Nine months living in Madrid, central capital: the perfect occasion to discover the city and the rest of the country.
Highs & Lows
Incredible energy in the streets: all tapas must be tasted !
The Christmas enlighntment and Christmas market are disappointing in Madrid...
So much things to say about the city ! I recommand walking in the streets of Malasaña or Lavapies, crossing the Plaza Mayor at 3 A.M. when just the lights are here and nobody else, going thought the Paseo of Atocha with all the Real Madrid supporters when the team wins the national campeon, entering the train station of the same name with a wonderful winter garden, visiting the Reina Sofia Museum in front of it, eating churros with chocolate of course and pescado frito at 10 AM in a small bar after shopping at The Rastro Market on sundays...
If you have more time, don't miss the cities of Toledo and Aranjuez : both are accessible by public transportation, and they present a great deal of historical monuments, monasteries, ancient royal palaces with peococks... Oh, speaking of peacocks, you can also spot some in the "Jardines de Cecilio Rodrigues" in the Parque del Retiro.
In order to make some zoom of a particular experience, my favourite place was the « Tabacalera ». It’s an amazing associative-cultural-center, self-managed by the inhabitants of the district, in an ancient tobacco fabric. There are paintings eveywhere, and you can have danse classes for free in a huge room -the salsa one attracts something like 50 people, come early if you want to see the teacher- or assist to batucada or balkan concert in a friendly atmosphere… Feel welcome !
Bilbao, highly recommended.. A cultural city with such a nice atmosphere with the river, the bars, the charming streets... There is the Guggenheim museum of course, but also some other interesting cultural centers.
Then backpacking in the Basque coast. It was in the end of November, but it was perfect weather: not too hot, not too cold, not too many people and the best part, the sun! We couldn’t swim in the ocean, but the view with the steeper and rocky cliffs was still worthing it. We stopped at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a tiny island stuck to the coast with only a high stair and a church on the top of it. You probably recognize it: it was used in the filming of the series Game of Thrones, where the magic of editing added a huge castle… The climbing is hard but worth it. Just a little shadow in the painting, even in this low season, there were still many people visiting.
To finish, before going back to Madrid, we walked in the national park of Urkiola, where we were hosted by a really welcoming Spanish family, through Couchsurfing : they offered us amazing fish for our first dinner in their place!
And now, the south of Spain! We went during a long weekend of May, with a holiday on Monday. We wanted to visit several villages but didn’t rent a car. Therefore, we had to do everything with autobus, and what I can say is that autobuses aren’t so frequent in Andalucia… Moreover, as it was during the weekend, the frequency was even reduced. So be careful to plan all your schedule accordingly: once we had to wait 4 hours in a village not so interesting, with all our bags… Oh and some trajects can be quite expensive too.
Anyway, now let’s speak about happier considerations! The city of Cadiz is amazing: you have to admire the sunset at the point of the bay and you definitely must walk up to the cupula of the cathedral, with a breathtaking view!
Then we move away from the city to discover the southern coast and the coastal village of Chiclana de la Frontera. We were hosted last minute by an Airbnb family, who happened to be in the middle of a family dinner/event. They insisted to have us taste their local specialties – boiled snails… Really welcoming atmosphere, but it was hard not to be rude, so we had to force us….
Then we reach Vejer de la Frontera by bus, one of the charming white villages of Andalucia. All of these villages are really exalting: paved streets, flowers everywhere, cats and cactus…
Then on our way back to Madrid, we stepped by Sevilla. It was the time of the famous Feria so we wanted to see it, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time. We didn’t know but the Feria isn’t everywhere in the streets: it is in a specific location a bit away from the city center, and in general, you have to know local inhabitants to be able to enter in the different « casitas »… However, the city remains magnificent, but we couldn’t find any host there because of the Feria.
Q & A
Anything go wrong during the trip?
Be careful about public transportation in Andalucia, especially during holidays weekends. You can do road-tripping between villages with autobuses, but you don't have to be in a hurry... Take some games with you!
Tips you would give a friend?
MADRID: Feel free to enter every place you feel attractive. For instance, we found ourselves playing music with strangers just because we saw their art boutique open in the middle of the night.
Welcoming couchsurfing hosts !