To start the trip off, I flew into London’s Heathrow Airport via Air Canada and went to meet my friend Winnie (my travel partner for the next month or so) at Liverpool Station.
Once I got to the airport, I purchased an Oyster Card and filled it with 25£. The underground sure covers a lot but since it is an older transport system, its not the most accessible and also very hot and tight (at certain times, can feel claustrophobic). Parts of the underground metro system reminded me of my hometown Scarborough’s RT train system..
After meeting Winnie at the station, we went to Spitalfields – a quaint outdoor market space filled with little shops and food vendors. We ate at Leon – good food for a good price. We also walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with our bags in tow (I really missed my Northface Basecamp Duffel). We didn’t have anything really planned for the rest of day and also thought we could just arrive early and sleep at Stansted Airport but luckily we sat down and checked to realize Stansted actually closes between midnight and 2AM. We also realized that we were incorrect about the time of our flight and we actually booked the 830AM not 625AM.
We debated if we wanted to stay up and out all night or book a hostel to sleep for a few hours and drop off our bags. Originally, we opted not to put our bags in storage or book a hostel but after walking around for 2-4 hours and running out of things to do, we booked Smart Hostels – a 15 bed mixed dorm and put our stuff down.
We wanted to try this cool ramen place called Kanada-Ya but there was a super long line so we went across the street to Ippudo Ramen instead. Winnie got the Yokohama ramen and I got the Unagi Chirashi bowl. Delicious.
London, UK – Madrid, Spain
Apparently having a bed doesn’t always mean you can sleep through the night. We went to bed at 10PM thinking we could get in 8 hours of sleep before waking and leaving for 3AM. I did not sleep well at all. We hopped on our bus ($20.40CAD) for an 1.5hr ride to Stansted Airport from Russell Square and that ride was really great time for sleeping. We booked with Ryanair and unfortunately that means the airports we are flying out of are not the main airports and are smaller airports that are out of the city centres. Also, as a Non-EU passenger flying in and out of UK requires you to print your boarding pass to get a Visa check.
First stop on our Eurotrip from London was Madrid, Spain. Our first stop was to the Greenhouse Atocha – a train station with an indoor Tropical greenery area. We also stored our luggage at this train station for 3.10 Euro. We had some ordeals with the machine to buy the ticket but all was fixed after 15 minutes. We changed into shorts and just went to town (literally).
Finally checked into our Airbnb in the suburbs and then walked over to Parque Cerro De Rio Rio (Parque de las tetas – The park of the tits as locals like to call it because of the book-shaped hills) for sunset. Highly recommend with multiple hills to watch from.
Went to dinner at Bar Don Manolo – tapas with beer and wine. Ended the night with gelato – Mora (blackberry) and hazelnut.
We woke up later than we had planned but good thing we did as we checked the weather and changed from shorts and tanks to pants and rain gear.
Did the rain stop us? Of course not!
We were still able to walk over 40,000 steps. Started off walking through Rocodromo Pasarela Parque. We walked to Matadero (a former slaughterhouse turned into a art centre), Embajadores neighbourhood – saw the church, Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel & Mercado San Ildefonso. Continued to Puerta del Sol (it is Spain’s belly button) with a stop to San Gines chocolate for churros! (BTW, hot chocolate literally means liquid chocolate not milky hot chocolate drink) and made our way to Gran Via shopping street & El Corte Ingles then meandered to the neighbourhood of Malasana.
Went to an awesome cafe call Cafe Federal. The sun eventually came out and we returned back to Puerto De Sol on our way to La Tabacalera de Lavapiés – a former tobacco factory that now houses underground tunnels with graffiti and artists. We then took the metro to the Templo de Debod in hopes of catching a beautiful sunset but unfortunately it was a weak sunset.
For dinner, we walked back towards the Royal Palace and made our way to the Tapas Street (Calle de la Cava Baja) but before that, we popped back into Mercado de San Miguel (much emptier than earlier when it was raining) where we met Rick who works for NASA. Watch out for helicopter drone 2020 next mission out to Mars. We finished off our night having dinner at La Perejila and had the smoked cod, octopus with potato and ham and tomato paste.