Madrid, como te extraño.
Have you ever taken a trip that changed your entire perspective of life and the world? That was this trip for me; a solo (and partially unplanned) voyage to a new city and country with a language I'm still becoming fluent in and a million and one experiences for me to explore. It's been several months since my trip came and went and I've dealt with a lot from work to life since then which has kept me from sharing this splendor of a trip. Even when the toughest of battles have come my way over the past few months, I still have the peace and sense of wonder that Madrid brought me to help carry me through the days.
Madrid isn't usually a city that wanderlusters speak of as often as Paris, Barcelona, or Amsterdam, but for that exact reason it sparked an interest in me to start my exploration of Spain here. It's a tad less touristy than it's major city counterpart in the north, which was perfect for someone like me who was traveling to practice her newfound language skills and eat her way through the city without having to be surrounded by Americans.
In my eyes, AirBnB is the only way to travel if your purpose of traveling is to live like a local instead of a tourist. For my trip to Spain, I rented a studio for myself which ended up being cheaper than a one bedroom hotel! In the neighborhood of La Latina (where I stayed), it's traditional for apartments to have elevated beds. It was a cool feature, but I opted to sleep on the couch since I had a hunch that I would slip down the ladder in my morning grogginess.
The penthouse space was nothing short of amazing from the views to the accommodations, and I was so surprised to see how many awesome AirBnBs there were in the area with such great locations and architecture for an affordable price I could barely come across for renting a room in an AirBnB in the US. If you're heading to Madrid, I highly recommend the neighborhood of La Latina to stay in because of its plethora of restaurant and bar options and accessibility to most major sites (Plaza Mayor, Puerto del Sol, Parque de El Retiro) and shopping districts (Gran Vía).
In my entire four day stay in Madrid, I only took the train una vez (once) and that was from the airport to my AirBnB. Throughout my stay, I walked everyone. Yes, that means no Uber or Lyft rides either. From my accommodations, everything was so easily accessible that there was no point in using anything but my own two feet to get from points A-Z which isn't much different than what I typically do in NYC.
I visited Plaza Mayor (an enclosed square with tons of restaurants), Puerto del Sol (another plaza just 5 minutes from Plaza Mayor), Gran Vía (one of the main shopping districts where I spent mad Euros), Palacio Real de Madrid, and Parque de El Retiro (which was the most beautiful and pleasant park I have ever been too).
If there's three things that I noticed about Spanish cuisine, it's that their prices are much more affordable than NYC, the portions are not NYC comparable (apparently a dish I almost licked the plate for was to share with 2+ people...oops), and that these people love pork and seafood (which I wasn't mad at).
During most of my restaurant visits, I was far too hungry to take pictures (specifically my paella and the most glorious chilled poached egg on toast appetizer), but I did manage to snag a shot of my famous bocadilla de calamares (calamari sandwich), a fries, crab sauce, and egg dish, all the treats I wish I could have gobbled up at La Mallorquina (a bakery in Puerto del Sol that dates back to 1894!), and my churros con chocolate at San Gines (which I had twice in four days...). There wasn't a single thing that I ate in Madrid that wasn't spectacular. As a Caribbean girl, I'm big on flavor and there was no lack thereof in this town.
Wrapping this post up, I'll leave you all with a few tips for your future travels to Madrid.
1) Learn some Spanish: Yes, many people speak English but don't expect them to for you. Learn the basics of getting around just as a non-English speaker would when visiting the US.
2) Roll your R's and RR's: If you do speak Spanish, don't half-ass it. I can't tell you how many snickering waiters I saw chuckling when someone tried to speak Spanish to them but were too afraid go all the way which just made them sound silly. I mean, they'll understand you but it's not how the language is spoken.
3) Come with a group: I am all for traveling alone and this was a great solo trip, but Madrid is definitely a city where people do everything in pairs or more. If you want to have to most fun, bring some people along.
4) Take a nap before you party: People in Madrid party until the sun comes up. They're hardcore.
5) Black people exist in Madrid: But mainly black men who are immigrants from African nations.