It has been a long time coming. For all of us. Around 18 months where life changed beyond belief. Travelling has been a huge part of my life for many years. It’s what I work for; as well as paying the bills etc of course. I hadn’t realised how much I missed it.
Everyone has had different challenges and struggles as a result of covid and it’s consequences. Travel was so easy before and I guess we took that ease for granted. So grateful to experience some normality. Even if there are a few more forms and admin involved, and we have to wear face masks in some places.
I don’t ever remember being this excited to get on a plane and I’m so grateful to have made it to Madrid, the starting point for a wine tasting and walking tour through Spain and Portugal!
Live life to the fullest because you only get to live it once.
Wandering through the park in the sunshine listening to this guy playing his music, made me so grateful to be lucky enough to see and experience new things again!
Spain’s capital city, full of shopping streets, parks, art and wonderful little streets to wander around.
I stayed in Hotel Ganivet on Calle de Toledo. A nice neighbourhood with plenty of local tapas bars around and some nice little back streets off the main road. It’s a central location that’s relatively near to the main sites without being too in the centre of it all.
Below map shows the hotel, a good walking route to see some key sites on the orange route. And the orange highlights on the right showing some of the other main places you can visit.
The hotel also has a very tiny pool on the roof. Very cold but great for cooling off, and a sun trap of a roof terrace with a few sunbeds and chairs if you want some sunny chill out time!
Things to see
There are many so I’ll just touch briefly on a few key ones from my perspective.
Cathedral de la Almudena is beautiful, in a classical style. The palace is just opposite and next to a great view overlooking the gardens.
There are many beautiful buildings and it’s great for viewing different architecture. And everything looks better with a blue sky!
There are many horse statues all around the city. Legend has it that they used to belong in the Palace. One night the queen had a nightmare that all the statues fell down and smashed and killed many people. Since then they were dispersed around the city,
There are a few parks and gardens also worth a visit. And the Egyptian Temple of Debod. An Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. Transported to Spain and donated by the Egyptian government to save it from flooding. Though it does look slightly odd in the middle of Madrid, you can catch a great sunset there.
Plaza Mayor is the Main square in Madrid. Full of lots of good restaurants out in the square and some pretty buildings and arches.
Not far from here you can find the Bear statue eating from the strawberry tree. It represents the coat of arms of the city. Touching the bears tail or foot is supposed to bring good luck.
Food and drink
I thoroughly recommend restaurant Gustos in Plaza Mayor. Paella is the speciality and I can confirm the seafood paella is delicious! Went down very nicely with a lovely bottle of Albariño.
There are many delicious tapas bars and I’ve had some great calamari, tortilla and patatas bravas to name a few. Everywhere I ate portions were generous so no need to order too much.
There’s also Mercado de San Miguel, a trendy food market selling very nice tapas with a twist. Maybe a little overpriced but good food and a nice alternative if you’re looking for something a bit different.
As well as paella another local dish is huevos rotas. It means broken eggs and usually comes with chorizo or ham. Essentially it’s ham, egg and chips, but the Spanish version!
The Practical Stuff
Tap water is safe to drink and you can ask for it in restaurants, ask for ‘agua del grifo’. Madrid’s water is supposed to be the best tasting in the whole of Spain and I can confirm it is the nicest of what I’ve tasted so far.
Currency is Euro and most places now accept cards since covid, similar to the UK. Carry a little cash for tips etc.
As ever I still recommend a Starling bank card for good exchange rates and ease of use on the app. https://www.starlingbank.com/ Always select payment in Euro’s not £’s so you get Starlings exchange rates not the local ones. Works out cheaper! Revolut is also a great card. https://www.revolut.com/cards
The thing that annoyed me the most was having to go through the non EU queue in the airport. Still sad and angry about Brexit but something we need to accept and live with I guess. And I appreciate different opinions and views on it, that’s just mine for what it’s worth.
To get into Spain currently (September 2021), if you’re double vaccinated you just need to show your certificate. Download a pdf to your phone from the NHS app, just make sure it’s in date as they only last a month each time you open the app currently from England.
I’m heading through Spain to Portugal, where you can cross the border. Currently, but things change so frequently please check latest FCO rules, you need an antigen test prior to leaving Spain for the UK, and a pre-booked day 2 PCR. You need the code to complete the passenger locator form to get back into the UK. But I understand testing rules are due to change in early October. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain
I also had to fill in a form on the Spanish travel website, link is on the FCO page, to get into Spain. It’s within 48 hours of travel and you’ll need your seat number on the plane. Once you get confirmation your documents are correct you can try to download your boarding pass. Many people for flights to Spain have to collect it in the airport so check in staff can verbally ask if you have the covid certificate and Spanish passenger form, though dependent on airline. And again, probably out of date by the time I’ve finished typing given how frequently everything changes!
Happy travelling! Take care and of course stay safe!