Madrid has come and gone and it was a very quick trip for me there! I was able to stay in the heart of the city and so truly able to get to experience it even with only being there for a day.
Like I mentioned, I am now with a big group so there are much different responsibilities here as they are the clients and we are making their tour of Spain as best as we can. I am with some amazing people and a variety that are some well traveled, foodies, wine connoisseurs, you name it! They are interesting people and I am enjoying so much getting to know them and seeing the smiles on their faces when we do experience aspects of our tour that they have not experienced before. Café con leche is the important phrase to know and then, as one of my first impressions was this very, random wall but it states “Love what you do” – how true is this?
Anyways, I arrived and instantly went with Sandra around the city – she has been many times but has discovered a new found love for the city and I am very fortunate I had my own special guide to show me the best spots in town. My favorite stop of them all was “Mercado de San Miguel”. It is a very, very popular destination on the weekends for locals and tourists alike, but it is a large market full of anything you can imagine! Fruits, vegetables, fresh seafood, drinks, pastry, tapas, tapas and more tapas! It was a beautiful day in Madrid and it was jam packed. That is the place to be on a Saturday afternoon sipping on some cava and enjoying some tapas. I never wanted to leave, but at the same time, so much more to see and explore!
Walking through the streets, and I am not comparing anything to Germany as they are all separate locations, but very different! The first word that came to mind when walking through the famous square and tiny side streets was that Madrid has a lot of spunk! That may sound weird but just edgy and they totally rock it!
I love walking around and seeing all the beautiful meats, cheeses, even octopi in the windows! The food scene is unbelievable and they want you to see that with their displays in the windows. Now, as I have mentioned, Sandra has been to Madrid plenty of times, but she has also traveled the world so her advice is the best advice to take, especially when it comes to food! In bigger cities, like Madrid, there are so many restaurants you can choose from! Here is the best advice from her – do not eat at a restaurant, if you want local and fabulous cuisine, if there are pictures of the on display outside of the restaurant, if the menu is given in three different languages or if someone is outside trying to get you to come in. Find the restaurant where the old men are sitting and hanging out, which is normally off the beaten path, but that’s where you will find your restaurants that will make an impression and really let you indulge in the local cuisine.
The night I arrived in Madrid most of the people of our group did as well and so we had a tapas dinner in honor of them in a gorgeous space in the hotel. The food was absolutely amazing! We ate some typical Spanish dishes which was a very fun way to kick off the tour and even moved the “party” over to a small tapas restaurant directly next to the hotel. I loved experiencing that as we simply sit and grab off plates of people bringing the variety of tapas around. Once finished, all tapas have a wooden skewer in them, you bring the skewers up to the register to pay. I thought that was pretty cool as it is an honor system and we were honorable!
Let me just tell you – breakfast in Spain is out of this world. Everything you could possibly want and all the fruit is already sliced so nicely for you, it is absolutely amazing. Meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, pastries, you name it, they have it! However, the one aspect that absolutely steals the show is the orange juice. OH. MY. GOSH. I cannot describe it and orange juice at home it just not the same. Usually I can maybe drink a small glass at a time, but this, I went up for seconds, and sometimes thirds. Wow!
The morning before leaving Madrid I enjoyed a city tour with our group. We did not have lots of time, and with how big the city is, we had a local guide come on our bus and take us around. That was the best way so we could see as much as possible! It is a very busy city, but it was Sunday, so not many people around. I love that about Europe – they truly take Sunday very seriously as time to be spent with family. Also, we had a group singing in the Almudena Cathedral and I was able to experience a catholic mass in Spanish for the first time. That was special and the choir’s voices sounded amazing with the acoustics of the church! I have not thought too much about Spanish since my last day of high school, but it is pretty cool being able to recognize and understand (some of the time) what people are saying. That’s very different then when I was in Germany, that was completely foreign to me expect “hello” which is “hallo” – if I had issues with that, we would certainly have an issue, I think! Anyways, the mass was beautiful and it was very special experiencing that, especially during Lent!
Now on to Cuenca!