A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

When a cheeky night becomes a cheeky weekend

Madrid

sunny 25 °C
View Madrid on kmmk17's travel map.


After a successful trip to Italy in the summer, Fara and I were off for another adventure - this time to the capital of Spain, Madrid.

Although having been to Spain several times before, I had never been to the capital, and with friends in the city as well as some good flight times, it was a perfect destination for a weekend getaway in the autumn.

We had booked ourselves an early flight out on Saturday and a late flight back on Sunday, giving us almost two solid days in the city, despite it being just one night away. And with the second biggest metro system in Europe, after the stress of Central Asia, Madrid was simple to get around and wouldn't take us too long to see everything we wanted.

Arriving in Madrid by 10am, we cleared the airport and headed to the hotel to drop our bits before exploring the city. The hotel was even closer to the metro than we had expected and after grabbing some snacks at the supermarket next door, we found that our room was already ready for us, and so checked in and dropped the bags.

Puerta Del Sol

Puerta Del Sol

Our first sight was Puerta del Sol, the very heart of Madrid, and from where all distances in Spain are counted from before continuing towards Plaza Mayor - the main city square built by Philip II.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor


Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Heading through the Old City streets we then arrived at the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral, in the heart of Royal Madrid. After going inside the cathedral at the end of mass and taking photos of the nuns, we watched the changing of the guard outside the Palace's eastern entrance before heading past the Opera house and to Gran Via for some shopping and food.

Tapas Night

Tapas Night

After a busy morning we headed back to the hotel for some rest as this evening we would be meeting up with some of my friends. Having been part of the Erasmus programme, during my time in Germany I made lots of friends across the world. Laura, whom I had met up with earlier in the year was from Madrid, and in addition, Teresa from Granada was now living near the capital.

Coincidentally, Marianna from Greece was also in Madrid this very weekend, and so we all met up at Sol on the Saturday evening to catch up and enjoy some drinks and Tapas at a festival taking place this weekend. Meeting more Spanish people we had an enjoyable evening catching up before Fara and I headed back to the hotel for a well earned sleep after an incredibly long day.

Cibeles

Cibeles

Enjoying a very long lie in, the following day we left our luggage at the hotel and headed to Plaza de Colón, the square dedicated to Christopher Colombus, before walking down to Cibeles and then Puerta de Alcalá and the Retiro park, where we would be joined again by Laura and Marianna.

Retiro

Retiro

With Madrid experiencing an exception 25˚C, the park was incredibly busy with city residents and we had an enjoyable time walking around the lakes and gardens before saying goodbye to Laura.

Inside Retiro

Inside Retiro

We then headed back towards Sol, and after saying goodbye to Marianna, Fara and I had dinner before heading back to the hotel to grab our bits and finally the airport for our flight home - or so we thought.

Eventually getting through the incredibly long security queue, we found our flight had been delayed by 45 minutes - ok, nothing to worry about we thought. When this was extended to 75 minutes we had a gate change but everything appeared to be going well - we boarded the plane and were greeted by a less than enthusiastic Agatha, who despite appearing to be able to provide any assistance, when asked for help smiled and stepped backwards. The captain then told us that because of bad weather and landing restrictions back in Luton, we would have an 80 minute delay - in addition to the 75 minutes we'd already experienced, but they would see if they could bring it forward. Not great when it was already getting on for 11pm, but at least Agatha came around with some cups of water - even if we did have to practically wrestle her for them.

Delayed again

Delayed again

Nevertheless we waited, and after an hour we were told they hadn't been able to bring it forwards and therefore because of working hour limits, we couldn't be taken home. Great. Now we had to unbuckle, get on the airport bus, and go back through immigration, where we found a timid Spanish easyJet employee stood in the corner providing little information. With it now getting on for midnight, the plane load of people were of course quite agitated. And with her not giving out any information in English we had to rely on Spaniards translating to let us know our flight was delayed until 10:55 the following morning. Great. There goes me starting work at 8:30....

Eventually she stood on a baggage reclaim belt and announced she would tell us the information in Spanish and then English. After 10 minutes of a question and answer session in Spanish, she eventually started telling us we had a hotel. However by this point the black man next to us had become so irate he shouted at her asking how he was supposed to get his duty free back through security and how his poor wife could go to her job interview the following morning (although why she was fluting back from holiday in Madrid late the night before is another question...). Meanwhile, a Chinese man was filming the whole scene, and when she asked him to stop as it was not allowed, he replied "I know" and then continued to chase around the room; leaving the rest of us not knowing what was going on.

Eventually we were informed that we'd be getting on a coach to take us to the hotel. Hoping that the speedy boarding policy was no longer in operation, we boarded the coach and were taken to a lovely 5* Marriott Hotel for the night and provided with food and breakfast the following morning. Although as it was now 2am, it was just an hour per star of the hotel. Had they simply cancelled the flight at the first delay we could have at least rested that night.

The next morning we were taken back to the airport, and with the same seating and same passengers, given a new crew who would take us home. Arriving just after 12, I was so determined/stubborn (delete as applicable) that I would go to work - as I should have been there this morning that I then drove straight from the airport to Hemel, despite still being in yesterday's clothes (including underwear) and with none of my work bits, including door pass in order to prove my point. What a miserable end to a lovely trip....but Madrid was nice at least.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged park palace city friends erasmus Comments (0)

The Rain in Spain...

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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After an afternoon in Andorra I headed back on the bus through Catalonia and arrived back by early evening in Barcelona.

Having been to Barcelona once before I was a little unsure if the city would entertain me. However as this had been a day trip over ten years ago I was proved wrong. There was more than enough to keep me occupied.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

I started my adventures in Barcelona by heading out to see the Sagrada Familia by night, which was nicely lit up, before heading back towards my hotel via the promenade and the ViennaSphere. However it was back at the hotel that the real adventures would happen - getting into my bathroom!

Unfortunately the bathroom lock had jammed, and as I got out the shower I found I had trouble getting back into the room. However with a little tug it was fine. I opened the window and to prevent a draft I closed the door. Going back 15 minutes later to open it I again had problems getting in. However no matter how hard I tried the door simply wouldn't open. Having to put my clothes back on I went back to the reception where the guy came back and tried to open.

Coming back after finding a ruler to try and use to open the door, he eventually resigned to the fact he "had no tools" and the mechanic wasn't coming back until tomorrow. This was fine, but how was I supposed to go to the toilet tonight? Well luckily there was a toilet opposite the room so that wasn't anything to worry about - before he left he gave one final tug and it miraculously opened. "Phew" I thought - so I quickly put my shoes in the way so that the door wouldn't slam shut again.

View over Barcelona

View over Barcelona

The next day I got up, gave the eclipse a miss due to the cloud, and placed the chair in front of the door to keep it open. I then headed out towards the old city, taking a walk past the cathedral and buying some souvenirs before taking the funicular up to the Montjuïc hill.

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Inside the Olympic Stadium


Olympic Park

Olympic Park

From the hill there are some great views of the city, and this is also where the Olympic Park from 1992 is located. I walked around, going in the Olympic Stadium before heading down the hill to Plaça d'Espanya, with its monumental gates - gaining a great view from the roof of the former Bullring, which is now a huge shopping centre.

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya


Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

After this I headed off to visit some of Gaudí Barcelona - stopping off at the Casas Batlló and Milà before heading back to the Sagrada Familía. I would today be entering and had intended to go up the towers. However due to the horrendously windy weather this wasn't possible. I therefore just made do with witnessing the massive construction from the ground.

Stained Glass inside the Sagrada Familia

Stained Glass inside the Sagrada Familia


Inside the Sagrada Familia

Inside the Sagrada Familia

After having dinner I then headed out to the last stops for the day, heading out from the Arc de Triomf and heading south through the park to the beach, where there were huge waves, showing just how windy it was today.

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

Going back to the hotel I found that the maid had moved the chair and closed the bathroom door again!! I now had to head back to reception and the fiasco continued, Luckily the mechanic was still there and so he came to fix my door.

With the WiFi also dead, I headed back out to McDonalds to use some quick WiFi when it had began to rain before going to bed for the last day of the trip.

Park Güell

Park Güell

The next morning was again pretty miserable weather wise, but as I had just one more place to visit I couldn't complain too much. I headed out of the city to Park Güell which is the best place to witness Gaudí architecture. Usually there are impressive views of the city too, but unfortunately this wasn't really to be seen.

And this is where my return to the city ended. It had been very interesting and surprisingly busy time and there is much to see in the city. If the weather had been great it would have been the icing on the cake, but even without that it was still a great time!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture church city hill olympic Comments (0)

Views of Africa

Strait of Gibraltar - Tarifa

sunny 21 °C
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After booking it just a week before, I flew to Gibraltar for a three day holiday, including a visit to Morocco.

Flying out of the Saturday morning I arrived at Gibraltar airport, and took a quick look around the centre of the town before crossing the border into Spain without even stopping to show my passport and making my way over to the windy town of Tarifa - the southernmost point on mainland Europe, and where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic and there are superb views of Africa across the strait.

Southernmost Point in Europe

Southernmost Point in Europe


Views of Africa

Views of Africa

It was here that I stayed the night in a cute little hotel inside the city walls, before taking the ferry over the following morning to Tangier in Morocco. However this was when I first realised the annoyingness of Spanish time. Being in Central European Summer Time, despite being 5˚ WEST of Greenwich meant that the sun reached its highest point (ideally noon) at 2:20pm. It did not get fully dark until gone 10pm at night, and yet at 8am it was still dark! Not ideal when you are trying to take an early night before an early start the next morning!!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged sea gibraltar Comments (0)

Party Time

Espain - Granada

sunny 17 °C
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Beneficio

Beneficio

On our last full day we went to the Alpujarra region on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, where we walked from the village of Bubión to Pampaneira. We then took a coach to the hippy village of Beneficio. After making our way back to Granada via the town of Lanjarón, I packed my things before meeting with Teresa for a final drink before saying goodbye - what she did not know what that it was in fact a coup into a surprise birthday party - part of which being that her birthday was in fact at the beginning of September.

Party time

Party time

After initially not wanting to meet due to tiredness, she made it 45 minutes late to find many of her friends waiting for her. Meeting many of her friends as well as foreign exchange students in the club, I stayed for many hours partying, until it again reached 4am, when I made the journey back to the hotel for the last time, where our coach was due to pick us up at 7:45am.

All in all I can say Granada is a very interesting city with its history and entertainment. Visiting the nearby areas was also of great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip - particularly with the opportunity to meet up with some great Erasmus friends!I am now back working on university assignments, before I will make a return visit to Bremen in a week and a half for my last trip abroad this year.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged hill party erasmus espain Comments (0)

Spanish Omelette

Espain - El Ejido

sunny 18 °C
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Ecological Farm

Ecological Farm

On our fifth day we took the long trip to El Ejido, and first visited a farm to see how ecological techniques can take place, before visiting the site of the worst race riots in Europe - a bit of an anticlimax when the only thing we saw was an African man shouting that he loves English girls. We then went to a fancy restaurant, where we walked in, sat down and grabbed a menu before being greeted. Saman's Spanish also came back as she exclaimed she wanted a Spanish Omelette. However when the waiter who spoke no English pointed to Tortilla de Patatas, she again shouted "I want a Spanish Omelette"....only to realise that this was in fact what she had wanted in the first place, whilst the waited was nervously looking for an English menu.

With my Señoritas

With my Señoritas

In the evening I again met up with my Señoritas, and was joined by Laura who had come from Madrid for a few days, and we spent some hours drinking at Teresa's house, before going to a club beneath the city's bull ring - in a complete reversal from the 8pm bed time I had taken on the first night, I arrived back at the hotel at 4am to find that I had no idea how to get back in. Waiting for 5 minutes whilst needing a wee outside the locked door, I finally realised the sign in broken English was telling me to clamber around the corner between a bollard and a parked car and place my hand through a fence to ring a bell. Nevertheless, I eventually made it to bed safe and sound!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged farm language uni erasmus espain Comments (0)

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