Travel

Valencia & Madrid – Mini Break

Thursday 14th March

On Thursday afternoon I packed my bags for a weekend away in Madrid. My colleague/friend Deborah and I had planned a 3 night, 3 day trip to the capital of Spain. Madrid was not on my travel bucket list as I hadn’t heard much about it. However, as I was in Spain anyway I wanted to fit a bit of sightseeing into the 3-month trip. With Deborah’s sister living near Madrid, it seemed an obvious choice.

We had planned a few different things, starting with a stop in Valencia. In Spain, they have this great website Bla Bla Car, which is a carpooling site. People advertise when they are driving places and if you are looking for a ride you just search for a trip that matches. It removes a lot of the hassel you would get with public transport. You are in touch with the driver so they will wait for you. They may even pick you up or drop you off from a slightly different location if its on thier way. Its a super cheap, pretty flexible way to travel.

Quick Stop Over in Valencia

We arrived in Valencia quite late and then waited for Deborah’s friend Malc to collect us. Malc is a DJ who lives in Valencia. We went out on a night out with a few weeks ago. He kindly picked us up and took us to a Chinese restaurant, not far from his place, for dinner. Fortunately, I was not that hungry. It was fortunate because the dish I order contained raw chicken. I was pretty sure I had eaten some of the raw chicken, so I was worried about being unwell for our trip.

After some very poor service, we headed to Malc’s apartment and went straight to bed. I fell asleep thinking to myself “please body fight it”. Deborah and I both slept well after quite a late night.

Friday 15th March

We had an early start, we had to meet our next car at 7 am and the pickup point was about 15 mins away. Malc very kindly dropped us off said goodbye and we were off to Madrid.

In this car, we were with a young couple the guy was driving. During the journey, we both spent the majority of it either reading or napping. It seemed like no time at all before we were in Madrid. Our driver dropped us about 45 minutes walk outside of the city centre. The weather was lovely and we wanted to explore, so we walked rather than getting the tube to the center.

We Ticked off a Tourist Spot

As we arrived at the centre we realised we were still another 50-minute walk away. We sat for a minute to have a coffee and plan our next move. After a coffee and a sit down, we decided we would get a taxi to our hotel. We could then drop off our bags and head back to the centre for some more exploring. However, as we found the taxi rank we noticed a beautiful building through a gap in the buildings.

Royal Palace of Madrid

We would check it out and see if there were any nice places to eat nearby. We had been carrying around heavy rucksacks for a while and were getting a tired and uncomfortable. As we got closer to the building we realised it was surrounded by some lovely cafe/restaurants. So we pulled up some chairs and made ourselves comfortable in the sun for lunch.

The weather was beautiful and so was the food. I had a big steak and chips. Having hooked up to the WiFi, we realised that the building we were sat opposite was the Royal Palace of Madrid. So we had ticked off one of the touristy locations. When we had finished stuffing eating, we walked around in the palace and got a taxi to the hotel.

Great Accommodation for Getting our Glam on

View from our room

We stayed in the NH Madrid Chamberi, although a little way out of the centre it probably would have been quite easy to get to via tube. We decided to live our best life on this trip and get driven everywhere, so we arrived via taxi. Our hotel room was lovely, the view was nothing special but the room was lovely and light and clean. The bathroom was modern and we had everything we needed.

Glammed Up

We unpacked and spent a couple of hours getting glammed up for a night out in Madrid. We thought we might go to a live music event as the taxi driver had recommended some places but we started by being dropped off in Retiro Park. A beautiful open space with manicured gardens, fountains and a boating lake. It reminded me a little of central park, it was bustling and had a great atmosphere. Although in contrast to my visit to central park it was still really warm. I was wearing just a floaty playsuit and was still warm.

Around the boating lake were a few cafes so we took the opportunity to have a cheeky wine before dinner. It was lush, the sun was starting to drop so the light on the water and the buildings around us was a warm yellow. It was still warm enough to be sat outside without a coat in March!

After a wine, we explored the park a little more, making our way to an area Deborah knew we could potentially find some good food. On route to an area called Goya we passed a very cute little shop selling baby clothes. As Deborah’s sister had a young baby, we called in to see if we could pick her up a new little outfit. Having had a wine we were even more broody than usually and spent about 20 minutes cooing over baby clothes. When we had decided on a couple of very adorable outfits we continued to find somewhere for dinner.  

More Food

Having had a big lunch we were not overly hungry so we were looking for tapas so we could have something small. We settled on a lovely little bar that Andy had recommended to us. The colour theme was blue and yellow and they had sunflowers on the table. I thought that was brilliant as the colour theme for my new Instagram and blog is sunflowers and blueberries. It was a very cute little restaurant/bar. We had wine before the kitchen open and then sat down for some tapas. Deborah ordered a bean dish which did not appeal to me as I think broad beans are vile, we also ordered a potato dish each and I order some chicken skewers.  

The bean dish came out first which left me twiddling my thumbs for a while as the dishes arrival time was quite spread out. Next was potatoes and alioli which was very garlicky, followed by my plate of skewers which also came with chips. We quickly cancelled the second potato dish as we were getting a bit overloaded with carbs. It was yummy but with so much potato it was very filling. When we felt like we would burst we decided to head back to bed. Although the night had the potential to become a night out in the city we felt with another good day planned the next day we should stay fresh to see Deborah’s sister.

Saturday 16th March

I have never seen someone so excited to see their niece. Deborah had been buzzing about seeing her in the lead up to our trip and as we got closer she became more excited. I have only felt that excitement a few times in my life, I couldn’t even tell you what they were right now, but it was so lovely to see. As they live quite a distance it was only the second time since she had seen her since she was born in October.

After quite a noisy disturbed sleep we had some breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast wasn’t bad there was quite a selection. I had some toast, tomato and eggs as I would at home. Followed by 2 rounds of pancakes and fruit. The pancakes where lush! After breakfast, we packed up and check out. The girl checking us out looked exactly like Spencer from Pretty Little Lias and having binged watched all the series I felt like I knew her so it was very odd seeing her working in a random Hotel in Spain.

Spencer kindly called us a taxi and we made our way out of the city to las Rozas where Angela (Deb’s sister) lived. It was great to meet Angela and her partner and baby. There was a lot of cuddles and cooing and crying and napping before we all the girls went out for lunch. Angela drove us to Manzanares el real, which I think is a national park type area in the mountain. We were very lucky to find a parking space as it was a bank holiday weekend and a beautiful Saturday so a lot of people were out.

Stunning Mountain Views

We walk from the car to the restaurant which took us along a rocky path running alongside a stunning mountain river. The water was so clear, in parts it was rushing down the mountainside in other areas where it was flat it was calm and still and children were playing alongside it like they would at the beach. After a short climb, we got the restaurant and settled in for some food. I had a chicken pisto, which is a tomatoey, oniony dish, I think it had some courgette in it too. It was really delicious and a nice change to some of the other food I have been having. I followed it up with a nice, white chocolate and nut, magnum style ice cream.

I was absolutely stuffed and ready for a nap. We went back to Angela’s for a while before she took us to our next hotel, B & B Hotel Madrid Pinar de las Rozas. This was more of a travel lodge quality of a hotel, but again it was clean and had everything we needed. The beds were not quite as sturdy but we later found out they were more comfortable than the previous nights’ beds. We had a bit more time to chill here.

As the hotel was quite out the way there was not a lot we could do in the surrounding area. We had planned to meet up with Angela again for dinner but were not sure if she would be able to make it with her partner feeling unwell. So we watched some Spanish TV, tried to work out our route home and started looking at the menu for room services.

Even More Food

Luckily Angela was able to come and meet us for dinner and we all fancied a nice curry. So we went somewhere Angela had been meaning to try and had a lovely meal. It was great for Deborah and her sister to catch up and it was nice for me to be out with them enjoying a really good curry. It’s funny how even when you think you are full you can still make was more food when it smells as good as curry.

After dinner, we attempted to go out for another drink but it was a bit of a fail as Deborah and I was close to falling asleep standing up. Angela kindly took us back to our hotel to sleep for our second night in a row we were in bed at a reasonable hour.

Sunday 17th March

Angela again very kindly picked us up from our hotel and took us to our next pick up point. Deborah had arranged a blah blah car to pick us up from a train station near las Rozas to take us back to Valencia. Another you couple met us at the station and welcomed us into their clean comfortable car for another 4ish hour drive.

This time I spent more time napping than reading, which was unfortunate as I was really enjoying my book. I am still working my way through “The Organised Mind” and really enjoying the insight into how the brain works. This trip I have learnt about the importance of sleep and routine which is ironic as it’s all over the place on this holiday.

Just Like June

Our driver dropped us at Valencia airport this time, and Malc was going to be picking us up. We were dropped in departures and had to walk through the airport to arrivals where Malc would meet us. My feet were cold from being in sandals in the air-conditioned car and then going into the air-conditioned airport, when we got outside downstairs the heat hit me. I checked my phone and it was 28 degrees, the hottest I have felt it since I arrived in Spain in January. It felt just like being on holiday, coming out of a cold airport and being hit by the heat of Spain.

28 in Valencia

From the first day of our holiday to the second there was such a contrast in the surroundings and what we were doing, to then going through the experience of leaving that airport it felt like every day of our trip was a different holiday. This made our 3 days away feel like a lot longer, in a good way.

Once Malc had collected us and taken us back to the area of Valencia he lives we went out for a bite to eat. We had was I thought was quite a nice burger, containing ham, lettuce, tomatoes, hamburgers and an egg in focaccia bread.

We then went back to Malc’s so Deborah could have a nap. Malc and I watched the first few episodes of “After Life” with Ricky Gervais on Netflix. It was quite good actually, I thought it would be a bit depressing but there were a few laugh out loud moments.

Let the Festivities Begin

Later in the afternoon processions started up in the streets outside. I mentioned before it was a bank holiday weekend. Well on the coming Tuesday it was St Juan, which is the Spanish fathers day. In Valencia, it was also Fallas. On every street corner, there were some really unusual caricature type papier-mache figures. I think the plan was to burn these on Monday night.

The day that we were there, they did processions through the streets leading to the centre of Valencia. By a Catholic Church in the centre where there was a massive wooden statue of the Virgin Mary. The dress of the Virgin Mary was decorated with flowers that the procession girls carried with them through the streets.

The streets were filled with people watching the processions and the flowers being thrown up the statue. It was a great atmosphere. I didn’t so much like the bangers being thrown constantly. I am quite a jumpy person so I was on edge the whole time. It sounded like a war zone in some areas the bangs were so loud. Although today was Paddy’s day as well the Spanish tradition had drowned out any Irish festivities. I think I saw 2 people in total wearing Irish hats the whole time we were there.

The Last Leg

Our car home was due to pick us up near a burger king at around 8 in the evening. So we were able to leave the chaos before it kicked off. Malc dropped us off near burger king and we popped in for a quick burger before our car arrived. Within an hour or so we were back in Javea, our holiday was over. It was long and short at the same time. I was sad it was over but we were glad to be back. We were ready for some healthier food and exercise. We saw a lot and did quite a bit. It was a great few days and I rated both Madrid and Valencia quite highly.

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