Last week I had the chance to celebrate my 33rd birthday in Madrid, one of my favourite cities. The first time I visited Madrid was back in 2014. That was my first trip abroad as an adult, and my first trip abroad in over 14 years or so.
In this excerpt is from a previous post of mine, where I offer advice on how to quit your job and travel 24/7, I explain why Madrid is so special to me:
My first trip to Madrid in mid-October 2014 was a breath of fresh air. I had an epiphany somewhere among the vegan churros and chocolate. I realised I wanted to be free to explore and appreciate this world we live in instead of being tied down by a job I disliked just so I could pay bills. Thanks to Madrid, I decided to quit my job once I returned to the States so that I’d be completely free to travel and promote veganism as I please.
I figured out that I could only quit my job and travel full-time if I changed the way I lived completely. I dove head first into minimalism and eliminated all unnecessary expenses from my life. Every action of mine and every penny I spent supported my goal from that moment forward.
We thought it would be fun to travel to Madrid for a day. I could revisit Madrid on my birthday and show Kuba around the city since he had never been there before. We also planned to meet up with fellow vegan travel bloggers Alternative Travelers for the first time. 🙂
We decided to take a bus to Madrid even though the journey would take us 6.5 hours one way. We compared the price of hiring a car and train tickets as well, but the bus tickets were the cheapest option for us at €70 for two roundtrip tickets. We booked the tickets in advance online on the Go Euro website, boarded the bus early in the morning on Tuesday, and by 13:30 we were in Madrid!
Besides meeting up with Alternative Travelers later in the day, we didn’t have set plans. I figured we’d wander around the city and scope out some of my favourite places from my previous two trips to this splendid city.
I wanted to take Kuba to the main sites so we could take some photographs but I found it difficult to know where to go. During my last two trips to Madrid, I simply walked around without a map and without an itinerary. I happened upon interesting places during those trips just by chance. I struggled to retrace my steps using Google Maps.
Also, this was the first day of World Pride Madrid so the city was quite busy!
That being said, I don’t think I was that terrible of a tour guide. 😉
The highlight of my day was meeting up with Alternative Travelers, Sam and Veren, in Parque del Retiro. I had followed Alternative Travelers on Instagram for a bit now, and I can’t remember who messaged who first, but somehow we got to talking. They were living in Madrid but were about to head to Scotland, and since Kuba and I just moved from Scotland, we figured why not meet up and dish about all things vegan in Scotland and Spain.
It was so nice to meet up with another like-minded travelling vegan couple. Meeting real, down-to-earth people can be difficult sometimes, but I find that it’s easier thanks to social media. Even though our time in Parque del Retiro was short (and sweet, with all the cherries we ate!), I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with them. Hopefully, we can meet up again, as I’m sure our paths will cross. 🙂
Follow Sam and Veren’s adventures on their blog at AlternativeTravelers.com. I found so much useful information here, including everything you’d want to know about housesitting and helpful advice for those who are considering working in Spain as an English teacher. AND my favourite part of their blog (so far) has to be their Vegan City Guides! Check out their Ultimate Guide to Madrid if you have any doubt about the vegan scene in Spain’s capital.
We considered scoping out the Prado Museum after our picnic since entry is free to the public from 18:00-20:00 during the week. Unfortunately, the queue was too long for us to wait (and we had food on our minds) so we strolled around looking for something to eat. (I did manage to visit the Prado my first time in Madrid, but I had to purchase a ticket in advance.)
I wanted to check out a favourite cafe of mine called Rayen Vegano but it happened to be closed on Tuesdays. The gelato shop I liked, Sani Sapori, was also closed on Tuesdays. Boo!
I remembered from one of my previous trips to Madrid that the Mercado de San Miguel had some vegan options, including baked sweet potatoes and vegan paella, to name a few. Even though at first glance it seems to be a not-so-vegan-friendly market primarily for tourists, we headed to the Mercado hoping to find a snack. Currently, we don’t have an oven in our flat, so a baked sweet potato sounded lovely!
Perhaps baked sweet potatoes aren’t so popular in the summer because we didn’t find any. Nothing else caught our eye in the Mercado, I guess because we’re cheap and want to eat healthily. 😛
That was fine by us since it saved us a bit of money. We didn’t eat out at all in Madrid, save for a celebratory birthday latte at Starbucks. I had packed lunches for us the night prior (brown rice with sautéed veggies) and we had no trouble finding affordably priced fresh fruit in the city. We also scored some guacamole, gazpacho, rolls, and orange juice from Lidl and had these for dinner along with the corn cakes I brought from home.
After dinner, we wandered around a bit more. We passed by the Royal Palace and ended up walking all the way back to the bus station. We walked a lot that day, around 11 miles!
One of the reasons we were fine with taking a bus to Madrid is that we knew we could take an overnight bus home. That way, we would have a full day in Madrid, sleep on the bus, and wake up in Torremolinos. Easy! At least that’s what we hoped for.
We left Madrid around 23:00 and returned to Torremolinos early the next day, around 6:00. I can’t remember the exact time because we were exhausted. We barely slept on the bus because the bus driver’s music was loud and a few passengers were snoring. Other than that, the bus itself was comfortable besides the air conditioning working a little too well. I guess I’m used to this warm weather. Next time I’ll dress warmer for sure.
It was a long day but I still had the best birthday. I don’t mind getting older at all since the best years of my life are yet to come. I feel like I’m the luckiest person alive, especially now that I have Kuba by my side. 🙂
We return to Madrid for a few days at the end of August, right before we head to Zagreb, Croatia. We’ll be in the city from Wednesday to Friday, so we’ll be able to swing by Rayen Vegano and Sani Sapori, as well as explore Madrid’s massive green space and largest public park, Casa de Campo. A few days in Madrid will be a nice ending to our three months in Spain, don’t you think? 🙂
Have you visited Madrid before?
What sites do you recommend?