My boyfriend's Dad has travelled the world and recently gave us the best piece of advice. He said we should "live in our own cities like tourists, and travel the globe like we are locals". I loved the suggestion the minute he told me I vowed to put it into practice when I went to Madrid last weekend for my mate Kim's 30th birthday!
Luckily, our friend Matt lives there, with his partner, so living like a local wasn't too hard. We arrived on the Saturday midday, exhausted from the silly early Easyjet flight. I spent the whole 2 hours sat next to an obnoxious Spanish dude with big knees, so on our arrival, we got right into the theme by having a siesta.
After a power nap, Matt and Axel our friends took us for lunch! We went to' El Tigre' for beers. And to my surprise, that also meant free food. We spent around 9 euros and left full and tipsy! How the Spanish stay slim I will never understand, because at the end of this blog you will realise I came home about 18 stone heavier.
After more drinks and wandering around the centre, we got ready for our evening meal. They eat after 10pm in Spain, something I doubt I could get used to if you wanted me to stay awake past midnight. We went to this gorgeous little restaurant called 'Alhambra'. As the boys were putting us up for 2 nights, I offered to pay for everyone's meal. We had so much tapas and the beer and wine was flowing, I thought I would leave 100 euro shy. I proudly said to the waiter "la cuenta por fa vor" (can I have the bill please), and was giving a receipt with just 28 euros on it. In my dodgy Spanish, I then tried to explain that I was paying for all five of us only to realise I was. Five beers and a shed load of tapas and I had change from a 30 €! This travelling like a local not only took you to the back streets and the quirky places, but it also meant you would have a healthier looking wallet!
Madrid is a beautiful city with amazing architecture; you can literally get lost and find yourself out the Royal Palace. We did just that. Also, if you keep an eye out and stay out of Plaza Mayor, you can get beer for 1 €! I soon found out. Madrid centre isn't huge either, you don't even have to look far or hard to find offers. Most afternoons we would sit in the sun sipping on a cheap beer. Isn't it amazing how things taste better when they are cheap?
We don't all have friends in exotic cities, I certainly don't. So, my "travel like a local advice" for novices like me is below:
•Google before you go. Look at what's good, what's cheap and what's available. It's good to go somewhere with a wee bit of knowledge, especially if it's only a quick city break.
•Check out places on Air BNB. I was curious to see how much places were going for when I arrived in Madrid and found whole flats for less than £35 a night! Great locations, too!
•(Attempt) to chat to the locals! Find out their favourite jaunts! Avoid the Leicester Squares of our European sisters!
So, after all this scrimping, you can't leave a country having not had a bit of luxury. So on our last two days, we changed it up.
I booked us into Oscar Room Mate Hotel. Situated next to the Gran Vía and Puerta del Sol, in Chueca´s district, which is basically the Soho of Madrid. It's a cool as area where I felt suitably at home in.
Every room is decorated differently, and the owner's philosophy is that the hotel should be in 'the heart of the centre, with an original decoration and a reasonable price, not saturated with extras and services that are seldom used and with a natural personal feel.' It is exactly just that!
The place is STUNNING, funky, and homely. There is a gorgeous roof top swimming pool with amazing views of the city. At night, we sat on the roof sipping Cava and for the first time in weeks, I was immediately RELAXED. What is it by being near water that does that to people? Not only that, but rooms start at 79€ a night, so it's not even like visiting this place will break the bank! It's a must stay, and I just know I will be visiting it again.
As with most weekend trips, you are on your feet a lot. So one of my favourite things to do, is to book a full body massage on the day before you leave.
I found this place called The Lab Room. www.thelabroom.com. Set up by a beautiful woman called Monica. This was a real 5* experience I was overwhelmed with the place! The ultimate advert for this place is Monica. She is in her 40's and has three kids, but looks ridiculous! Her skin is tight and fresh, she welcomes you with a huge smile, and I am not bullshitting when I say you could easily put her in her late 20's! I walked in and immediately asked for what she has.
There I had my eyebrows shaped, which costs less than 30€ with the Lab Rooms very own eyebrow pencil to take away with you (what's the point of having it done if you can't keep it up eh?) and a full body massage.
HOLY MOTHER OF ALL MOTHERS!!??!?!? THIS WAS AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING.
Never have I wanted to snog a masseuse so much, (don't worry, I refrained from that, she wouldn't have known what hit her). The crazy thing is, after what can only be described as an actual hour of heaven, the bill only came to 65€!
The place is A -List central too, with the likes of J Lo, Natalie Portman and Penelope Cruz being regulars, so you leave feeling like a superstar without haven't spent like one.
She even took us around a store after called The Isolee, a luxury shop selling fashion, food and lifestyle products, she showed us where you can buy her stock from. I am waiting the day The Lab Room stocks in London, as the products are amazing. www.isolee.com
So, after four days of overeating and under spending, a day and night of pure luxury and a two hour flight back, I have come back to London refreshed and content.
That was, until I landed back and saw the rain.... Ahh maaaaaaan.