Our last few days in Spain were spent in Madrid and we couldn’t have asked for a better finale for the European leg of our RTW trip. We had arranged to couch surf with Itziar and Pablo and we quickly bonded over tales of their year-long trip to Africa. It felt like we were staying with old friends and they did a great job of helping us learn a little bit about Madrid in the short time we had to take it all in.
Both Skott and I felt that Madrid would certainly be a city that we could see ourselves renting an apartment and hanging out in as expats for an extended stay. It had the perfect combination of big city attractions and excitement, with a more laid back feel and pace to it than somewhere like London.
We loved that the main city centre didn’t close down for siesta in the way that we had experienced along the Camino. This meant we had the whole day to explore instead of being limited to the hours outside of the 2-5pm siesta (I mention this because we missed out on touring the Leon Cathedral, famous for it’s incredible stained glass, because they were closed for siesta when we went for a tour).
In our first day of touring we spent the majority of our time in the Puerta del Sol area. We treated ourselves to a Starbucks (I was desperate for one last latte, in a take away cup before entering Africa…it’s crazy the little things you miss). With our caffeine fix satisfied, we then walked to the Opera House and the Palacio Real de Madrid (The Royal Palace of Madrid)-the official residence of the King Of Spain.
Our next stop was Gold’s Gym Madrid where I had arranged for us to participate in one of their spinning classes (indoor cycling). I was curious to see how it would differ from my RIDE classes back home. Their spin room was much bigger than ours in Regina and the class was full with 70 people on their bikes, ready for a 50 min. work out. It had reached about 34 degrees that day, so despite the fans, the room was piping hot!!! We had a blast and the staff at Gold’s Gym Madrid were super welcoming. Awww…a little taste of home!
A bonus of the Gold’s Gym visit was that it was right across from the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu- home of the Real Madrid soccer (football) team. It felt very exciting to be in the midst of the the home stadium of such a world famous team-too bad they were at an away game in Croatia at the time.
Later in the evening, Itziar and Pablo met us in the main square and took us to a few of their favourite haunts for wine and tapas.Itziar explained to us that “tapas” actually means “lid”. Apparently way back in the day, the King in power decided that all bars should have to provide a small bit of food with every drink in order to avoid having people get drunk. So the bartenders began to serve a glass of wine with a “lid” set on top of the glass that was bread with something small on it.
During our second day touring around Madrid, we had a few errands to run to stock up on some supplies before our flight to Morocco. However, we managed to do a nice long walk through the huge park “Parque Del Buen Retiro” and back into Sol. Along the way we took in the amazing architecture of the National Library of Spain; the Palacio de Comunicaciones, which is now used as the town hall; and some incredible hotels including the Ritz and Palace Hotel Madrid. We stopped in a cute little patisserie for one last napolitana de chocolate receta (Skott’s new favourite-a chocolate stuffed croissant).
For our last evening in Madrid, Itziar, Pablo, Skott and I cooked at their house with the fresh veg that Itziar helped us pick out at the market that morning (I love markets). We made sure their was lots of green asparagus because this was a veggie that Skott and I had been missing-and were skeptical if it would be found in Africa.
We want to thank Itziar and Pablo for an amazing time in Madrid. Their hospitality and friendship definitely played a huge part in the quick liking we took to Madrid.