Long time no post!
I didn’t do a lot in Madrid. Only had a few days in Spain, so I did Madrid and Valencia in like 4 days. Sorry if this post isn’t too useful!
About Madrid.. it felt pretty similar to Toronto. If you’re from a medium city (like, not New York or Hong Kong cause those are huge) and want a place that feels familiar and is city-like, but still has diff buildings from what you’re used to, go to Madrid. It’s dirty and sketchy in some areas just like most cities. 😛
When I went, the soccer game was going on and Madrid was playing, so it was pretty rowdy. It was cool to see, though.
WHERE I STAYED
I stayed at an Airbnb. The hosts were super nice. They welcomed me with kisses on each cheek (this is how people greet each other in Spain). They had prepared the subway map and everything for me, and explained places to go. It was a nice break from sharing a room with people. I was able to just get a good sleep in a room that was mine and only mine.
WHAT I DID
- Plaza Mayor: it’s the square in Madrid. It’s pretty, and central ish. The museums are a bit of a walk away, but doable. This square is where I met up with a random girl from couchsurfing.com (which, by the way, is an awesome way to meet people even if they aren’t hosts).
- Reina Sofia: I only went to this one museum, and for under an hour (it was going to close). I’ve mentioned in previous posts.. I’m not really a museum person. It was nice, and it was free (many museums are free later in the day), so I took a stroll.
- Valencia: this is a whole other city, about 3 hour drive away. I only did one thing there, and that was the beach. One thing I missed out on there was paella. Valencia has the best paella! I totally forgot, so that was my bad. Also, the beaches in Europe are often topless, so I went topless.. it was liberating and weird at the same time. I hate tan lines, so this was awesome. But it felt strange to just be lying there with my boobs out. Probably wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t solo travelling! Also, be careful when walking the smaller streets of Valencia. I got approached by a giant group of kids who blocked my path. It was scary even though they were only kids. It was also a holiday, so the city was a lot more deserted than usual as most places were closed.
- How I got to Valencia: It was a day trip from Madrid (so I only went for the day). I took a Blabla car ride. Blablacar is a carpool service website where drivers post rides they’re offering at a price on a specific date and time. Be careful. Read the reviews, and expect the men to hit on you if you’re a female. My driver got pretty aggressive (sexually). It wasn’t scary, but it was inconvenient and awkward, and only reinforced my view on most men. I have a lot to say on this topic, but that’s not the point of this blog, so let’s move on.
- El Retiro Park: my favourite part of Madrid. I was in a bad mood, but walking through this park was amazing. The lake (?) is absolutely beautiful. I love parks and just.. the sound of nature. Does that sound cheesy? I can’t compare the feeling to anything else.
Make sure to read my “THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW” at the end of this post.
WHAT I ATE
So… yeah, most of my meals came from Mercado de San Miguel. LOL. I really like food markets because they offer variety. Granted, sometimes a bit pricey, but it has everything in one spot and I’m all about that efficiency.
The churros were good, but in my opinion, not a must try. The place is famous, but I don’t really understand why. The chocolate is not that sweet, so if you’re into that, go for it!
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Be careful!!!! Especially if you’re a female. You’ll be hit on left right and centre.
I got hit on while in the Plaza Mayor square. Also, in Retiro Park, I got approached by a nice man who was biking. He looked like he was in his late 40s (at least). At first, he just asked for directions. Then, he asked if I wanted to go for drinks and was pretty persistent. I’m not assuming he had flirtatious intentions, but I wasn’t about to go off for drinks with a strange man when I’m traveling alone and I barely know the guy.
Take note on what I wrote above about Valencia and being approached by kids. Kids!! They can be scary sometimes. That wasn’t the only thing. Every man I walked by made some sort of noise. I found that in Portugal and Spain, the men make this weird tooth sucking noise. It’s highly unpleasant. I guess that’s their version of a cat call, which is what you’d hear in Toronto. Oddly enough, it sounds more offensive than a cat call, but that’s probably just part of my culture shock.
The driver from my Blablacar ride hit on me too. I was pretty dumb I guess. I got along real well with the other riders and the driver too. We had a long drive, and they spoke English! It was amazing. They were hilarious. The driver said we can drop by his place and he will put some of his homemade paella (made by his mom in Valencia) since I missed out on Valencia paella and we were back in Madrid. I thought he’d just pop in and pop out and I’d still be in the car. Don’t ask me why I trusted this guy. You just get a feeling, you know? I don’t just trust anyone, but he gave no hint of being flirty, let alone creepy. But he invited me in and was extremely aggressive and would not back off. In the end, I told him I’m taking the subway home because I didn’t want him to drive me back to my Airbnb.
So just be careful. Don’t trust anyone, even if they seem friendly. Especially in places where more shit happens than normal.