spain travel report
This is probably old news by now, but the husband and I recently took a vacation to Spain for our 10-year anniversary (geeeez that makes me feel old!). I’ve been posting about it like crazy on instagram, but we had such an amazing time that I wanted to tell you all about it – and of course, post all the photos that haven’t made it to the ‘gram yet!
So why Spain? Why not? One of our friends was there last year for work and loved it, and it’s fairly reasonable as far as overseas-travel cost goes. Also I had about 6 years of Spanish from middle school through college, and we sort of wanted to go somewhere that at least one of us spoke the language. That turned out not to be much of an issue – most of the people we met spoke English, maybe Americans really are the only people who don’t learn multiple languages – but it did at least cut out a potential source of stress.
Day 1 & 2 – Louisville -> Madrid
Our first day of vacation almost doesn’t even count, since it was all travel anyway. We don’t live near any international hubs, so we had a short hop from Louisville to Atlanta, and from there straight into Madrid. Well, straight into Madrid after eight and a half hours. Luckily we’d gotten the ‘comfort’ seats (the ones where you can just barely see what you’re missing in first class) so it wasn’t awful. I’m usually not too picky about my plane seats; I’m 5’2″, so it’s not like I need a ton of legroom or anything. My husband is a foot taller than me though, so a little bit of extra room seemed like a good idea for that long of a flight. The way the time differences worked out we got into Madrid a little after 8AM local time, so we tried to sleep on the plane as much as possible (with so-so success).
Once we landed getting out of the airport was a breeze. There’s a metro station in Terminal 2, so we hiked over there and bought our 7-day tourist passes at the kiosk. (Side note: we had read conflicting info online about whether American credit cards would be an issue since they’re chip & signature instead of the chip & PIN technology that most of Europe uses, but we didn’t run into any problems with that.) Luckily the Madrid metro has a really easy-to-read map and great signage in the stations, so we were able to hop on the train and get out almost right in front of our hotel in about 30 minutes. Naturally the very first thing I did was demagnetize my metro card by putting it in the front pocket of my purse, which has a magnet closure. My high-school Spanish came in pretty handy when I needed to get it replaced.
The hotel, by the way, was gorgeous. We stayed at the Hotel Atlántico on Gran Vía, which is one of the main commercial areas in Madrid. There are two metro stops within a couple minutes’ walking distance, and restaurants, theaters and shops galore. The reception staff were great, and we were able to leave our luggage with them until it was time for check-in, since we got there so early. Free wifi was a huge perk since AT&T international plans only have a tiny bit of data (seriously, 300MB) and the free printing in the business center was handy when we had to print out tickets for a concert and for our train to Valencia.
The building itself is beautiful, and we had a room with a balcony facing Gran Vía. I would have expected that to be loud since there’s so much noise outside, but I guess the doors & windows are pretty well-insulated. The rooms are small compared to what I’m used to, but had everything we needed – mini bar, hair dryers, clothes iron, toiletries, etc. There was even a vanity table/desk that I promptly took over as my temporary makeup station. All in all it was a fantastic base of operations for the trip.
After a quick stop for breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien down the street it was time for…. a nap. I know that’s super boring, but my internal clock had gone all sideways from the time change and I get cranky when I’m tired (I’m a toddler at heart, I guess). After that we wandered over to El Retiro Park to wander around, and also spent some time just roaming around the city.
Fair warning, I don’t even come close to remembering all the restaurants we went to, but Taberna El Sur stands out because the food was amazing. We had the ropa vieja and a chicken curry to share and both were excellent. While we’re on the topic, here are some interesting/possibly useful things I noticed about eating in Spain:
- Most of the restaurants we ate at were extremely small. As in, size of my living room small. It can seem kind of cramped if you’re used to restaurants with tons of elbow room. Interestingly enough we never had to wait for a table. Not sure if that’s because we eat abnormally early or if it’s just that there are so. many. options. to choose from. Seriously, you will never run out of places to eat.
- Unlike the US, you don’t automatically get water with your meal. You’ll need to order it and it will probably be bottled (translation: not free). That’s not a good thing or bad thing, it just is.
- Yelp is normally our go-to review site for restaurants, but it seems not very many people use it in Spain because most restaurants only have a few reviews, if they have any at all. We had much better luck with TripAdvisor. FYI.
Aaaaand this post is getting way longer than I expected, so stay tuned for the next installment with all the sight-seeing, and our side trip to Valencia!