Sunday, January 26, 2014

Playing "Tour Guide" in Madrid!

Hello all! I'm just going to pick up right where my last entry left off. But just to get everyone caught up, Ashley and I had already traveled to Paris, Brugge and Brussels and were now headed back to Madrid!  I was so excited to show Ashley around my current city. Although I've already had a couple of visitors this year, they've all been short-term, so usually I only have a day or night to show them around. However, having Ashley around really changed everything. I had 9 days to show her the best of Madrid, and I think I did exactly that.

Of course, our first day wasn't anything too exciting. After our non-stop travel it was nice to spend the first afternoon in Madrid doing some laundry, showering, resting and having a nice HEALTHY meal. All those Belgian waffles, fries and fried food really did us in. In addition to Ashley, I was hosting another friend and fellow Bennie, Baylee, that first night. Once Baylee arrived, we all went out to grab something to eat. It was Monday, so naturally we went to 100 Montaditos for their weekly Monday promotion. For those of you who don't know, 100 Montaditos is a restaurant that specializes in small sandwiches or "montaditos." Can you guess how many sandwiches they have on the menu? That's right, 100! Everything from traditional jamón y queso to oreos and whipped cream on chocolate bread!  On Mondays the sandwiches are only 0.50 euros. I introduced Ashley to that and she loved it. After dinner, Stavros and I took the girls out for a drink on the famous street Cava Baja in the La Latina district. We found out about a week later the the second bar we went to is one of the best in Madrid according to CNN! I guess it was a good find. It's called Taberna Tempranillo and this is the article we found it on

Enjoying the amazing view of  Madrid from Templo de Debod 
The following day was still considered a "holiday" since it's the day after Three Kings Day.  My intercambio partner/Spanish friend Isabel and I took Ashley on a tour of Madrid! Our tour spanned a full day of activities including a trip to retiro park, row boat ride in the lake at Retiro, Puerta de Alcalá, Plaza Cibeles, Plaza de Colón, Chueca, Malasaña, Plaza España, Templo del Debod, and the Prado. It was a jam-packed day but we had a blast! Also, the only thing we spent money on was lunch. That felt good after a few weeks of abusing our wallets in France and Belgium.

Wednesday I went back to work. In the morning, my roommate and her boyfriend took Ashley out to lunch, which was really nice of her. Although Ashley's Spanish is a little rusty, she managed just fine! Later, Ashley met Isabel to go Rebajas (sales) shopping! I met them in the centre after work, and we continued to shop for another hour or so. Then, we went to the Reina Sofia (contemporary art museum famous for being home to Picasso's "Guernica") the last two hours it was open because it was free entry! I had no idea there was so much free stuff to do in Madrid, you just have to do your research.  Then, we sprinted from the museum to our favorite tapas bar "El Tigre" to meet with Stavros, Alexa, Makeda and her roommates. Unfortunately, it was Makeda's last night as she decided to end the program early and head back to Chicago. It was a bittersweet night but it was fun to have Ashley at one of our regular hangouts.  We LOVE "El Tigre" (short for El Tigre del Norte) because with your drink comes endless amounts of food, and I truly mean ENDLESS. The servers will continue to bring you platters of food until you ask them to stop.  The food is typical Spanish bar food which means a lot of bread, ham, potatoes and meat.  Later that night we had one last group hug and said our goodbyes to Makeda. Like a said, a bittersweet night.

Thursday Ashley came along to work with me! I had it okay-ed ahead of time with the teachers, so I was really excited to take Ashley around my school. Most of my co-teachers worked Ashley into the lesson was well. The students interviewed her and asked her all about her life in the US.  She was a natural with all of the kids, and we had a really fun day. After work on Thursday Alexa, Stavros, Ashley and I went to a Real Madrid futbol game! It's been on my bucket-list of things to do while in Madrid, so Ashley's visit seemed like the perfect time to do it! We paid for the cheapest seats 20 euros, and we expected a not-so-great view. But man, were we wrong.  Real Madrid's stadium, Esadio Bernabéu, is absolutely incredible.  It's capacity is 85,000+ yet there is not a bad seat in the house.  Furthermore, we bundled up because it was a chilly night but it wasn't even necessary because the entirety of the outdoor stadium is HEATED! I don't want to know what that bill looks like. Anyway, the game was fun to watch; Real Madrid has some of the best players in the world! But, just being in that incredible stadium and the atmosphere of the futbolismo was entertainment enough. As Alexa said, "Why does this feel religious? Because it is"

Friday, Alexa took Ashley around Madrid while I was working.  Afterwards I met up with the two of them, and we went to the infamous San Gines, which has the best churros and chocolate in all of Madrid. Ashley had loved the Real Madrid game so much that we decided to go to the Real Madrid basketball game on Friday night.  Seats were even cheaper (only 8 euro!) so we thought it would be foolish not to go. The game was fun to watch because once again, Madrid is the best team in the league and has some amazing players (including a few Americans!).  After the game we met up with some friends for a drink and went to bed early. We had a big day to follow.

Saturday we took a day trip to Toledo! Like Segovia, it's only 30 minutes away buy fast-train and is a mere 20 euros for the roundtrip ticket.  We only had about 6 hours in Toledo so we didn't waste any time. We took an audio-guided city tour on a cute little train-on-wheels that took us through and around Toledo. This tour was worth it just for the once view of Toledo from the outside, it's an absolutely breath-taking city. After our tour, we enjoyed a long Spanish lunch and then explored the city the rest of the time.  Later that night, after arriving back in Madrid, Alexa, Stavros and I took Ashley out for a proper night in Madrid! We had a lot of fun, and stayed up late just like the true Spanish way.

Sunday was pretty chill but we still managed to fit in some touristy goodness like going to the Sunday "El Rastro" market, lunch at Mercado San Miguel, taking the Teleférico (chairlift) to Casa de Campo and back, and going to Sunday night mass at "La Almudena."

Monday was Ashley's last day and we decided to spend the first half on a walking tour of Madrid. It's a little embarrassing how little I know about Madrid after living here for 4 months, so I was just as excited as Ashley about this tour. We learned all about Madrid's history, the Hapsburg kings and insider stories of the city. I really enjoyed learning more about my city! Later on, we walked down to Rio Manzanares so Ashley could see the river, and went back to the Prado to see the rest of the masterpieces that we missed after the first visit. Since it was Ashley's last night, I rounded up a few of my friends and we went out for tapas. I must admit, with Ashley being a picky eater, I was nervous about her reaction to the Spanish cuisine. However, she surprised me! There's tons of things she tried and loved like the ham, croquetas, patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla, paella and of course, all the pastries. I was happy that she enjoyed everything so much! After tapas, Ashley said goodbye to all of her new friends and then we headed back to my place so she could finish packing.

Ashley left on an early flight on Tuesday morning. It was sad saying goodbye, but we had an amazing time! I was so happy at how easily we were able to travel together, and she was an extremely grateful guest. The best part about Ashley's visit, was I got to rediscover all the reasons I loved Madrid! After living somewhere for a while, it becomes your normal and doesn't seem as amazing anymore. But, the truth is that Madrid is an amazing city that has a lot to offer gastronomically, historically, esthetically and in entertainment. Furthermore, she helped me cross off a few things on my Madrid bucket list, and helped me find the free and cheap events of the city. I couldn't have asked for a better visitor. Can't wait for my next one!

No comments:

Post a Comment