we splurged on some Ethiopian food. It wasn’t exactly the cheapest meal by Euro conversion standards, but I was craving vegetables and that’s an easy and delicious way to get some.

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Mercado de San Miguel was easily my favorite place in the city. Can I move in? It’s a market that functions more like mini restaurants than a place to get your groceries. Each vendor sells mostly tapas-sized goodies, but you can buy bigger versions if you want to wait. There are a ton of wine, beer, and cocktail vendors to round out the experience in the evening. My favorites included the skewered olives with meats, fish and cheese, the chunks of marinated octopus on little toasts, and a huge ball of delicious burrata on toast with ham and light drizzle olive oil. That beautiful ball of cheese made my trip day.

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Toma Cafe was a little slice of home. It was a legit coffee shop with beards, freshly roasted beans, and latte art. Sometimes that’s just what I want in a sea of cheap espresso. Spain has spoiled with the cortado, which is basically a mini cappuccino. Toma’s was definitely the favorite.  A fresh carrot cake with a dense lemony frosting was the breakfast of champions. If I had to pick, it’s probably closest to Courier Coffee at home [and I just realized even their webpages are similar...].

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As I mentioned before, there are so many gardens/squares and museums in Madrid. I bet you couldn’t see them all in a week if you dedicated your time. We walked through several gardens and one church before being promptly kicked out for mass. One of the parks, Parque del Buen Retiro, had a lake in the middle where you could rent boats. I preferred to sit lake side with a Tinto de Verona [red wine with lemon flavored soda] and watch birds try to devour leftover sandwiches on nearby tables. That drink has come home with me. It’s like quick and dirty sangria. The park is gigantic, 350 acres, and sits in the middle of the city. There are really manicured green spaces, a lot of trails, art galleries, and sculptures. It’s an escape from the hustle of the city.

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Did you know that there is an Egyptian temple that sits in the heart of Madrid? It was relocated from Egypt as a thank you for helping them restore another one. We first went at night because the view from the surrounding park is a great one of the city. There is a little museum in middle of it if you go during the day.

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True to form, we made another trip to a football stadium. Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Real Madrid plays there, and is considered one of the best teams in the world, and they make sure you know it. I’ve never seen a museum so full of itself. I had no idea that was even possible. The stadium is huge, holding over 80,000 fans. It’s a self-guided tour and there is a lot to see. You’ll easily spend a few hours with the multimedia museum spread throughout the tour. At the end, there is a mock up of the new stadium they’re going to build. It’s going to revolutionize the viewing and game-day experiences. Attached shopping mall and hotel? 360° television monitors in the stadium? So crazy.

By our last day in Madrid, we realized we stayed a day too long [we could have used that in Sintra!]. We just didn’t find enough to keep our attention, and we spent a good part of the last day sitting in the apartment. It allowed us to get some sleep since we had another early train to Barcelona, the last part of the trip.

[Recap: Lisbon, Porto, Seville, Barcelona]

2 comments

  1. Amy

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this forever, but I somehow forgot to at one point.

    This made me want to go to mardid so so much. I probably have said this (multiple times?) but I always feel like Madrid would be IT for me – like the place I’m meant to be in, my second home. I have no rational justification why I feel this way, I’ve just always had this thing for it. When I was in barcelona I was talking to a boy from madrid and he told me I should never go there, because the city will always be better and more pure in my thoughts of it than in reality. Still want to go there. Maybe even more so after reading this post even though you lost your attention with it semi-quickly. I couldn’t tell from your writing, but did you prefer the bigger cities on your trip or the smaller ones? I guess it’s nice to have some variety.

    Anyway I still hope I get there one day – one day (the same thinking as how you ended your latest post – there’s always so so much more to travel, the only way to calm myself down about it is figuring I’ll get it’ll happen, just not right now).

    • Michelle

      You know what’s funny? I loved Madrid at first. I made notes as we went along to help me reflect, and I wrote something to the effect of it being a place I could actually see myself living. I still see that as a truth despite loving Barcelona too. I like the hustle and bustle of bigger cities. I don’t want to feel like I’m on a vacation all the time. I’ve had enough living in a little towns (growing up). Even though Madrid lost my attention, it was more of a vacation-related thing. If I lived there–had a routine, friends, a grasp on other neighborhoods and goings on, a job–I don’t think I’d be bored like I was by the end of the trip. I want you to go so I can get your take, so feel free to use me as your excuse to go.

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