When I landed in Madrid, my first thought was “I need sleep!” After a 9-hour flight to Paris, a 4-hour layover hanging out in Charles de Gaulle, and then finally a 2-hour flight to Madrid, all I wanted was a comfortable bed and about 6 hours of uninterrupted snoozing. I love to travel but I hate the process of getting to my destination–long lines, flight delays, taking off your shoes to go through security, whining babies on the plane–blah! But by the time I got in the taxi, I was too excited and soon forgot about sleep–I was in Spain! I paid about €30 ($40) to take the cab from the airport to where I would be staying which definitely wasn’t in my original plans because the metro was much cheaper–If you know me, you know I love saving money. I figured I would splurge on one cab ride and explore the metro system later–I was anxious to see what this hostel was all about…
Where I slept- Yes–I stayed in a hostel! No– it’s not like what you saw in the movie. By the way, if I were you, I would stop watching those bizarre movies that depict traveling abroad as some gruesome experience, deal? You are gonna’ miss out on some pretty amazing places if you don’t! I chose to stay at a hostel because I was traveling solo and I wanted an opportunity to meet people–what better way to meet people from all over the world than by packing into an 8-bed all-female room full of strangers? Perfect. Cat’s Hostel it is!–you can’t beat it for €17 (about $23) a night! Included in the price is a free breakfast– think continental style (orange juice and pastries), free wifi (it started out really good but then got a little spotty along the way), linen, towels and a locker to store your luggage. Cat’s came highly recommended to me by a client that I work with at my job particularly because it is known as a party hostel and I wanted to have some fun- it was my birthday! There is a bar at the entrance and a commons area where you can lounge and meet other “cats”. It even offers fun activities throughout the day and at night–paella parties, walking tours and pub crawls! I participated in a pub crawl with a girl I met and failed miserably as I went back to the hostel after we got to the first bar–as much as I try, I’m just not the party animal I once was–is there a way to reverse this?! What I love most about hostels is that they are super convenient and lenient for travelers. You can extend your stay at a moment’s notice and still pay a low price–double win. I also love that I got the chance to meet some of the most amazing people who share my love of travel!
Who I met- My friend from Chile–who I met at Cat’s– loves my analogy that I use to describe hostel life. I have concluded that staying in hostels is like a one night stand–you meet the most amazing people, you go explore the city together, you laugh and have a great time, you all sleep in the same room and when you wake up–they are gone! Just like that–it makes me so sad man. Many travelers stay in a city for an average of 3 days and then they are off to explore another part of the world. This is exactly what happened to me–I met several women and men who between them had traveled to or lived in Morocco, Greece, Switzerland, Brazil, Ireland, Paris, Rome, London, Australia (Australians have the best accent!) and so many other places. We quickly became friends–it all starts with someone asking “where are you from?” and trust me, they will ask. When a girl asked me where I live currently–I told her Texas–then a super cute Aussie blurted out, “I knew I heard you say the word YA’LL”! haha! We ate paella, drank sangria and shared our life stories including how we ended up in Spain. One girl quit her job and is traveling the world for 3 months nonstop. Another girl from California–who I met randomly while I was talking to a guy from Italy–says she has no plans and that she may end up renting an apartment on the coast of Spain when she is done exploring Europe. I love hearing stories about people going against the norm and doing what makes them happy. The next day, everyone was heading to other parts of the world but luckily for me, two of the girls I met at Cat’s were going to Barcelona which is where I was headed after Madrid. It was only right that we would reunite again!
What I ate- There’s no way you can visit any city in Spain and not eat paella and drink sangria. Every corner you turn on, there is a restaurant that serves paella–so the girls and I had no trouble finding a place to enjoy the country’s signature dish. What I’ve learned about paella is that it can be really cheap or get pricey depending on where you choose to eat it. When I ate paella a few blocks from my hostel, I paid about €7 ($9)–But when my friend and I decided to eat paella in Plaza Mayor, it cost about €14 (about $19). The girl who worked the front desk at the hostel told us if we want the best paella that we can expect to pay €25 ($33)–I’ll save that for my next visit.
What I saw– If I could describe Madrid perfectly, I would say it reminds me of a mature and elegant woman. She doesn’t try too hard because her timeless beauty speaks for itself–you respect her because she’s genuine and real. I know what you’re thinking–okay Jai, you’re going too deep here–but it’s true! Madrid definitely fulfilled my appetite for the rich culture that Spain prides itself on. Aside from it being one of the most affordable places to travel in Europe, I chose Spain because I’ve always heard how incredibly beautiful it is. I got to see many of the plazas and a few of Madrid’s popular museums–Museo Nacional De Arte Reina Sofia and Museo Nacional Del Prado. Again, I’m a thrifty spender–so I researched when the museums would be free and went during those times! Most of the places that I visited were in walking distance and any place that wasn’t, was nothing more than a quick metro ride away–a one-way metro ticket only cost €2 (about $3)–this even includes if you have to stop and switch lines. Luckily, I paid attention in all of my Spanish classes throughout school and still remembered how to ask for help. If you are not fluent or conversational in Spanish, all you need to know is, ‘ayudar’ (help), ‘necessito’ (need) and ‘ir a’ (to go)–okay you may need a little more than that but these are the main words I used most of the time. The locals were super nice and were more than happy to help me–one tidbit of advice though, speaking louder or talking extremely slow does not help someone who doesn’t understand English–why do we do that?!
I spent two days in Madrid indulging in all of its cultural beauty before I was on the midnight bus to Barcelona…
Have you ever been to Madrid? I would love to hear about your experiences there!