Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Madrid Day Trip - Spain (Part 1)

I arrive pretty early in Madrid and I spend the morning taking my time at the central station and made a good use of their free Wi-Fi service and their clean restroom to prepare for the day. From the train station, I went out and go down one level to their underground metro stop. I bought a ticket for a 10-trip Metrobus pass worth EUR 12.20. I then took a metro to Gran Via, the main street of Madrid bustling area that is the center of the Spanish capital. Gran Via is filled with many shops, offices, hotel and entertainment pitstops as well as public squares and historical landmarks. It was a good place to start the day. I arrive at about 9 a.m. and the street is already busy, with tourist and locals alike walking along the road.

As this is my first stop and I was still not ready to start the day yet, I decided to stop at McDonald’s which is funnily the first thing I saw once I climbed the stairs out of the metro station. I know that it is a waste of an opportunity to try out some notable local breakfast but McDonald’s is pretty much everyone’s best bet anytime you’re looking for familiar food and free WiFi. I also found something unique about McDonald’s in Spain which is the fact that they serve beer all day! Of course, I did /not/ have the beer — it was too early anyway and bought a cup of coffee and McMuffin instead.

After I got pretty full and my phone battery is now charged, I decide to stroll along the Gran Via and to Plaza Mayor. It was a Black Friday weekend when I got there and many people were lining up in front of shops despite the morning being rainy. I was not interested in buying anything despite I did take a curious peek at the Real Madrid store.

Confused about where to go next, I made a stop at Madrid Tourism Office in which the lady recommended me to take a visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid that is only a couple block away. From the Plaza I take a walk downwards through the Congreso de Los Diputados, Museo del Prado, the Goya statue, and got pretty much lost until I found a lot of people walking towards a building behind the Museo del Prado (the reason that I did not visit the Museo del Prado is because the crazy entrance line to enter the museum). Turns out it was a church that is holding a service. I thought it was like a public landmark but instead, I walked in the middle of a solemnly praying crowd. Awkward.

After a quick lunch nearby the said church I took the bus to the Opera stop that is also near to the Royal Palace of Madrid. The rain has stopped pouring and so I decide to walk around the Opera building and continued to walk to the Royal Palace that passes beautiful little garden of the Palace. Again, as I decided not to spend money to enter the Palace, I only look through the front gate of the Palace for a sight of the grand building.

I took another step into the metro and visited Retiro Park or Parquez del Retiro as it is close to Madrid Puerta de Atocha station so that it'll be convenient to go to the station for my night train to Barcelona. The huge park was super beautiful. The botanical garden, the serene lake, the little architectural space here and there. It was a nice walk in the park and as the park itself is very large, there's no huge crowd wandering around. One unique experience here is that I joined a church choir to sing a hymn, in Spanish, in the middle of the park. They were handing out music sheets as the group sing and people were joining so I think -- why not? Spent a couple minutes harmonizing with them while learning how to read in Spanish. Definitely something different indeed but it was unfortunate that we were disrupted as the rain began to fall. I said my goodbye to the joyous choral group.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Atocha station as I wait for my train to Barcelona. I bought the ticket last minute in my oh-so-typical-fashion but still got a nice spot on the Renfe train from Madrid Puerta de Atocha to Barcelona Sants for about three-hour train ride. I was really happy that I got a lot of things checked from my day trip to Madrid. Cannot wait to see what Barcelona has to offer. So far Spain has really really left an amazing impression!

P.S. I just shared my travel tip to GoEuro alongside with four other female solo travelers. Check out the 5 Female Solo Travel Tips for some motivation, inspiration, and guide to your future travels!