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72 Hours in Madrid and Toledo

“There is no night life in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not night life. That is delaying the day…” – Ernest Hemingway

MADRID DAY ONE

After 8 hours in the sky, we’ve left the heat of Chicago for the even hotter heat of Madrid. The sunscreen on my forehead is frying.

It’s known for its park, palaces, plazas, and Picasso. Population wise, Spain’s central capital is about the size of Chicago — give or take a million. That makes Madrid the largest city in Spain.

Cabify – Independently owned, founded in Madrid, Cabify is the preferred local car-sharing service. Each ride comes with Wi-Fi, bottled waters, and drivers instructed to adjust the temperature and music to your liking. Tipping isn’t customary, but an excellent rating is always appreciated.

Airbnb – While here, I’ll alternate between hotels, hostels, and Airbnb. In Madrid, I got my first Airbnb experience. I was nervous, had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, our studio apartment exceeded exceptions. It resembles a model bedroom you’d find in Ikea, comfortable and bright, full of clean white textiles, and pine wood furniture. Two open-air balconies rest perfectly on both sides of the living room.

Retiro Park – Parque del Buen Retiro, literally “Park of the Pleasant Retreat,” isn’t your average park. After all, it was built for royalty. While here, I’ll play in a few palaces, check out some modern art, and boat around the lake. All for under 6 Euro, by the way.

Palacio de Cristal or Crystal Palace – Intended to be a royal greenhouse, the crystal palace now basically exists for impromptu Instagram photo shoots.

Palacio de Velazquez is not just the perfect oasis from an unseasonable heatwave, it’s also a nifty contemporary art gallery. Neat.

If you’re counting, you’ll notice I still haven’t spent a penny. So, let’s blow some dough on a boat. For 6 euros, row your heart out under the gaze of King Alfonso Xii as his monument judges you and your cheapskatedness.

Looking up at the hot, hot, unbelievably hot sun, I realize, it’s time for a drink.

Like Twin Peaks, San Miguel is known for being old and popular. Not much else, but apparently that’s enough. Renovated in the aughts, it serves as an indoor market and tourist trap set with fancy, expensive tapas — in a city overflowing with mouthwatering, cheap tapas. So, there’s that.

Where did I finally settle for a drink? What was Toledo like? Whose tapas are the best? Come with me to Spain in this latest episode of Travelgoings!