Saturday, July 13th, 5:25. My alarm goes off, almost immediately silenced by the delicious click of the snooze button I press in hopes of catching up with the three hours of sleep I´m missing- in eight minutes.
Dizzy with excitement, nauseous from a lack of eating, and star-struck by being spoken to in Spanish (seven years of Spanish class and I couldn´t say more than hola to the good looking flight attendant), our trip began.
I would like to start this off by saying that three days are not enough to explore Madrid and al it contains. In the three days I spent in my new favorite place, I made a lot of new experiences, took a lot of pictures, messed up multiple Spanish orders, got myself out of it by laughing it off, held hands with strangers, and genuinely had the best, most vivid time ever.
We arrived in Madrid at around 10, almost got lost at the airport while searching for the car rental place, found it, got our car, and then promptly got lost while trying to find the exit of the airport. You will notice that getting lost while driving in Madrid was a very common occurrence to us, much to my amusement (I don´t get lost, I eXpLoRe UnfAmiLiAr pLaCes) and to the displeasure of my dad, who couldn´t help but yell at the poor lady stuck in the google maps app and really didn´t know her way around the city either.
Lesson 1: Don´t drive into the tunnels. Just don´t, you will not end up where you want to go and your navigation system will most probably stop working completely while you´re underground so it´s each man for himself.
The first meal we had in Madrid was at Taberna la Española, where the waiters quickly got a hang of the fact that the two pale, blonde, and blue-eyed customers were not, in fact, locals. Nevertheless, they handed me a Spanish menu. I accepted the challenge and ordered a Salad that ended up only having two surprise ingredients, so I would consider that a win in terms of language sufficiency. I also ordered my signature drink: agua sin gas. For some reason waiters always lit up when I added sin gas to my water order, followed by a muy bien. Gracias, even though I don´t know if you´re making fun of me or not.
We pretty much spent day uno walking around in the sweltering heat in search of… well, nothing. I think this is my favorite part about visiting new cities: the suddenly exciting and magical everyday things like aimlessly walking through side streets.
Without meaning to, we ended up on the Gran Vía, where I finally saw that huge Schweppes sign that´s all over Pinterest when you look up Madrid. I didn´t get to see it lit up and at night, but being there is what counts, right? I did want to go up to a roof bar but by the time we arrived it was so hot and the sun was so bright, that we decided that we didn´t want to get any closer to it than needed.
Now, on to my favorite thing. El Palacio de Cristal. The name alone deserves to be written in cursive writing. I´m still so excited when thinking about this and to be honest, this place deserves a whole post to itself, so here you go. All I´ll say for now is that I have never seen anything this beautiful and magical and magnificent and any positive adjective, really before.
At around 10 pm we stumbled across a restaurant on the corner of a street, with little tables set along the entire sidewalk. Hello, Spanish summer vibes. The waiter did not know a single English word and was again excited to hear me say sin gas (can someone please tell me why??). Also, how interesting is it that he didn´t know the word “beer” but “Cerveza” is one of the most known Spanish words?
La Clueca specializes in
pollo chicken, but also Spanish tortillas, which I´d never really eaten. I made the mistake of ordering one with extra cheese (if you´re gonna eat potatoes you might as well add cheese), which made my tortilla unbearably salty, BUT the pimientos I ordered as a side dish made up for it. They were so. good.
Day two started with the most “Madrid” breakfast possible: churros & hot chocolate, the Spanish kind. (Or, well, I don´t know if everyone in Spain makes hot chocolate like this, probably not. The Madrid kind?). This hot chocolate is thiccer than any insta baddie and sweeter than any soft boy. You dip in the churros and it is heaven in the form of uncountable calories. Watch me move to Madrid and gain twice my weight in churros and chocolate.
Sunday in Madrid means its time for the Rastro, an open-air flea market held every Sunday and public holiday of the year. Its located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo and trust me: it´s huge. It´s full of people, locals and tourists, stalls that offer everything you could think of, old and new and vintage.
After browsing the market for a few hours, we drove to Segovia. I was told that the ride between Madrid and Segovia is twenty minutes by train, but we spent a total of two hours getting to and back from Segovia. The landscape around the highways is pretty though, and Spanish radio rocks. Segovia felt like a whole other world compared to Madrid. It´s quiet, felt sleepy, and it looks lie it was dipped in golden sand. Very relaxing and pretty, and it looks like a stock photo of what Spanish towns look like.
We decided not to drive back to Madrid for dinner. Instead, we dropped a pin on the map and drove to the restaurant closest to it. We ended up in a suburb of Madrid, there were no tourists or anything like that, in a street filled with bustling bar-type restaurants. The sun was beginning to settle on the horizon and the bars were lit up with golden lights, laughter floated through the warm evening air like songs, and again, our waiter did not know a single English word. Knowing basic Spanish felt like somewhat of a superpower, and I could tell that he appreciated the effort, even though my Spanish may have been very direct and unintentionally rude (he laughed it off, so we gud). Language barriers are so cute and if you play your cards right you´ll end up getting free food. And he got excited over sin gas aswell.
I finally, finally got the chance to eat paella, one of my favorite foods, and it was such a beautiful evening. I could try to put it in words but I don´t think I would succeed in making it sound as amazing as it was.
I had a thing in Madrid on Monday morning, so we ate breakfast/lunch/brunch at around 2, back at the Taberna. All the walking in the Spanish heat and sun exhausted us and I almost fell asleep while people-watching, another favorite travel-thing of mine.
1. When visiting Madrid, you will notice that there are a lot of same-sex couples. I noticed more male couples than female, but I assume it´s because girls being touchy with each other is more normalized than men being touchy with each other. I don´t want to assume sexuality, but seeing so many same-sex couples at once was equally great and sad. Great, because man it made me so happy to see love displayed so openly. I have never seen as many pride flags in shop windows, on stickers, hung up on balconies, as I did in Madrid. Sad, because it made me realize how much more progressed Madrid/Spain is when it comes to open displays of love, any kind. You rarely see same-sex couples walking the streets as casually in Germany. The concept of Love is Love is beautifully normalized in Madrid. It made me feel incredibly happy and safe. And now imagine what this acceptance would mean to somebody who is actually a part of the LGBTQ community and not just an ally.
“Whoever you love, Madrid loves you.”
Lesson 2: if you see a good looking man in Madrid, shoot your shot because anything is possible
Lesson 3: If you´re in Chueca and don´t know what kind of a club you´re looking at, it´s probably a gay club
2. Everybody in Madrid was so incredibly nice and open, it was a little trippy for someone who is used to the seriousness of German strangers.
One thing me and my dad noticed is that knowing English is not a necessity for locals. While I don´t mind this, as I think that the traveler should adjust to the country and not the country to the traveler, it makes me wonder about the (public?) education system in Spain. I know that most -if not all- German public schools at least try to teach English, is that not the case in Spain? I´m not complaining though, I loved being forced to speak Spanish. If everyone had spoken English with me I would have never spoken back in Spanish.
I think one of the funniest things about the language barrier is that the waiters I tried communicating with did not slow down their words when I asked them to repeat themselves. Instead, they got louder and added in a few more hand movements, which mostly lead to more confusion on my side. Honestly, I´m just glad that doing that dog movement of tilting your head to the side in confusion is universal!
In January I made a vision board collage, where I posted pictures of things I wanted to achieve, positive quotes, places I wanted to see on to cardboard and stuck it in a picture frame that´s sitting across from me right now. A picture of Madrid is smiling back at me, and it feels so good to finally have accomplished something I´ve been wanting to do and experience for so long.
I may have not been as happy as I was in Madrid for a long time, and even though my stay was only three days long I know that I will return and I know that it will be just as amazing.
Lesson 4: You can be whoever you want in Madrid, but she will love you most for being yourself <3