Madrid Summary

3 Nights: Friday 3/30 to Monday 4/2

My earlier post on the trip from Dallas to Madrid kinda covered our morning arrival in Madrid. Given that we were trying to stay up until later that night in order to combat jet lag, we spent most of Friday walking around just to get a sense of our neighborhood and the city in general.We mostly explored to the southeast, towards the train station, then up to the Prado museum and then back through the center to our neighborhood in Lavapiés. This map roughly shows some of our walking routes on Friday and Saturday. I didn’t record Sunday’s as it’s a little time consuming to do these by hand. Perhaps we’ll try to capture some GPS-based maps with one of our phones going forward.

As you can see on the above maps, we spent Saturday exploring more to the northwest. We also decided to swing by a couple of the more famous (and touristy) plazas, Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. We ran into much larger crowds than on Friday – I’m not sure if it was due to the locations or the fact that it was now the weekend. We continued west to the Palacio Real de Madrid and on to the Temple of Debod, an actual ancient Egyptian temple transported and reconstructed in the heart of Madrid! Overall, we really enjoyed spending time in the various scenic plazas and parks we encountered.

El Rastro

It goes on like this for blocks and blocks

On Sunday, we had to make sure to swing by the El Rastro outdoor market. It was a multiple-block, sprawling outdoor market with tons of crowds. In general, there seemed to be more interesting vendors a little off the main streets (e.g. more antiques vs. t-shirts). We then headed out east to the Parque del Retiro, which was impressively large and quite scenic. On our way there, we thought of spinning through the Prado, but saw that they had free hours from 5 to 7 and decided to try then. Turns out that was a mistake, since most of Madrid seems to have had the same idea. We’ll try some other time if we pass through Madrid again (which is likely, see below).

Finally, we got up insanely early on Monday morning (i.e. 6:00) since we wanted to be at the airport by 8:00 in order to check in for our flight to Lisbon. We had originally thought of working our way through northern Spain as we traveled west to Portugal, but in reality the route would have been too meandering. Also, the overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon takes 10 hours. In the end we did a little research and booked a quick (one hour) and relatively affordable ($150 pp) round-trip flight to Lisbon. We may end up preferring this option to overnight trains in general. As for travel in Spain, it looks like Madrid is a central hub, so we’ll probably be passing through at least a couple more times!

More Madrid Photos

See the links on our photo album page.

Madrid, Spain

Atocha Station –
Botanical gardens with
Turtles on turtles.

Turtles

Turtles inside Atocha Station. And know what's under those trees in the distance? Still more turtles!

 


Tapas so meaty…
Least vegetarian place?
Museum of ham!

Museo del Jamon

A wide variety of ham sandwiches are available here.

 


Madrid’s El Rastro –
Like Fremont’s Sunday market,
To the tenth power.

El Rastro

It goes on like this for blocks and blocks

El Rastro Stall

Just one of the many vendors

 


Adiós, Prado.
Your free entry line’s too long.
Perhaps we’ll return.

Prado Line

Line to get into the Prado during free hours

 

Dallas to Madrid

Jet Lag, or Attempted Avoidance Thereof

Sunset over the US

My main concern in going from Dallas to Madrid was to try and avoid any major jet lag issues. The trip had us leaving Dallas at 12:55 in the afternoon for a three hour flight to Philadelphia for a one hour layover, and then an almost eight hour flight to Madrid. In terms of Texas time, we were up at 6:30 AM, arrived in Philadelphia at 4:00 PM then arrived in Madrid at 12:25, just after midnight Texas time, or 8:25 Friday morning in Madrid, just in time to start the day!

Sunrise over Europe

I was able to get some amount of sleep on the Madrid flight (between 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM Texas time), though this kind of thing is harder for Donna. For the first day, we forced ourselves to stay up until ~9:00 PM, which was kind of tough. We kind of woke up around 3:00 AM, but managed to sleep in until ~8:00 AM. The next day went pretty smoothly, and we were able to stay up until almost 11:00 PM (maybe kinda lame by Madrid standards, based on the number of people we overheard entering the apartment building through the night). Today is the third day and we were up by 8:00, but we have an early flight to Lisbon tomorrow, so we’ll likely have another early night. Overall though, I think we’ve managed to not have any significant jet lag issues!

Arrival in Madrid

Madrid Metro: Airport to near apartment

We arrived at the Madrid Barajas airport (MAD) Friday morning. It turns out that my concerns about getting through immigration were useless, as the official simply stamped our passports with no questions asked. Next, we hiked to the opposite end of the airport to get to the Metro station. To get to our apartment near the Lavapiés station, we needed to  make two Metro transfers and expected an almost hour-long trip. Overall, the Madrid Metro experience was quite positive – the stations and trains were modern and clean, and the Madrideleños were unthreatening and apparently hyper fashion conscious. Donna wanted to buy the shoes of ~75% of the people we saw on the Metro.

Our Apartment

We had no problem finding the apartment we booked through AirBnB.com. We arrived 15 minutes ahead of our planned meeting time of 10:15 but the host was not around yet. At 10:15, when we still didn’t see her, I tried using a pay-phone to give her a call (I later got a Spanish SIM for my Samsung Focus). Unfortunately, it took me almost 10 minutes to figure out how to use the phone and actually make the call, by which time she was already waiting for us.

Our apartment ended up being perfect for us! The location in central Madrid was great, and despite being a bit cozy, it had everything we needed, including a stocked kitchen, washing machine and a funky loft bed.

Donna in our Madrid Apartment

The espresso maker came in handy! So did the Internet for researching how to use it...