Oh Becky, in Madrid…again? Yes, yes I am! Officially my sixth visit of the year, but taking into account a few of those were for use of the airport it isn’t really six visits. Really… This time was another crossing visit, though I also had the intention to look for a job while in the city.
Arriving from a smooth and relatively short train journey from Cordoba, it was straight to Sol to check in to the hotel I’d booked. Having stayed in this hotel the last time I was in Madrid, I thought I knew what I was getting. Oh how wrong was I? My previous room was quite spacious for a single room, with large balcony doors that flooded the room with light – my favourite! This time, well this time the room had no windows, and an air con unit that dripped into a milk jug on the floor. I couldn’t believe the difference in the rooms, and immediately asked for a different room. The lack of a window was a real issue, and after a slight disagreement with reception I was given a smaller room with a slither of a window. Better than nothing!
Once I’d dropped my bags, I was desperate to get out of the hotel. Tired from the heat and walking, I made my way straight to coffee, where I cheered myself up with some mini doughnuts. I’m easily pleased really. A friend from home who is actually from Madrid was in the city at the same time, so we spent the afternoon catching up – a much sunnier and preferable option to dreary London in my opinion – before parting ways as I went to grab some dinner. I’d been recommended a small place behind the hotel that did the best huevos rotos, but after making the short walk I found it closed. Back up option was my new favourite – 100 Montaditos. It offers quick food, with 100 options on the menu, most of which are small sandwich bites. Perfect.
After a few busy weeks exploring The Netherlands and Belgium before coming back to Spain and spending some time in Andalucia, I was tired and ready for some chilled days. One perk of coming back to Madrid is that there was no pressure to rush around and see everything. Instead, I used my first full day to book some alternate accommodation in Madrid – I really hated the hotel – and then the hostel and train for Barcelona.
Although today would be a chilled day, I was ready to explore some of the city’s markets. First stop was San Anton market, a modern and cool option in the Chueca neighbourhood, not far from Sol. I thought about stopping for some food here, but thought better of it and made my way to Mercado de la Paz instead. It was further than I’d anticipated to the Salamanca neighbourhood, and when I arrived most of the stalls were closing up for the August holidays. It was still nice to see the market for myself rather than just what I’d seen online, and I stopped down the road for a coffee before walking to Retiro Parque.
One of my favourite places in Madrid is on the stone steps overlooking the lake in Retiro Parque. Usually this spot is crammed with people, but the heat of the day meant there were just a couple of other people there, crouched in the shade. I took a seat in the only other shaded spot and enjoyed the relaxing vibes as people paddled around nearby in the rowing boats.
Before too long, a man approached me and asked if I minded if he sat near me. He struck up a conversation with me, giving me a detailed history of his home country. As interesting as it was, I felt a little uncomfortable so made my excuses to leave. At this point, he asked to have a photo with me – I said no – and for my number. I politely declined but he was very persistent, and just wanting to leave I gave him my old phone number and quickly walked back to the city centre via busy areas. I’m not usually easily rattled, but I had a weird feeling about this guy, especially given I’d seen that he only had 2 other numbers in his phone. A night in the hotel watching Spanish versions of Take Me Out seemed like a good way to end the day.
Next morning I was packed up to change accommodation. I’m not usually that fussy, but I really hated the hotel so had booked a couple of nights in an apartment nearby instead of extending my stay at the hotel. After nearly collapsing from carrying my bag up four flights of stairs to the apartment, I freshened up a little and was back out to the check out some more markets.
Heading towards the Lavapies area, Mercado San Fernando was next on my list. Sadly I found that it was closed for the month – I should have checked online – so decided to head to the cathedral instead. I stopped en route for a coffee, but for some reason the guy refused to serve me a cappuccino even though I could see other people drinking coffees. Trying for a Coke Zero instead, he also refused me that, even though I could see other people drinking them. I had ordered in Spanish, but my only assumption was that tourists weren’t welcome in this local cafe, so I moved on to find somewhere else that would let me have a drink.
Finding a lovely spot not too far away, they brought out a little tapa with the drinks. I was quite hungry, and this would mean I didn’t have to stop for lunch too, so slowly picked my way through the small plate of paella. I’d brought my book so wasn’t paying a great deal of attention, but as I lifted the fork to my face what I thought was a piece of mushroom was actually a tiny octopus. Ohhh noooo. I don’t eat seafood, and all the tentacles really gave me the heebie jeebies! Time to carry on!
Mercado de la Cebada was next on the to-see list, and as I stepped inside I saw that this was another with a lot of closed stalls. There were just a handful of stalls open on the ground floor, but there was still such a buzz from the number of people who’d come to eat from those stalls. I had a quick wander around before continuing on for a quick tour of the cathedral. It would have been longer, but I had made the rookie mistake of not drinking enough throughout the day and feeling really unwell because of it. The heat didn’t help, so after the cathedral tour I made my way back to the apartment for a quiet evening. I’d planned to go to the La Paloma celebrations, but I was so tired that I couldn’t even bear the thought of having to climb the stairs to the apartment again, let alone walk to the parties.
Next day was a Sunday, which means only one thing in Madrid market world – El Rastro. A huge flea market covering a number of streets in the Embajadores area. I’d expected to find a street or two, but it felt like the market went on and on, through this street, that street, round the corner, up the hill, everywhere! The stalls started to get repetitive if I stayed on the same street too long, but it was so cool to see such a busy and vibrant market.
I got lost wandering back to the apartment, and ended up at Mercado de San Il Defenso. It’s a super cool street food style market, and I could have easily wandered past the entrance if I’d been in my usual day dreaming mode. After a quick look round, it was back to Retiro Parque to chill out for a bit and catch some of the last sun of the day.
After the complete lack of effort to visit the La Paloma celebrations the night before, it had to be tonight. Walking from Retiro Parque through the city to La Latina, I heard the celebrations before I saw them. In typical Spanish style, many of the bars had set up their bar in front of their entrances. There were also stalls offering cocktails and food, and as I moved down the road there were carnival style games and a huge bingo stand. What else would there be at a street party but bingo?
I grabbed a drink, and carried on past the cathedral, following the crowds. A nearby park had been transformed into a concert, with even more food and drink stalls and a huge crowd singing and dancing away. It was so much fun, and after a couple of hours I made my way back to the apartment again, absolutely shattered.
The next morning, I was so tired but super happy that I’d made the effort to go and see what was happening at the festivities. I love Spanish street parties, and didn’t even mind being so tired as I packed ready to check out and head to Barcelona. The few days in Madrid hadn’t been as relaxing as I’d thought they’d be, but it had been fun to explore a bit more of the city. On to Barcelona!