My First Birthday Trip – Madrid

My First Birthday Trip – Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
There comes a day in your life when waiting anymore feels like a waste of time. Euro Trip was just that for me. There came a time when I decided to take the plunge all by myself. Sounds like m talking about getting married or some bigger decision in my life? It was big to me. Introvert by birth, in this trip, I was like a panda trying to learn kungfu. But just like in the movie, I started to enjoy every minute of it.
 
Now that I had decided to fly solo, I decided to put myself in self created experiment by not only travelling alone but also making sure that I am surrounded by more and more strangers – instead of cozy hotels, I decided to crash at hostels sharing room with other travelers and I purposely did not carry any internet or phone with me when I was out on roads.
 
How did it feel? On the first day, it felt like I was a self torture trip but as days passed by, I became more comfortable with choosing my own path, deciding my own routes, and dealing with last minute gate changes at airport, finding my way around the cities while taking directions from strangers, and meeting some great people on the way. All in all, the trip changed my opinion about myself. I, quite literally, surprised myself.

What can be a greater birthday celebration for a traveler than a Birthday Trip?

Last year when I was planning for a trip to Spain I wasn’t sure about when to go but one afternoon while working in my office, I decided to take my first birthday trip and I booked my tickets for April. And what made it even better was that I was travelling with my childhood friend who knows all my quirks and doesn’t judge me for all the silliness.

Madrid, Spain
Royal Palace, Madrid, Spain
Known for a happening nightlife, Madrid was a perfect place to have a birthday blast. We landed in the city 2 days before my birthday and the celebration started from that day itself. It was the longest birthday celebration which lasted about 20 days in 5 Spanish cities and was the best birthday gift I gave to myself.
 
We had grand plans for my birthday eve; we decided to go paint the city red with pub hopping, shopping and what not. What happened that night was exactly opposite. But more on this later let me first take you to what all we did in Madrid.

Eating and Drinking in Madrid

Even though all cuisines are now available across the globe, eating local is still one of the most important parts of my travels. Being a vegetarian, with only exception for eggs, limits my choices. Don’t bother to think what kind of a vegetarian am I, India has a wide variety of people like me. Plus in many other countries fish is considered Veg. My first meal in Spain was a Spanish omelet for dinner which we settled down for at night as it was getting difficult to find nice good vegetarian meal at that time and our stomachs were growling. First bite and I realized that the taste I was looking for in Madrid was that of an Indo-Spanish Omelet. We have Indianized a lot of things, this is just one of them.
Spanish Paella, Madrid, Spain
Madrid, Spain

For most of our trip, we substituted water with sangria. It is Spanish red wine served with chopped fruits and orange juice or brandy. You can get 2 liter bottles of sangria in grocery store, usually cheaper than water bottle. Now you know how we managed to be on budget (;-)) Madrid mantra – Eat Tapas, Drink Sangria, and be merry. Oh, how can I forget Churro with hot chocolate? It’s a dessert available everywhere in Spain, and mostly every place has amazing versions of it.

Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian Temple

Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital city of Spain and is the largest one too. The city has beautifully preserved its old world charm amidst the modern architecture. Highlights from my trip included Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple located in the heart of Spain. The temple is dedicated to Isis of Philae and was originally built in Upper Egypt. It was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid in 1968. This temple was gifted by Egypt to Spain as a token of gratitude for helping Egypt in saving the Abu Simbel temples due to construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1960. This was when UNESCO made an international call to save many Egyptian monuments and archeological sites.

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain
Royal Palace, Madrid, Spain

Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral

A short walk away from the temple is the Royal Palace of Madrid and Almudena Cathedral. Royal Palace is the official residence of royal family of Spain, however, it is only used for ceremonies and royal wedding now while the royal family actually stays in another palace in outskirts of the city.

Almudena Cathedral is a catholic church and is the seat of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. Capital of Spain moved from Toledo to Madrid in 1561 but the seat of church remained in Toledo as there was no cathedral in the new capital. Cost of expanding Spain was diverted towards building new cities and hence construction of a church was postponed. Construction of this cathedral actually began only in 1879 on a site of medieval mosque but it came to a halt during Spanish civil war. The cathedral, as we see it now, was actually completed in 1993 when it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. My favorite time to visit the royal palace and the cathedral is the sunset when architecture of both these buildings makes for perfect silhouette.

El Retiro Park and Palacio de Cristal

Madrid has various public parks across the city but the one which I loved most was El Retiro Park. This park makes for a perfect lazy stroll with amazing gardens, flowers, birds and turtles. I saw Indian Peacocks dancing without rain here, a site which I had never come across in India in my 30 years of existence. We stumbled upon this park while we were walking in the neighborhood to find our way to the Crystal Palace. It is a Glass and Metal Structure built in middle of El Retiro Park. It was built in 1887 to display flora and fauna from Philippines and was under colonial possession at the time. Today it is a perfect place to spend your afternoon.

Palacio de Cristal, Crystal Palace, El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
Gran Via, Madrid, Spain

Gran via

Take a walk down Gran via, and you will see some amazing buildings and restaurants and shopping avenues. You will feel energized by the feel of the street which is bustling with tourists and locals all times of the day and especially evenings.

Plaza Mayor

A best place to spend your late evenings and night in Madrid is Plaza Mayor and nearby lanes which house numerous cafes, clubs, pubs, and restaurants. This was the area where we celebrated my birthday eve. We joined our hostel’s pub-crawl that night and after spending great time with all amazing people in the group, I realized that over time I have started to enjoy celebrating birthdays more peacefully with solitude. This might have been the realization after vodka/tequila shots but that was that. We did paint the city red but welcomed my birthday with a quite nighttime stroll on streets of Madrid at middle of the night. It was really pretty. We then took an early morning train to Seville, not sure how we managed that but we reached Seville, so we did pretty well I guess.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
After this trip, I have decided to take birthday trips more often. They could be anywhere across the globe but I want to gift these trips to myself lot more frequently to become a better storyteller. Travel truly is transforming me into one. 

 

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