Bullfighting, sangria and tapas... es Madrid, el capital de Espana. Continuing on my Eurotrip, once again I used Eurolines bus transport. I made my away across the dusty french landscapes and, 18 hours later, found myself in the land of sexy senoritas and hunky hombres.
This is where the party really began and my taste for spanish nightlife kicked in. Myself and travel pal stayed in one of the best hostels I had seen thus far. Cat's Hostel is set in the city centre and surprisingly there are no cats in the hostel, thank god. In fact, the local Madrid people are nicknamed 'cats' because they are always out and about, hence the name.
Located off a narrow alleyway, the building is an 18th century palace and boasts culture and history. It is adorned with quirky decor and archaic awnings making it a rather rad place to stay. With a bar and common room we were soon making friends and heading out to numerous fiestas.
On any trip a hostel can make a huge difference if you're able to pick a decent one. You should try to be based as central as possible and always read reviews beforehand.
This hostel, like most others, offered a range of tours, including a Sandemann's free walking tour. However, if it's your first time in Spain, a tapas tour is highly recommended. It gives you a flavour of the Spanish culture while gently introducing you to Spanish delicacies- pigs ear being one of the most popular.
Eating and drinking aside, there is an array of culture to soak up in Madrid. On arrival I had thought differently. I couldn't list anything I particularly wanted to see or do, with no famous landmarks pitching it as a competitor to Paris. But I was wrong and soon discovered the history that lay deep in old Madrid.
Dotted around the city are marks left by the years of conflict during the Spanish civil war, 1936-1939, and the dictatorship under Franco. The history walking tour details the role the city played during that time and is a recommendation for any history buff.
Today, Madrid enjoys a monarchy and you can visit their residence in Madrid. The Palacio de Madrid is a tourist hot-spot and a more exotic version of our own Buckingham Palace. You can walk around the gardens and state rooms to sample a bit of the royal life.
The Museo del Prado is another site worth visiting. It is the country's official art gallery and even for those with no artistic interest, it is worth a visit.
Palaces, museums and clubs, sounds like any standard european city. It may be that on each getaway you visit similar sites but, in my experience, each city is unique and has its own story to tell. A parisian church may have once been the home to Quasimodo and a Madrid church may have been home to a group shoeless sisters (The Covent of the Royal Barefoot Sisters).One may smell of croissants and the other of patatas. Either way when many claim all cities seem the same they would be wrong. They may all have churches and museums, night clubs and restaurants but it is the history, the people and the culture that make each destination unique and deserving of a click of our cameras.