Our second CIEE group trip was to Madrid at the end of February, and they let us have an extremely long weekend for the trip too. The bus left Plaza Luceros, Alicante, Thursday morning and we got to Madrid a little before 2pm. The area our hotel was in was perfect for walking around and was in the very center of the city, so we never had to pay for public transportation! We saw the palace and the post office, the two most beautiful buildings (and yes that does say post office), and everything in between. We went to El Retiro park and El Museo del Prado the first day, which were necessary touristy places to see, and then we went to dinner with another student living in Spain for this semester. On Friday, we went to the Real Madrid stadium and took a tour where we saw all of the trophies and cleats of the players. It was a really high tech tour and there were video screens in every room with clips from wins and amazing goals. If you’re ever in Madrid and don’t yet have a favorite
soccer fútbol team, I highly recommend taking the tour because you will without a doubt leave a fan of Real Madrid (business people, take notes from their marketing). Of course now I actually watch all the games on TV and I’m totally hooked on the sport, but since the rest of the world is too it’s about time I jumped on that bandwagon. Other Madrid notable locations are the Plaza del Sol, which is where the biggest New Years celebration is held, the Plaza Major, and the San Miguel Market which is the ultimate food and drink experience to walk through. The Market has everything from fruits and vegetables and meats, to juices, to pastries and beautiful desserts, to nuts, to mini restaurant stands and bartenders serving through the walkways.
On Saturday, we went to the Monastery of El Escorial where king Felipe II used to live, which was cool but I liked the surrounding town more than the actual monastery itself, so I wish the staff would’ve let us walk around the area more. It was still beautiful though and had an amazing garden. After the bus got back to our hotel, my friend and I decided we wanted to stay one more day, so she called up her friends that live in Madrid and they let us stay at their apartment for the night! We had every intention of going to Kapital that night (12th most popular club in the world) but after a stressful turn of events we went to bed instead. On Sunday, we went on “the muffin tour of Madrid,” which isn’t actually a tour it was just us buying two dozen muffins and a gallon of milk and walking to every park we could find, starting at the Sabatini Gardens, while we pigged out and took pictures. It was a perfect morning!
Also notable, Madrid has the vibe of San Francisco. The way the streets curve and the sounds and size of the city and the type of architecture all make you feel like you’re walking through the streets of San Francisco, which of course made me love Madrid even more.
There’s just something about the name Barcelona that catches your attention. Whether it has a good or bad connotation for you, it makes you stop and think for a second. Before studying abroad I had no intention of ever visiting Spain and hearing people talk about Barcelona annoyed me more than anything. Not only did I not want to live in Madrid or Barcelona, I didn’t even want to visit either city. I blame the cheetah girls and their cheesy movie for giving me bad connotations of Spain. Anyways, my first visit to Barcelona in January was subpar. Honestly I didn’t see much of the city since I walked it all, and it is waaay too big to walk if you want to see more than two significant aspects of it, but my second trip to Barcelona made me fall in love. I think I like places better when I am challenged right off the bat, because I instantly have to let go of all expectations and I have to actually learn about the city – like transportation wise or must see places (remember my first week in Spain?). Well upon arrival to Barcelona, I had to find wifi and find my friends from home that I was visiting. It turns out that they had a little trouble on their trip too but it all worked out once we got to plug our phones in and get wifi and money. I finally figured out the metro which made everything easier and cheaper, which gave us endless opportunities for the weekend.
The first day we ate brunch at Federal Café and made our way to Park Guëll to see some of Gaudi’s art, and the second day we brunched at Alsur Café and then walked around the Born and Gothic districts of Barcelona. Maybe it was because I was with friends from home, but because of that trip I absolutely love Barcelona. I thought that Madrid was similar to San Francisco, but Barcelona is the San Francisco of Spain hands down. It has the parks, the architecture, the districts, the beach, and even the street art of SF, which made me feel right at home. If I ever had to live in Spain my first choice is Barcelona.
So with that said, in the endless battle of which city is better, my vote go towards Barcelona!
Life is an adventure, so keep exploring it!