Travel Tips for Springtime in Madrid: Ish Meets Spain

Madrid’s famous statue of “El Oso y El Madrono” located at the Puerta del Sol

1. PACK FOR COLD, WARM, WET AND DRY WEATHER. European weather is as unpredictable as ever. I was disappointed to find out that it was going to be cold and windy in Spain despite the fact that it was well into spring.I packed my suitcase with a few extra kilos worth of winter clothes and soldiered on. I’m glad I packed some heavy clothing because we experienced some rain and even hail! Nevertheless, midday can get quite warm so you need to bring some fairly light clothing as well. 

2. BE MINDFUL OF THE TIME: It still fascinates me how the sun can stay out so late up in the northern hemisphere. I ended up staying out far too late on my first night because 10 pm feels so early.

One thing that I don’t like about Madrid is how the Metro closes at 1:30 AM. As you know, taking a taxi there isn’t as cheap as taking one in Manila. The flag down rate here is already equivalent to about 200 pesos. f you stay out beyond the operating hours, you will be forced to take one of the nocturnal buses which are few and far between. Otherwise, there’s no choice but to grab a taxi. 

The SOL Metro Station at the heart of the city.

3. BRING AN AMPLE AMOUT OF SUNBLOCK AND MOISTURIZERS: So anyway, temperatures rose the day I arrived and it was frustrating to have long sleeved shirts and trench coats. A few days later, temps went down again and at this point I’ve given up trying to plan outfits. 

I do regret leaving behind a good pot of facial sunblock ‘coz the sun is out literally all day. It will drive you crazy to be honest. BRING SUNBLOCK. It may still be windy and cold but the sun shines brightly most of the day.

 You might not realize it but you’re getting roasted like a nice young cochinillo (Spanish version of lechon de leche) It’s also a good idea to bring a pot of moisturizer and lotion even if you have oily skin in Manila. The cold weather really dries up your skin ( this is why whites generally get wrinkles faster than Asians)

First on my agenda was meeting up with old friends. I met up with my Filipino friends Nats and Mae as well as my old flatmate Riccardo. He’s one of the few of us who still lives in Madrid and had not YET run out of reasons to justify the extended stay.Had a blast chillin’ out with a few cañas (beers) and tapas at the museo del jámon with my brother
4. GET TO KNOW THE LOCAL CUSTOMS: I am still quite disgusted with the Spanish custom of throwing napkins and just about anything (toothpicks, sausage skins, spit, chicken bones, boogers? ick) on the floor of restaurants. If you have never been there it is hard to imagine how this is normal to throw rubbish all over the floor. Apparently, the dirtier your floor is, the more customers you probably have and the better your food is. ugh. ok.

5. SAVE MONEY BY SITTING AT THE BAR: Another interesting thing you might notice is how people seem to congregate in the bar area even if there are empty tables. That’s because everything is more expensive if you sit on the tables versus the bar. 

At the tables, you get full service from waiters so you pay about 50 cents (30+ pesos) more on every item if you sit at a table especially if it’s an outdoor terraza. It’s a good thing to remember this if you plan on coming to Spain on a backpacking trip or simply just on a budget. 

6. MAKE THE MOST OF THE TAPAS: Small plates of tapas or Spanish bar food often come with your round of drinks. These can range from a simple platter of olives to some nice slices of bread topped with good Jamon Serrano and cheese. These small bites can really add up if you’re a strong drinker and can really save on dinner since food is quite expensive in restaurants.

7. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: We had to walk home because we went past the Metro curfew which I hate (I know I said that already). I didn´t live in the posh neighborhood like when I was studying in Madrid so it was slightly more scary walking in the streets at night since we were right in downtown Madrid. 

The upside is that this apartment is walking distance from all the bars so I didnt have to worry about taking the nocturnal bus. Always choose accommodations that are close to a metro station for easy access. 
Kilometro 0, The exact center of the roadway system of Spain (Puerta del Sol)

8. FIRST FLOOR MEANS SECOND FLOOR: Finally got home to our 5th floor walk up apartment and cursed the heavens that elevators do not exist in some buildings. Remember, 5th floor translates to 6th floor ‘coz they have floor 0 in Spain. Oh well, I guess I will be getting lots of exercise just as I predicted.

I rented this apartment from which is a good classified ad board for most major cities in Spain so you might want to check it out. They have housing, jobs, special services and all sorts of other things. I got this apartment on the cheap and being right in the center of town, I could save on travel time and the extra metro fare.  

I aalways try to rent a place where I could walk to Puerta del Sol which is the city center. I could get just about anywhere from there. I got free wifi with the apartment too. Naturally, I had to give up a few perks such as the elevator haha.

view from the balcony

The first few days were spent revisiting some key places in the city center including the fountains in the Sabbatini gardens behind the Royal Palace. Here I witnessed the amazing phenomenon of Europeans bathing in fountains as soon as the temps rise above 15 degrees Celsius.

It’s weird coming from a tropical country. But hey, these people are not only land-locked, they also have an actual winter. So ok, I guess they can sunbathe in whatever available open space and bathe in any body of water including outdoor sinks and drinking fountains! haha.

Apparently, according to my brother, the abundance of fountains and man made lakes in Madrid is due to its geographical location. The city is land locked right in the center of the Iberian Peninsula. 

He says that if they didn’t construct all the water features, the people might go crazy. Kind of the same concept as why people who live in gloomy countries are generally more depressed. I can’t prove this but there’s supposed to be some study on that. 

I would have to say that the fountains were empty again when temperatures dropped a few days later. It just goes to show that people really are at the mercy of the sun.

I’ll have Madrid part 2 coming shortly with shots of the Royal Palace, the famous Retiro Park and some other key places to visit so watch out for that!