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Spain 2023 Part 5: Madness in Madrid
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.
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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