Today I had to go get a Covid test and I got to see another ritzy area of the city.
I woke up and cleaned my apartment and repacked which was quite sad.
After cleaning, repacking, showering, and getting ready, I set out to get a Covid test. I got a covid test on 31 January 2020 after finding out I’d been exposed on my birthday and tested positive but I’ve since gotten both vaccines and the booster so I haven’t been tested again.
I booked this trip so impulsively that I didn’t look up all the requirements but I saw on my way out that I had to get a test in order to come back. I panicked a bit but Google Maps (and reviewers) told me to go to Clinicas Vieco. It’s a cosmetic clinic right around the corner from the Supreme Court. It’s open from 10:00 to 8:00 and I showed up around 2 but they were out for lunch. I went and sat on some steps outside the court house next to a super cool legal bookstore (if I hadn’t tried History, I would have loved to have been a lawyer specializing in maritime law).
After about 35 minutes, I called the office and they answered so I walked back. I got an antigen test for €30 and had the results in 10 minutes. The lady at the desk was super kind and comforting and she wasn’t rough when she administered the test. If you are in Madrid and need to get a test this is the place to go (don’t forget to take your passport-I assumed I would need it since it was a medical procedure and I wasn’t wrong)!
After the test, I walked back down Paseo del Prado (this is an area where all the rich business people and civil servants work so all the restaurants and cafes are super swanky) to barrio de Las Letras. I went back to Casa de Diego and ordered something different this time: Jarrete de Cordero. It was so good and this is BY FAR my favorite restaurant I’ve visited or walked past in Madrid. It’s in a nice area but the prices are great and the food is phenomenal! I had a full meal with bread and 4 glasses of wine (with accompaniments) for €22.90.
After all of that, I came back to my place and finished packing up my carry-ons and gathering the trash. I have to take it out after 8 PM because they don’t have fixed dumpsters here–from what I gather, the department of sanitation brings the dumpsters after 8 and collections them at some point throughout the night.
When I took down the trash, I went back to La Carboneria (formerly Harry & Sally) and had a couple of Vermut de grifo, They were 60 cents cheaper tonight even though it was way busier. I went back to the mini-mart (what you would call a bodega in NYC is a wine store here and a mini-mart or NYC bodega is an “alimentacion” and I don’t know why or how) for a snack and a couple of beers to spend my remaining euros. I did the best I’ve ever done this time and only have 90 cents left!
All in all, I spent €372 this week. With airfare and the AirBnB, that comes to $1,645. My tax return was $1,200 so I spent $445 for a very full and entertaining week in Spain. Absolutelyyy worth it! I had two nice meals and I drink–I also wasted a lot of those groceries I bought. If you skipped all that and stayed in a cheaper area (my AirBnB was smack dab in the most popular area) you could easily do this (or any) trip for way, way cheaper.
Tomorrow is airport day. I’m not too nervous since I’ve figured out the metro system this week but it will be interesting to see how check-in goes with the Covid test results.
I am going to try to write more when I’m back in NYC so please consider subscribing and of course, follow me everywhere else (click the button for links).
Side note: If you know ANYONE who can get me an EU work visa for ANY job (cleaning, elder care, marketing, academia, literally anything) please contact me. I want to live here (and no, it’s not a passing urge–I’ve wanted to move over here since about 2010).
First, I took the Red Line to La Almudena, out in a working-class neighborhood east of the city called Ventas. Originally I decided to go to the cemetery because I am interested in Filipino and Cuban history and there is a mausoleum dedicated to Spanish soldiers who fought there. I’m obviously interested in contemporary memory and the history of colonialism so I wanted to see what was going on. It was a nice monument–I obviously cannot deliver commentary on its existence since I’m neither Spanish nor Filipino/Cuban but I am glad I saw it.
That’s the interesting thing about cemeteries. We spend our lives separating ourselves and others based on a host of labels and categories but you wander through a cemetery and you don’t know one grave from another as they relate to those categories (except maybe class since the rich have their own tombs…there’s a lesson to be had there too).
The cemetery was deserted and HUGE. I saw a few famous graves marked on Google Maps and obviously went to see the mausoleum. I made a mistake and didn’t check my camera battery so I was only able to take pictures with my phone which was a bummer. So many of the graves were in serious disrepair which was ironic because many of the inscriptions said things like, “Your wife and kids will never forget you.” etc. I have been to a lot of cemeteries in the US and I’ve never seen one in such horrible disrepair (I’m sure they exist) so it was a little strange for me.
After an hour or so of wandering around the cemetery, I realized I hadn’t eaten and found a neighborhood spot close to my train stop. Bar El Rincón de Juanca was a great choice. Unfortunately, the kitchen was closed for siesta (I was really looking forward to the bacon and cheese bocadillo) but I had a couple of beers. It was a Filipina-run bar and the ladies were singing karaoke in Tagalog which made me nostalgic for Hawaii and high school. They were super friendly and the place also has a terrace so it would be perfect in the late spring and summer. I will definitely go back when I’m here again.
After a couple of beers (€2.50), I got back on the train and decided at the spur of the moment to go to the Madrid History Museum. I’m not a huge fan of art museums but I usually enjoy other museums. This one DID NOT disappoint and I would recommend it to everyone. I took a couple of classes about Enlightenment-era Europe in graduate school so these exhibits were right up my alley! It was also free because it was Sunday night, so win-win.
The museum follows the history of the city chronologically from 1561 to the 20th century with special emphasis placed on the Enlightenment and societal changes as they related to gender and urban planning (two of my favorite subgenres of history). Also, if you like fans, curiosities, and material history, you should definitely stop in. It’s an expansive exhibition with paintings, maps, objects, photos, and a really well-done and extensive narrative that guides you through each hall and helps to put everything into context. My favorite parts were about coffee houses, paying calls, promenading, women at work, and other aspects of social life during and after the Enlightenment.
The last exhibit was a temporary one dedicated to Arturo Soria and the urban planning of his Ciudad Lineal. This was also interesting because he created the Madrid Company of Urbanization in 1824 and helped conceptualize this planned city. They had pictures and different things that were part of the plan (most of the buildings are gone now) but he was a really smart guy. This was probably one of my favorite things I’ve learned about on the trip. I love being taken down rabbit holes of previously unknown topics and subject areas and this one combined a LOT of different ones.
After the museum, I realized I was in a part of the city I hadn’t gotten to explore yet (between Malasañ and Justicia) so I decided to walk from the museum, in Justicia, back down to my AirBnB. On my walk, I happened to stumble upon what appeared to be a hipster area full of little bars with different themes and an upper-middle-class area with eateries, stationery shops, and lots of young people. I ended up back in my neighborhood and decided I finally needed to eat.
I have discovered that even devoid of a man asking me what I want to eat, it is SO hard for me to choose restaurants and commit to eating somewhere. Last night, I chose a Mexican spot called Patron Taqueria, and yet again, it was completely worth it. First and foremost, they had margaritas with a chamoy rim–and those are one of my favorite things ever. Second, they served Mexican-style tacos for €1.50 each. But the star of the show was something they called a gringa which was like a combination of a quesadilla and taco. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten here, by far! So, I got 3 food items and two drinks and it was only €15.50. The more Mexican food I eat, the sadder it makes me that NYC’s Mexican food is so different (and not to my liking). A group of guys came to the counter to check out when I was ready to leave so I got up to go and I was already outside when one of them yelled after me to stop. The waitress wasn’t paying attention when I paid her colleague and she had these guys stop me because she thought I was dining and dashing, LOL!
After the restaurant, I decided to stop at a little mini-mart and get some beers and ice cream (since I won’t be able to stay out late tonight as I need to leave for the airport tomorrow morning). Then I went back to my place.
This was another absolutely perfect day: slept in, saw some historical graves, found a woman+immigrant-run neighborhood bar, got to learn some things, had some amazing food and drinks, saw a slice of life in the suburbs, and only spent €30!
Today is my last day and I need to go get a Covid test to reenter the US so fingers cross. Come back tomorrow for one last rundown!
Yesterday was a chill day but I did something I’ve always wanted to do, I went to a La Liga game, in season!
I rested the early part of the day since I walked so much on day 3 but then I got ready and had to go run an errand.
I stopped at the place just near my AirBnB and finally got some Churros con Chocolate. I took them to go and sat in Plaza Mayor in the sun to enjoy them. They were so good but definitely too sweet to have on the regular. I definitely recommend Chocolateria San Ginés. It’s a huge tourist spot so it’s always busy but I was in and out in about 5 minutes and the churros and chocolate were great. You could order a “completo” (6 churros and a cup of chocolate) and then extra churros for each person in your group and share the chocolate with up to 3 people, at least. One “completo” is €4.5 and extra churros are €1.40.
I had tried to find a place to print documents here (like a Staples or UPS) and everyone on Reddit recommended Work Center San Bernardo. I decided to walk since this is a little further on the outskirts of the central part of the city (like my neighborhood in NYC) and I wanted to see what it was like.
I was walking down Calle San Bernardo and happened to pass a Ria Money Transfer & Currency Exchange that had a sign out front that said “imprenta fotocopias” along with a host of other services. It looked a little sketch but I thought it would be worth a try. It was SO easy. I needed to print my ticket for the soccer game I was going to later that evening. I walked in and there were 3 men working there and another guy who was a customer exchanging money. They gave me the business email address to send the document and I sent it to them. They printed it for just €.20 and were super quick and nice.
Since I was done with the errand that was meant to take me further into the Malasaña neighborhood, I decided to saunter a bit more slowly and see what I could see. I already knew that the Almagro neighborhood was home to most of the embassies and was sort of posh so I adjusted my route to San Bernabéu and walked from Malasaña to Trafalgar through Almargo to Castellana and ultimately up to El Viso.
One of my other favorite parts of traveling is seeing different neighborhoods. This can obviously be a bit risky since you don’t know “bad blocks” if you aren’t from around a certain area but before I left I made sure to ask Reddit if there were any such blocks to avoid and they helped me out. Again, they don’t have the same issues with drug addiction and mental health here so most of the advice was just about not going out at night drunk etc.
I walked through some beautiful areas where I would love to live. Specifically, around Almagro…but of course, it’s one of the most expensive neighborhoods here. I am not a big souvenir person and prefer to buy stuff I can wear, share or use. I stopped into a used book store, La Libreria Re-Read, and bought a hardback copy of Don Quixote in Spanish for only €3. I cannot recommend this place enough. There is a cafe next door and the staff of the bookstore was so friendly and ALL the books are only €3 or 2 for €5!
After the book store, I wandered over to the El Viso neighborhood just short of the soccer stadium and stopped in at Taberna del Volapié. I simply cannot recommend this place enough either (I’m not hard to please if you’ve noticed). It was clean, the tapas were great, the beer was cold, the staff was nice and hardworking, and the prices were reasonable (I was expecting them to be astronomical due to their proximity to the stadium. I had a coffee, two tapas, and a few beers for €14!
I was quite early so after killing some time at Volapié I walked over to the stadium to watch Real Sociedadversus Real Madrid. It was a madhouse but there was lots of crowd control and I never felt unsafe. I made my way to tower C and then up the escalators to 513-N where an attendant showed me my seat, row 9, seat 22. Why so detailed you ask? Well about 15 minutes later some middle-aged man and his three friends came up to me showing me his mobile ticket and said I was in his seat…well his seat was in 515-N and this was 513-N but I showed him my ticket and he said I was in the wrong place (even though the attendant had shown me to this spot minutes before). I wasn’t in the mood to argue just in case the attendant was wrong so I just moved one section over. The seats started filling up and I got nervous someone would actually confront me since THIS time I was in the wrong seat so I got up and went back out to the perimeter to make SURE I had been in section 513-N and not 515-N and of course, I had been. So, I decided to go sit in a row and seat right behind the group that made me move so that if anyone else did confront me I could at least show them these guys were in my spot and that I hadn’t taken a wrong seat by mistake.
Well, before the game started, the row of guys seated behind me were going ham. They weren’t belligerent but just young and drunk and yelling. Before the kick-off, they had warm-ups and a tribute to Ukraine so I was recording bits and pieces. One of the young, good looking guys from this group who was sitting behind me could obviously see what I was doing because he was a row behind me/above me. He taps me on the shoulder and asked me in Spanish, “Are you going to record the whole game or watch it?” and I just said, “No…” and turned back around.
Maybe he was trying to flirt or impress his friends (or both) but I am SO bad at those kinds of social interactions. They make no sense to me at all. He wasn’t a dick but it’s just like…if you think I’m hot or annoying or whatever the case may be, you can say that instead of playing around. Not to mention, I can’t speak Spanish that well so there was no way I could turn the situation around by being coy like I would do if I were speaking English. Just strange to me that men everywhere are ultimately the same and use nosiness and dominance (even when they’re wrong) to get attention from women…especially when they are good-looking–they could get attention without doing all that, haha!
After getting booted from my seat and having my phone usage critiqued I decided this was a space to sit and be quiet and blend in so I put my phone away (the service was terrible since so many people were using their phone’s in such a small area anyway) and enjoy the game. It was the BEST soccer game I’ve ever been to. It ended 4-1 RMCF and there were two off-sides goals so there were 7 goals and it was so hyped and fast-paced!
Despite these two interactions (of men just having the audacity like they do everywhere else on the planet) I never once felt unsafe–with the crowd, with Covid, with any weirdos, none of that. I went to a Jets game in New Jersey about two months ago and this was like night and day in every possible way.
I got up to go to the bathroom at halftime and that was amazing. Everyone was so patient and quiet and the line moved fast. You had to stop at a little area to grab a few pieces of toilet paper then continue in the line and wait for a stall. I notice like 1/12 people washed their hands after BUT there was no one fighting or yelling or anything like you see at US sporting events. I think one reason for this is they sell NOTHING in the stadium. There were zero concessions of any kind and the only time people left their seats what to go smoke. Security was patrolling every aisle every 10 minutes and making sure everyone kept their mask on too.
It was a really fun, pleasant experience and really showcased, for me, the juxtaposition between American and Spanish culture and the superiority of the latter (in this situation at least).
After the game, I took the train back to Opera where I’m staying and that was another quick and painless experience. Despite the crowds, I was able to walk right through the station, scan my ticket, go to the platform, wait approximately 3 minutes and get on the train. I transferred one time without issue and ultimately was back to my apartment (after stopping for a quick kebab from Bosforos to-go) within half an hour.
Yesterday was my most expensive day at €135.50 but I got to make some great memories and I’m done with my “shopping” (even though I’m not a big shopper). Although, my first critique of the trip is for Viagogo. This is the third-party service I used to purchase the soccer ticket and I realized after printing it that they marked the ticket up over 100%! A 48 euro ticket was 89 euros on their site. That was a big disappointment but I was originally told you couldn’t use US credit cards online to purchase these tickets from the stadium directly (I have since found out you can use AMEX). So, don’t use Viagogo, they are crooks!
I don’t really have any other big things planned for the rest of the trip but I do have to go get a Covid test on Monday in order to reenter the US so that should be an adventure.
I’ll be eating and drinking my way around for the next couple of days and I am bound to have some other unique experiences so subscribe and check back in tomorrow!
This was a long day and probably the most walking I’ll do the entire trip (about 9 miles)!
I woke up a bit late and showered and got ready and then walked back to Atocha station. I stopped back into the Church of the Holy Coss and went back by “my” coffee spot again to get a double espresso. I always tell myself to try new places every day when I travel but once I find somewhere I like, I always end up going back. I’ll definitely go back to Casa de Diego on Sunday too.
I got to the station at about 11:00 and tried to use the kiosk to buy a ticket but it wanted a passport number and I didn’t have my passport. I was super annoyed and thought I was going to have to walk back to my apartment and grab it. I went into the ticket office and they couldn’t help me but then I remembered I’d taken a picture of my passport and that would have the number. So, remember, if you are in the EU and plan for any train travel and don’t want to carry your passport around (I’m always worried about getting mugged or losing it) then take a picture so you can verify your identity.
I went back to the kiosk and bought a roundtrip ticket to Toledo for €22. I was really intimidated by the outside of the station and if you will remember my first misadventure this week, I am not so great at trains but this was the smoothest trip I’ve ever taken.
I found the departure board and saw that my train was leaving from the ground level platform and I still had an hour (they stopped selling tickets for the 11:20 train by the time I got to the kiosk so I had to take the 12:20). I went to the Mahou mini bar and grabbed a small beer and then went to the bathroom. I was dreading going to the bathroom in the train station but I always forget Europe isn’t plagued with the same issues as the US and the bathrooms aren’t absolute cesspools. For this bathroom, you paid a euro and got a ticket with a QR code which you scanned to enter. There were attendants and the bathroom was absolutely immaculate. Absolutely worth the euro–and no one was shooting up heroin in there!
I went to my departure platform about 15 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave and the attendant scanned my ticket as I went out of the door. I was nervous because in Italy in 2014 you had to validate your own ticket on the platform and I forgot once and the stupid ticket guy charged me an on-the-spot fine for not validating it. This system was much better/faster. I found my car and seat quickly but a Latino guy in line behind me had never taken the train before and he asked me for help finding his spot. He was in the wrong car so I told him to go to the next one. An older Spanish guy heard me and said, “No, this is car 2!” and I said, “Yes, I know, his ticket is for car 3…” It was cool to help someone while speaking Spanish. This is the second time someone has approached me–the first day in Lidl a French lady came up to me and asked me where the toilet paper was. Those are always some of my favorite experiences when traveling–people approaching me either because I look like I belong or because I look nice so they feel comfortable asking for help.
I got to Toledo and was going to take the bus into the main part of the city but I didn’t see any machines to buy tickets and I didn’t know if you could pay on board so I just walked.
I walked from the train station all the way across the city (after stopping for a few souvenirs–Toledo is souvenir central) to the old Jewish quarter. I visited two synagogues and a museum. The first synagogue, Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca or Ibn Shushan Synagogue, was €3 to enter. It’s only one main space and there was a group tour going on inside but it was cool to take a quick walk around–it’s considered the oldest synagogue in Europe and was built in 1180.
After that, I walked a bit further and went into the Sephardic Museum and the Sinagoga del Transito. My closest friend in New York is Mizrahi and grew up following the Sephardic rite so I’m most interested in those aspects of Jewish history and this was really fascinating to see. Of course, it was also sad to think about and see all of the artifacts predating the expulsion. It’s hard to imagine all of the people who were killed, exiled, and forced to convert after participating in and building such a deep history in Spain. Since taking a history course about the Islamic world in 2010, I’ve been interested in how Dhimmi lived in various Islamic states including Jews in Spain so it was also great to see aspects of Jewish life under Islamic rule as well. Besides the religious history, I really love Toledo because the architecture and masonry are so beautiful. It reminds me of many of the same reasons I love Assisi.
After the museums and synagogues, I decided to walk back to the other side of the village so that I would be closer to the train and could relax over a nice lunch without having to worry about missing my train. Toledo is hilly and the streets are cobbled and I’ve learned my lesson the hard way about trying to run around places like that.
After ordering a full plate of Manchego cheese (I didn’t know it was going to be that much but #noregrets), some croquetas, and wine, I walked back down the hill to the station and made my way back to Madrid.
When I ride the train, I always wish I could drive around some of the smaller towns I see from the window. It’s one of the only times I become melancholic while traveling–it would be fun to rent a car with a man a go explore! When I see a random hacienda (Spanish folks, is that the right term?) with agricultural equipment outside, it always makes me want to go see what’s going on there. I always wish I could make local friends because I want to know about what life is like in the countryside. My mom comes from a rural town in Alabama and I always wonder if the cultures are similar in rural areas around the world. Do they owe money to corporations they sell their products to? What is schooling like for their kids? Has their family always been farmers on that land? What happened to them during Fascist rule? I’ll never know but it’s always interesting to think about.
Once back in Madrid, I walked back to my apartment, showered, changed, and went out to find a drink. I was still full from lunch so I was looking for something quick. One thing I noticed yesterday, even on my way to the train station, is that so many more people were out and about than had been Wednesday or Thursday. The entire journey down Calle Atocha was packed and last night when I got back to Madrid the city was bustling!
I found a small cafe to have a couple of drinks. It was SO cold outside I ended up having my second round inside. I would have loved to have stayed out later but I was so tired and sore and cold and alone on a Friday night so I thought it would be best to head back to my apartment.
I spent a little more yesterday due to the train and extra wine at lunch but the full day was still only €70 (click the link to see how+what I’ve spent so far).
Today is going to be a bit more chill but I do have a surprise in store so make sure to follow me on IG and come back tomorrow to read more!
I did it! (If you haven’t seen this popular TikTok trend, peep it here).
SURPRISE! If you’re reading this, I’m on my way to Madrid, Spain and I didn’t tell ANYONE I was going (sorry, mom)!
The week before last, I was extremely depressed, couldn’t sleep, and basically at my wits end with life. I had just filed my taxes a few days before and simultaneously realized I hadn’t done anything for myself (other than ordering random garbage on Amazon…dopamine, amiright?) in a really long time, we’re talking like 5 years.
I thought for a few hours and decided I was going to take a trip! Where could I go for the cost of my tax return? I looked up a few flights, crowdsourced it, checked out the cost of food, and looked up the crime index on Numbeo (I even did my due diligence to make sure I don’t wander into any heroin dens, haha!)—ultimately, I chose Madrid! All in all, it took me about 12 hours to find flights, accommodations, and build a full 6-day itinerary.
I originally found another flight for a seven-day trip but I was too slow (and waiting for “signs” that I wasn’t being totally insane, haha!) and it was gone by the time I built up the courage to book my reservations. Lesson number 1: Don’t hesitate or you lose out on better deals!
I’ll share the places I plan to go now and wait to share each day’s itinerary after I’m back in my apartment for the night.
I visited Spain on a tour in 2008 but I haven’t been back since then. I also haven’t been on a solo trip or to Europe since I went to Italy in 2014.
So, for the next 6 days, I’m going to be exploring Madrid (with a day trip or two), on a budget. Activities might include: a Real Madrid game, all the museums, some Catholic stuff, the grocery store, going to the movies, la hora del vermut, geocaching, etc. I’ll be making a post every day to chronicle my trip but I’ll also make a post about costs, my AirBnB, and other details once the trip is over.
You can find a cost tracker and packing listhere. If you want to see how I spend and how I packed for a week in a carry-on, follow me on TikTok and Instagram!
Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and follow me everywhere (literallyyy every social media channel you can think of) @thatgingeranna!