Day 1: Planes, Trains, and…19,828 Steps

Day 1 was actually a little more than a day. I didn’t end up sleeping for around 27 hours!

I got an Uber to the airport (that always makes me so anxious because the traffic out in Queens is always so bad) and it was extremely expensive (like $90!). I don’t know why prices have gone up so much but I’ve seen tons of posts on NextDoor from people complaining too. It’s really out of control.

Anyway, I got to the airport and checked in, and went through security without any issues. Loaded up on crappy overpriced snacks from Hudson News and then I was on my way. I couldn’t have asked for a better flight. I was on the first row in Economy so I had ample legroom and then one of the people in my row didn’t want to sit there and asked the flight attendant to move so then the guy sitting next to me moved to her seat. There was also free wine and I watched House of Gucci and CODA.

Once I arrived in Madrid, the adventure began. I had already filled out the Health Ministry form and had my QR code ready. Passport control took all of 5 minutes and then I had to take the metro. I was kinda paranoid about buying tickets, but whaddayaknow, this isn’t New York City and it was quick and painless. I bought a 10-day pass for 28 and then headed into the city. Then in true Anna fashion, I got a bit lost–I don’t know what it is about trains but they are confusionnn!

I had mapped out my route on Google Maps but little did I know there was construction, so the route was modified. I was originally supposed to take the 8 to C4 but the 8 switched directions at Mar de Cristal and went back to the airport. So I got off at Feria de Madrid, waited, went back to Mar de Cristal, and got off again. I needed to take the brown line toward Arguelles and get off at Diego de Leon to switch to the green line…but I got on the brown line in the wrong direction and wound up at Parque Santa Maria. So I got off again and went back the other direction and finally made it to Diego de Leon where I switch to the green line and got off at Opera.

When I booked my AirBnB the host connected me with a third party who manages the listing, MintyStay and they had been messaging me for a few days to arrange to give me the keys. I was able to send them a message when I landed and coordinate so that the representative was already waiting on me. We climbed the 5 floors to my apartment, the representative showed me around, and then it was time to freshen up and unpack.

I only had three things on the agenda for my first day: watch the changing of the guard at the royal palace, go buy some groceries, and then go see what the Burial of the Sardine was all about!

The Royal Palace is right by the Opera stop where I came up earlier so I headed back in that direction and got to watch the changing of the guard for a few minutes. I always like ceremonial things and even though it was crowded and I couldn’t see very well, it was still really neat. Also, since Spain still has a royal family it was cool to see within that context.

After that, I walked toward Tirso de Marina to Lidl. I stopped at an ATM and then went to buy some groceries. I got so many things for only 16!

After groceries, I walked back to my apartment, put everything away, and cleaned out my purse for the evening. I don’t like to carry around my big camera or all my cards whenever I’m out alone in the evening, even in NYC, so I consolidated everything and embarked on my last adventure of the day: check out the Burial of the Sardine.

I walked to Ermita de San Antonio de Florida and decided to have a little dinner. I went to Casa Mingo and had a couple of tapas (just chorizo, bread, chips, and wine) and relaxed a bit. It was only 15! After I could see the starting point of the Burial of the Sardine procession from where I was having dinner so I just chilled and then walked over.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it was definitely a surprise. First, there is no real sardine, haha. Second, there was a whole fraternal order of people dressed up in capes and top hats and mantillas. The kids were also dressed, like for Halloween. Most of them were elves or unicorns–again, don’t know what that’s about. Two tour busses full of these cloaked men converged on the little park across from the church. There was also a band and the police stopped all the traffic. The huge group made its way across the bridge and then stopped for more music. It was getting late and I had a long walk back and didn’t want to get stuck on the other side of the river, alone at night so I had to leave but it was a really cool experience. I would describe it as Mardi Gras and Halloween and LARPing all mixed into one.

I walked back to Plaza Mayor and found a bar right near my AirBnB and decided to try Vermouth for the first time. During my time researching for this trip, I learned that Vermouth is really popular in Spain and that every bar has something called Vermut de Grifo or Vermouth on tap! I ordered one and while I didn’t initially like it, it was smooth and of course, came with a little tapa (toast with tomato and cheese). I sat and people watched a bit and then I went back to my apartment.

All in all, I spent 42 Euros and walked 19,000 steps!

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