It’s rare that I need an excuse to travel, however when I priced up flights back from my New Year break in Lanzarote I was left with no choice but to spend a bit of time in Madrid on the way back. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.
In all seriousness though, my options were a €300 flight to Bilbao or an €80 one to Madrid. A no-brainer! The downside to the 80 quid job was that I had to fly with Ryanair; no business class flights this time!
I arrived at my accommodation in the city around 10pm and was instantly faced with the offer of a bar crawl organised by the hostel. I wasn’t willing to break my ‘Dry January’ vow on January 2nd so instead headed out for some Thai food and was tucked up in bed for midnight.
After a cracking 10 hours sleep I headed to a nearby cafe and did my usual Googling before putting together a loose plan for the day. It seemed pretty much everything worth seeing in Madrid was a Plaza, so I was grateful for having my Kindle with me as I anticipated a lot of sitting around and drinking coffee!
I’d opted to skip the standard cafe breakfast in order of something more interesting and headed for Freiduria De Gallinejas thanks to Google. As per usual I was keen to try the local delicacies and this place kept popping up for its gallinejas and entresijos – deep fried lamb guts to you and I!
I initially ordered a portion of each but the guy told me two pieces of each would be enough for one person – I decided to take his word for it. My food arrived straight out of the frier just a few moments later and…well, see for yourself.
Appearance aside, they tasted sort of like a hot pork scratching. A very chewy, squishy, hot pork scratching. They probably go well with beer. For what it’s worth, the sort of tube-y one on the left was better.
Stomach full, I made my way back towards what seemed like a huge concentration of plazas. I accidentally took in the Puerto de Toledo on the way too, so I guess you could say it was a case of two birds with one stone.
Next on my whistle-stop tour was the Royal Palace. Despite a similar fanfare at Buckingham Palace I was still surprised to see such a massive queue to get in. I suppose because it just doesn’t interest me at all I can’t imagine why you’d pay to enter such a place but each to their own!
A quick wander around the outside taking a few pictures was enough for me and it was time to move on to the Plaza de Oriente; a nice, if not unspectacular nearby garden.
By 2pm I was really fancying a lunchtime beer and cursing my decision to go sober for the month. It was January 3rd, for the record. Anyway, I put temptations to one side and decided to sit around in the winter sun with a can of Diet Coke reading my book instead. New year, new me and all that.
On my way to Plaza de España I showed my rustiness on the tourist scene while being asked to sign a petition of sorts for handicapped kids. Naturally once she’d hooked me on with the promise of ‘just a signature’ she moved her hands from the sheet to reveal ‘donations’ of €20 and more from the previous signatories. It didn’t get quite as heated as the incident in Jakarta but it was very much a firm ‘no’ from me!
I was hurtling through my ‘to-do’ list at some pace, so decided to spend a bit of time kicking back in a cafe drinking some hipster juice from a jam jar or similar. As I said, new year and all that.
The last real thing to tick off my list was Plaza Mayor, which seems to be top of most ‘essential things to do in Madrid’ type lists. When I arrived I actually discovered I’d been there on my last visit to Madrid; not only that but it wasn’t half as packed last time and they were in the process of taking down a Christmas market.
To be honest it really just seemed like any massive plaza in a city centre in that it was aimed largely at tourists and was overcrowded. Still, had I been drinking there’s no doubt that I’d have put back a caña or two!
I’d worked up quite an appetite with all this walking, so decided to try one of Madrid’s less questionable delicacies on my way back to the hostel: bocadillo de calamares. That’s a calamari butty, by the way.
As luck would have it, one of the more popular spots in town is located just outside of Plaza Mayor. I headed to La Campana without a second thought and had a fresh-out-of-the-frier sandwich in my hand within minutes. All for €3. Job done!
With that ticked off the list, I felt I’d done enough for one day. I headed back to the hostel and charged my phone whilst trying to find a place to watch Man City v Liverpool later that evening. I’d embraced enough culture for one day.