Humor Travel Life
The last leg of my Spain adventure was Madrid, Spain’s capital city.
My Madrid journey began with a two-hour train ride from Córdoba. I sat next to a man who had apparently decided to bathe himself in cologne that morning. However, I also sat across from a Spanish family with the most adorable little girl.
I arrived to my hostel slightly early, so I had to store my backpack in their luggage room while I explored around town. I started out by making my way over to the Royal Palace. As I walked through Madrid, I was immediately struck by how pretty – and busy – it was. Seriously, there were people everywhere. Probably didn’t help that it was a Saturday either.
The great thing about so many of these European cities is how walkable they are. Madrid is one of the biggest cities in Europe, and I could walk everywhere. Literally, the completely opposite of Los Angeles, which is immensely spread out.
The Royal Palace, my first sightseeing spot in Madrid, looked very similar in design to Buckingham Palace. I even got to see the changing of the guard. While I’m sure they’re proud of their position, I couldn’t help but wonder how boring that job must be. All they did was have to stare with a serious face while tourists stand around taking photos of them.
I hadn’t booked tickets to go inside the palace, but if that’s something you want to do, plan accordingly. The line to get in was really long.
Next to the Royal Palace is Almudena Cathedral, a famous cathedral in Madrid. While people seemed to be fighting tooth and nail to get into the palace, it was a breeze visiting the cathedral – free entry and zero lines. Like the other cathedrals I had seen so far on this trip, this one was huge and breathtaking.
After Almudena Cathedral, I walked along Gran Via, Madrid’s (very) busy shopping street. While there are plenty of stores, it was just too overwhelming with the plethora of people.
Another cool thing to know about Madrid is that they have a neighborhood called Barrio de Las Letras (Literary Neighborhood), which is where famous writers used to hang out, such as Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote.
After getting settled into my room for the night, I got to talking to two girls from Amsterdam. Since my dad’s family is from the Netherlands, I always kind of geek out meeting people from there and have become pretty adept at deciphering a Dutch accent. I had to admire their stamina; they were in Madrid for four days, doing nothing but partying all night and sleeping most of the day.
I didn’t really have much a second day here in Madrid but rather a half-day. However, it was a good day to be there. Every Sunday, the city hosts a massive flea market called El Rastro, and it was literally just outside my hostel. I’m telling you, these hostels are in the be locations.
There were lots of great products at the market, and they aren’t expensive either. While I would’ve liked to purchase something, traveling with just backpack kind of limits you. Silver lining is it’s good for my budget, though.
Final Thoughts While Leaving Spain
After Madrid, I spent my last night back in Barcelona before catching my flight home the following morning. As my time here in Spain was coming to a close, I was filled with thoughts at how I felt more closed off since my last time in Europe, which was likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic – that feeling of getting used to keeping your distance around people.
And it was that last night in Barcelona that threw all those thoughts out the window. I was sitting alone in the bar/lobby of my hostel, hanging out with a glass of a wine, when a girl from Denmark came over and asked if she could hang with me. I thought that was so cool, and I immediately said “yes of course.” We ended up chatting for the next three hours about everything from sports and travel to politics and healthcare. It was incredible, and I’m so grateful to her for making that effort. While there is so much to love about travel, perhaps one of the best parts is meeting people from all over the world.
Puerto Vallarta is hands-down one of my favorite places on Earth, and it's also one of the top destinations in Mexico to visit. Puerto Vallarta has everything: beaches (both secluded and busy), a great jungle for hiking, nearby small towns to explore, beautiful resorts, boutique hotels and Airbnb's, exciting nightlife, delicious food, and wonderful culture. Not only have I visited Puerto Vallarta regularly since I was a kid, I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity live and work there during college, and I've continued to visit regularly since then -- most recently spending my honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta. PV's definitely a slice of home for me. It just so happens that Puerto Vallarta is also a very beautiful, Instagram-worthy travel destination. Here are the top places to take pictures in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
This beach spot is located on the south end of the city - just a short bus ride and you’re there. Mismaloya is far less busy than the beach areas downtown, so if you're looking to avoid the tourist crowds, this is a great place to go. What makes Mismaloya so Instagram-worthy though is how it is enveloped by the jungle and mountains that surround it. I'd also argue that the water there is bluer too.
This is another great beach that also happens to be a hidden gem in Puerto Vallarta. To get to this secluded beach spot, you have to take a bus to Boca de Tomatlan, which is a little further south than Mismaloya. From Boca, you can hike through the jungle until you reach the beach. It’ll be easy to spot since it’s the first beach you’ll get to. However, there are now water taxis that go to Colomitos, so if you're not keen on a jungle hike, you can also get there by boat.
While the actual beach at Colomitos is relatively small, the scenery is unbelievable and you’re surrounded just nature. There's one small restaurant/bar there, so they may have limited options, but this way you can enjoy a cerveza and snack while you relax by the water.
Old Town Puerto Vallarta – also known as the Romantic Zone – has more of an authentic charm to it. Photo ideas include a shot of the ocean looking down one of the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets or taking in the view from an Airbnb up in the hills to get a shot of Puerto Vallarta’s gorgeous skyline and bay.
I also recommend staying in Old Town if you get the chance. While this part of Puerto Vallarta won't have the big luxury resorts, they have fantastic boutique hotels and Airbnb options. It's also easy access to amazing local restaurants.
This town north of Puerto Vallarta has gotten very popular over the years. What was once an off-the-beaten path, quiet surfer town has transformed into a hipster destination perfect for more adventurous travelers who want a more low-key experience outside of the city that still has a decent social scene. Sayulita has been built up nicely, though, and still has a surf culture to it. Parts of the town center are also decorated with Papel Picado, which is a type of colorful Mexican folk art and shows up beautifully in photos.
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and comedian who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Sleep Advisor, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com