Friday, August 28, 2015

We go to Vigo!

After our late arrival to Madrid, we spent two more days in the city. We both still have friends living there so we use our visits to meet up with them. It's always nice to have friends in places where you used to live. You can laugh about shared memories and all the new places that have popped up since you moved away. Spain was at the end of the hottest summer on record, with temperatures well into the high 90s and low 100s. The days we were there were very warm, but thankfully not as bad as earlier that month. Nothing that can't be cured by a Tinto de Verano (red wine and fanta mix) in Retiro Park. The name in English means "Summer Wine" and is enjoyed over ice.

We took the train to Galicia to J's hometown. We had a week-long visit to catch up with his family and friends. August is the vacation month in Spain and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. We had open-air barbeques and days at the beach.

Every time we visit Galicia, we usually take a day or two to see some new city or sight in his region. We've been to Santiago de Compostela, the city famous for the St. James Cathedral and pilgrimage trail, 'El Camino de Santiago'. We've visited the furthest western point of Europe at Cape Finisterre, soaked in thermal baths, participated in a medivial festival, and stopped in a number of other cities along the coast. The closest major city to where my husband's family lives is Vigo. There's an airport there, with regional connections and a few international destinations. Too bad no flights from Manchester or Atlanta. There are also reknowned beaches in Vigo. The beaches in Vigo are always packed; finding a place to park is a real art.

Also, Vigo is a pretty cool town, as I just discovered. Besides flying into the airport and visiting the beaches, we'd never gone together into the city center. I guess it's like growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, you don't go into the city every day. We normally hang out in my husband's town, but I enjoyed seeing the busier Vigo. It had a mix of modern metropolitican avenues with an old, historic part of town.

The old town connects to the city's port and has lots of fresh seafood. There's a famous street for eating oysters that were just caught from the sea. The day we went to Vigo, there was a large BMX competition going on near the port. From Vigo, you can also visit the Las Islas Cies, a protected Nature Reserve with National Park status. There is a limit to how many people can visit the island each day and the only way to overnight is camping; there are no hotels. I'm voting for this to be the sight we see on our next visit!

(Shameless plug for my husband's home region.) For more information about seeing Vigo, visit their website at:

Upcoming travel tales: Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest

Friday, August 14, 2015

Return to Madrid

We ended our summer in the US, and then we embarked on a quick trip to Spain to see J's family.

One of the best things about visiting J's family in northern Spain is that we have to pass through Madrid on the way. Have is more like we luckily get to stay in Madrid before we take the train to Galicia.

Just thinking about flying to Madrid makes my heart beat faster; in a good way. Madrid is my favorite city in the world. I spent two wonderful years living in Spain's capital, meeting all sorts of characters, traveling the continent on budget airlines, improving my Castellano (Spain's Spanish), studying a Master degree, drinking sangria..... and oh yeah, meeting my future husband.

Needless to say, the city holds countless memories for me. Each street reminds me of some earlier adventure.

It's so nice to touch down in Madrid because I know how to arrive anywhere in the city. The metro works like a dream and almost any hotel is reachable within short walking distance from a stop. 

I was anxious to get our journey on the way. However, our 9:00 PM flight from Manchester was delayed. 2 hours. Sigh. To make matters worse, the "very crowded" Ryanair flight forced us to check our carry-on bags under the plane. Upon boarding, I couldn't help but notice all the open overhead storage bins. After landing in Madrid at 2 AM, we had to wait around in baggage claim because the Ryanair luggage handlers were on strike. Just the Ryanair luggage handlers.

Our only bit of luck was catching the 24 hour airport shuttle to the city right before it left the airport. As it was the middle of the night, there was no traffic and within minutes we were unloading at Cibeles Plaza. The usual crowd of rowdy night-goers were out. I smiled. We were back.

We instinctively started making our way on foot to our hotel in Puerta del Sol. We tossed down our luggage and walked right back out into Sol. If you've got to arrive at 3 AM in any city of the world, it might as well be Madrid. We walked around the streets adjoining Sol, declining offers for free entrance to the bars and discos. It just felt so nice to be outside in the warm air and people-watch. 

Climbing the stairs to our hotel, I saw a sign for an English teaching company located on the bottom floor. Tempting...

Madrid by night.
My Madrid!
3AM arrival to Madrid? No problem!
Puerta del Sol!