First of all, I have to apologize for being totally MIA for the last week or so. I was an English language volunteer in a little town called La Alberca, and my internet only worked well enough to send an occasional text message. My next post will be all about La Alberca though – this is about Madrid!
Waking up cheery and well-rested has yet to happen to me in the two weeks I’ve been here, probably because I keep going to bed at 2 am or later. Still, I ambitiously booked a 10 am walking tour before I flew to Spain, and I was determined to go. And so, on Thursday morning, I got up and I went on a free walking tour of Madrid with a company that specializes in free walking tours across Europe.
Side note: most European cities offer free walking tours, and they’re a cheap way to get introduced to a new city and to meet other travelers. Our tour guide, Sebastian, was quite charismatic and knowledgeable about the city, and his talk included some fun opportunities for audience participation.
We walked all over “historical” Madrid, re-tracing some of the tracks I took on the food tour, as well as venturing into new areas. There was a heavy focus on history and architecture, which I loved. You should definitely check them out and try a walking tour when you’re in Madrid!
After the tour ended, I had about an hour to get a Spanish sim card before heading over to Casa Patas for a meet and greet lunch with some of the other Pueblo Ingles volunteers. For those that don’t know, I volunteered at an English immersion camp in La Alberca (a small town 1 hour outside of Salamanca) for a week. More details in the next post.
Casa Patas is a large flamenco show restaurant, and, although they are officially closed for the summer*, they opened just for us. (*A good chunk of restaurants and stores close for holidays for 3 weeks or so during August. Spanish life is awesome). I tried a variety of delicious tapas and met the program directors, Jez and Jason. Afterward, we were treated to a beautiful flamenco show – the singer’s voice was so soulful and sad that it gave me the shivers. I loved that the singer sang a few solos before the dancer performed.
Although not all the volunteers were present for the lunch, I met a chunk of them and opted to spend the rest of the day at Parque del Retiro with a fellow volunteer, Rachael. Rachael had volunteered with Pueblo Ingles a few times already, so I figured she would be a good guide to the city. Although we got a little lost, we finally made it to the park, which was much larger and more impressive than I would have ever imagined. We spent a few lazy hours chatting and walking around, and it was a really enjoyable and relaxing way to spend the afternoon after the rush of the few days prior.
Rachael was staying at a former Pueblo Ingles student’s apartment for the night, so she suggested we meet him and a couple of others at his resto-bar Cbada. We met up with Tim, another Pueblo Ingles volunteer, as well as Erin, who I’d met at the food tour the night before. This is one of many reasons traveling solo was so fun – making (sometimes temporary) friends with interesting and new people!
Again, more delicious food including patatas bravas, shrimp croquetas, caprese salad and truffle risotto. Apparently I’m really bad at taking pictures in Madrid, since I don’t have photos of any of these things. Oops.
The best part of the evening was walking around the neighborhood of Cebada. It was the beginning of the weekend celebration of La Paloma, and all the bars were set up outside, playing music, serving drinks, and generally mixing and mingling. It was FILLED to the brim with people of all ages, drinking and dancing and eating tapas. It was clearly a local celebration, away from the eyes of most tourists, and I felt very fortunate to be an observer. So far, traveling alone has its perks!
By the time we all parted ways and I made it home, it was really late. I had, of course, managed to scatter my life across the room, so I spent a good amount of time packing and getting ready for the action-packed week ahead. Stay tuned for the next post to hear all about Pueblo Ingles!
TLDR: a short summary of what I did and where I ate in Madrid for those too lazy to read the post
Where I went:
- I went on a free walking tour of Madrid with Sandeman’s Europe. A really comprehensive and fun tour, and an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the city. All you have to do is tip the guide at the end and, of course, have fun!
- Parque del Retiro: Madrid’s giant, beautiful park. Despite spending quite a few hours here, I definitely did not see the whole thing. It has several lakes, museums, monuments, and much more. An excellent place to spend a relaxing afternoon!
What I ate:
- A variety of tapas including manchego, pisto, and tortilla at Casa Patas
- Patatas bravas, shrimp croquetas, Caprese salad and truffle risotto at Cbada
Where I stayed:
- I stayed at this Airbnb in Malasaña, the trendy hipster neighborhood. Sign up for Airbnb and get a $20 credit here.