Madrid Pt. 1 – Not All Those Who Wander are Lost

I tried my best to put my trip to Madrid into words. This account, however, doesn’t quite do it justice. It would have taken me much longer to capture everything that had happened and to explain what it was really like. What follows is just the facts I managed to compile of what I did, split into two parts, one for each day I was there.

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I had no idea what to expect from this city and, in fact, had almost nothing planned when I left.

I figured I would just wing it and it would all go smoothly. At least Sarah would be there too and she had a friend who we could stay with so I wouldn’t have to pay for a hostel. But, things don’t always go as planned.

Two nights before leaving I found out that Sarah’s friend didn’t have room for me to stay as well. No big deal. I shouldn’t have counted on it on such short notice anyway. So I booked a cheap hostel.

Friday morning I woke up at 2am to go to the bus stop and catch my flight at 6:30. The bus arrived right on time at 3am. However it was more of a van than a bus. I rode with a vehicle full of strangers for a quiet hour long ride. It actually was kind of peaceful riding as I watched the sunrise out the window.

I got on my flight almost without issue. When they were checking boarding passes right before boarding I was told that I should’ve gone to a desk to get some stamp on my pass because I didn’t have an EU passport. The man pointed this out to me in the fine print on the boarding pass. But then he scribbled something on my pass saying it was fine and waved me through.

When I landed in Madrid I sent a message to Sarah to let her know I made it. This was when she informed me that she was actually no longer coming to Spain because her toothache that she had all week had gotten much worse last night. Ok I guess I’ll be on my own then.

Of course I was disappointed at this news because I wouldn’t have even gone if I didn’t know anyone else who would be in Madrid. But in the end I realized there wasn’t much she could do if the tooth pain was that bad. I had no other choice but to embrace my journey completely solo.

After a bit of struggling to figure out the train and subway routes, I finally made it to my hostel. The subway was actually pretty simple once I knew the routes I needed. Luckily London had prepared me for subway travel.

I locked my backpack in a locker at the hostel and then headed straight into Madrid. Plaza Mayor was first on my list (and I think the only thing on my list). Plaza mayor is a huge square in the middle of town with shops and restaurants all along the border.

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Plaza Mayor

Then I visited the Almudena Cathedral. Following this I walked between the cathedral and the royal palace and sat on the cathedral’s steps. I listened to a street performer play Por Ti Volare on the violin and yeah, go ahead and laugh, but I almost cried at the sound of it. It was just such a strangely beautiful moment as I sat there in the sun taking everything in all at once. It felt like one of those very surreal dreams and that I would wake up soon and say, “Wow, how weird would it be if I actually had gone to Spain?” But this was actually real.

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Almudena Cathedral
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One of the doors to the Cathedral
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Inside the Cathedral
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Close up of Mary
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The Royal Palace

Then I found a bar and got some cheap beer and tapas.

After walking around for a bit I heard some music playing nearby. A band was singing back in black by AC/DC. I followed the sound and ended up at a small plaza in front of a concert stage. Unfortunately they weren’t playing yet but just warming up. I sat and waited and heard some other djs play a couple warmup songs. Eventually I left when I realized it didn’t actually start until ten.

I decided to look for a flamenco bar so I could sit and listen to music there instead. I put directions for one into my phone and followed them to…nothing. The bar didn’t seem to exist where my phone said it did. As I walked away from the street I noticed a small bookshop that had books in English displayed outside. I couldn’t believe I found an English bookshop. I had been looking for a new book to read but every place I had seen in Madrid only had Spanish books.

So I went inside. It was very cozy and already had people standing around and actually talking to each other. I browsed the nearest shelf, but before even a minute had passed a girl in the back handing out drinks asked if I wanted a mint julep. I hesitated, having been offered “free” bottles of wine on Brick Lane in London before (of course there’s never any free wine), but they insisted so I took it gratefully. I began to talk to the others in the shop and met some really cool people from England and America. They were all such kind people and most of the British girls were from a group called Shakespeare and co. and we’re using this bookshop as a kind of meeting place for a low key party which I just happened to wander into.

I wasn’t the only American who happened upon it however. I also met two girls from an east coast school and a guy from Texas who had just graduated high school. It was awesome meeting all these people and just talking about random books and what we were studying and so on.

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Then one on the British girls played her guitar and sang for us. I hope she doesn’t mind, but I was enjoying it so much I just had to take some bootleg footage which you can see below.

For a better quality recording, here is my favorite song she preformed called “Nightbird” on Vimeo.

Finally, I said goodnight to the people I met and headed back to the hostel for a night of very humid, sweaty sleep.

Article by Mike Brichta

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