Goodbye to the Decade | My 2015 Trip to Madrid and Going Somewhere You Never Expected

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This post is part 6 of my 10-week retrospective looking back at a specific trip from each year of the 2010s. Read more about the series here. Today I’m talking about my 2015 trip to Madrid, Spain. Previous editions of this series include

A few years before the start of the 2010s I went on my first foray to Europe. It was a group tour with a few solo days in London beforehand. Though I have regrets about picking the particular tour I did (just because it was insanely fast-paced; 10 countries in 9 days) I don’t regret going. It was the first time I’d travelled alone (for a few days in London, but you gotta start somewhere) and being an introvert the group tour aspect (where I didn’t know anyone beforehand) forced me to get out of my comfort zone a bit. On the trip, our tour guide mentioned some “fact” (likely made up or exaggerated to get you to spend money on the extra options on your “trip of a lifetime”) that most people outside of Europe only visit Europe once.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know this statistic isn’t true for me (I lived in Ireland for almost two years and visited several countries during that time). Before October 2015 however that whole “not visiting Europe more than once” statistic was true for me. I’d done to the US, around Canada, and Mexico, but not back to Europe since that group tour. Then in 2015, I found a flight deal to Europe. There were several cities and countries to pick from. Should I go to Athens? Maybe Prague? Or Sofia? Ultimately I decided on a trip to Madrid. I’d be there for about a week in October, and then have a couple of days in Helsinki (with a layover in Zurich in between) and another layover in Frankfurt on the way back. For this post though I’m going to focus on the Madrid part of the trip.

I had always wanted to go to Barcelona, and I’d never turn down a trip to Spain in general (it looked like a fascinating country), but Madrid wasn’t a city on my radar. It wasn’t that I was actively avoiding Madrid or had anything against it, but it was just not a city I ever considered visiting. It wasn’t on my Bucket List or Travel Wish List or whatever you want to say. And that’s a good thing because had zero expectations when it came to Madrid. I knew it was the capital of Spain. I knew you could get tapas there (and free food while your drinking some wine sounded like a good idea to me). That was pretty much it. And even though when I booked my flights (about $530 CAD, which is a pretty deal from where I live) I didn’t know much about Madrid I started researching some of the things to see and do, and where to stay. Soon enough I was excited to go to this city I never expected to visit.

People sitting at tables and chairs outside of a cafe in Madrid, Spain.

One thing I love about Madrid (and many places in Europe) is the cafe culture, sitting outside with a coffee at a cafe in a plaza or square.

I really enjoyed Madrid. I stayed in a guesthouse in Chueca and loved the lively energy and vibe of Madrid. New York is said to be the city that never sleeps, but I think Madrid might give NYC a run for its money. I remember seeing people outside at the cafes in the plazas at 11 pm having dinner and drinks. I ate lots of jamón ibérico and many tapas and drank some delicious wine. I wandered through some nice parks. I saw the Royal Palace and visited some amazing art museums (including taking a fascinating tour of the Prado Museum led by an art historian). I went on a tour where I got to learn about Flamenco music and dancing (and saw a Flamenco show). I got to see an Egyptian Temple (the only legit one outside of Egypt). Even just wandering through the streets and admiring the architecture (as someone with no knowledge of architecture) or visiting the local markets was enjoyable.

close up of a series of balconies on a building in Madrid, Spain.

What style of architecture is this? I have no idea, but I loved the buildings in Madrid. I took s many photos of just random buildings, including this close-up of some balconies.

The only downside to my trip was that I got sick for a couple of days at the end of my time in Madrid. I’d been debating taking a day trip to Toledo, Spain (not Ohio) or somewhere else (I even thought about going to Barcelona for a bit, but I knew I’d want more time there). When I got sick I just had to stay in my room (after a visit to a pharmacist where I used the power of Google translate to get some medicine). It’s never fun being sick when you travel. Luckily the sickness subsided by the time I was at the airport waiting to board my flight to Zurich.

People boating on the lake at El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain.

El Retiro Par was really nice to wander through in Madrid. I always like visiting city parks.

When people ask me where I want to travel or what my next trip is, it always feels like a loaded question. I can tell you all of the places I want to visit (and there’s a lot and the list is always growing), but just because I don’t mention a place doesn’t mean I won’t go there, or won’t like it if I do visit. Madrid was a city not on my travel wish list and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s great to go somewhere random and unexpected (I mean I booked the trip several months in advance so I had enough time to figure out some things to do). And since my visit, I know Madrid is a city I could visit again, and there’s a lot more to Spain that I would like to see.

So I encourage you to go somewhere you didn’t expect to visit, because the results can be pretty spectacular.

Things You Should Know
While in Madrid I stayed at the Huespedes Dolce Vita Hostel in a single private room with a balcony. There was a shared bathroom, free breakfast, and free WiFi. The hostel was in the LGBT friendly Chueca neighbourhood and was a 5-minute walk to the Chueca Metro station. If you’re looking for a private room in Madrid at a decent price (I paid about $25 for my room/night when I stayed), I highly recommend this hostel.
Of course, there are other great hotels in Madrid you can book here.

Check Out Some More Posts About Madrid on Take Me to the World

Have you ever travelled to somewhere you didn’t expect to visit?