Just to re-align everyone with “when” we are on this trip, it’s now mid-September 2018, and we’ve just left Morocco for Spain. I’ve wanted to get back to Spain since my first visit in 2013 with my friend Brandon. We had only spent time in Barcelona, but we enjoyed it, and it was humorously the location of both my favorite and worst meal of that 2-week Europe trip. We picked the wrong paella place for our first meal, and the food was bland and almost inedible. Thankfully, our Airbnb host recommended a tapas place called Sol Soler, and it was amazingly good and surprisingly inexpensive (4-5 Euro/portion).
There’s also something fascinating to me about seeing Caucasian people speak perfect Spanish. I grew up only seeing Mexicans and Central/South Americans speaking it, so it’s an entertaining juxtaposition.
Anyways, since T and I had both been to Barcelona and wanted more of a cultural experience (as opposed to lounging by the beach), we went with Madrid. We had these grand plans for things like taking multiple day-trips, watching a Flamenco show, visiting museums and castles, etc. Like most of this entire trip, we didn’t quite get to do everything we planned.
Our best travel option into Madrid was a cheap Ryanair flight that cost $94.46 for both of us, which included one “Priority boarding & 2 cabin bags” package to avoid checking-in our bags. The flight was delayed for a little over an hour, which wasn’t a problem since Marrakech Airport had a nice Priority Pass lounge for us to hang out in. Our 2-hour flight ended up landing in the late evening on Wednesday, and we grabbed an Uber for the 15 minute ride to our Airbnb. The host met us on arrival, and gave us some restaurant and area recommendations, leading us to eat some pretty good pizza for dinner on our first night.
We had originally booked an AC Hotel closer to the center of the city, since we had spare 1-night and 7-night Marriott Category 1-4 certificates to use for our 8 nights in Madrid. However, a few weeks before getting to Spain, we decided that we’d get much better value from the certificate using it elsewhere (like Hawaii), so we canceled our reservations and opted for an Airbnb instead.
We picked a studio in the suburban Quintana area of Madrid, partially because it seemed to be an awesome deal (~$63/night), and because it had great reviews. The reviews held up, and it ended up being an awesome place. It was newly remodeled, very clean, and even more spacious than the pictures show (which is rare). We were a 5 minute walk from both the main drag with lots of shopping, restaurants, and a metro station, and 20-30 minute metro ride into the various areas of downtown Madrid.
As mentioned in the title, both T and I were under the weather with colds for most of our time in Madrid. T wasn’t feeling great on our trip over from Marrakech, and it hit me just a day or so later. Thankfully, we still had a stash of Zicam zinc lozenges, and that held the colds to just about 3-4 days.
We spent our sick time finishing up the second season of a Spanish show called Money Heist (it goes by La Casa de Papel in Spain), which is about a group of eight thieves that break into Spain’s mint in order to print billions and steal billions of Euros. It has its share of cheesiness, but it was clever and entertaining, and I’d recommend it to anyone that enjoys heist movies/shows.
For the times that we did get out and about, we wandered around downtown Madrid, visited El Retiro Park, ate some churros with chocolate, and just generally explored the city. There was also a casino smack dab in the middle of the city, so I played a couple poker tournaments. Didn’t win anything, but it was fun to play poker in a different language.
What we would’ve done
Had we not been sick, we’d like to think we would’ve taken day-trips to one or more of some of the nearby cities:
Toledo – Spain’s former capital known for hills, cobblestones, and being influenced by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Sevilla – Known for it’s colorful buildings, flamenco shows, and the Alcázar – a royal palace made even more popular after its use as a setting in Game of Thrones
Ávila – Mainly known for its 2,752-yard long medieval city wall that looks exactly what we all grew up thinking castle walls looked like.
Valencia – It’s Spain’s third largest city with a huge food market, Mercado Central, an old town area, plus the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias or the City of Arts and Sciences – a massive complex of museums, parks, plazas, and structures with the common theme of…well, arts and science.
Our next stop was Germany to meet up with friends for Oktoberfest. We grabbed an Uber early the following Thursday to hop on a 7am flight to Munich. We arrived at the airport with about 1.5 hours to spare, and checked into Puerta Del Sol – a Priority Pass lounge in Terminal 3. One nice thing about this lounge is that they had wrapped sandwiches, yogurt, and fruit that, whether they intended for it or not, you could take with you.
Our flight was smooth and uneventful, and we landed in Munich about 2.5 hours later ready to experience Oktoberfest, visit a few castles, and, most importantly, misplace my passport again.