A bit about moi

20170430_194749(0)Plaza Mayor in Madrid

moving to another continent was no easy task, but nothing worthwhile is.

My name is Joyce and I was born in Mexico, in a bordering state with the U.S. on the Northwest called Baja California. I moved to sunny LA when I was young where I lived for many years before moving to Madrid.

Going from one country to another, and switching languages was the norm through out my life. Living in California, I got to meet people from all over the world, try all kinds of food, experience diverse cultures and hear a lot of different languages. I considered myself an open-minded and quite an international person. I thought I could experience other cultures through people. I was naive.

Thriving in LA by working in the digital entertainment field helped me accomplish my first goals in life: get my Bachelor’s Degree in Film, get a job in the entertainment industry, have benefits such as 401K and healthcare, etc. I got bored of being an adult and decided to drop it all and go teach English in Spain. The timing was right and my friends and family supported my decision. It was too good of an opportunity to pass.

Like any big change in life, moving to another continent was no easy task, but nothing worthwhile is. During my first year in Madrid, I traveled to 10 countries and countless cities. I met so many wonderful people and I learned so much from these travels, some of them solo. I, by no means, consider myself an expert. Still, I hope other people, especially other solo female travelers, will learn from both my advice and mistakes as I continue to travel in the “new” continent.

Day Trips from Guanajuato City

The easiest and fastest way to explore the surrounding cities is by hiring a Day Tour. There’s kiosks and people selling these right in front of Teatro Juarez. You can compare several companies but they all have the same itinerary and price. For $250mxn per person, I got the “Independence Route” which took about 8 hours in a van with about 12 people. The route consisted of the following:

  • La Sierra de Santa Rosa
  • Dolores Hidalgo “Pueblo Mágico”
  • Church of Atotonilco
  • San Miguel de Allende “Cultural Heritage” (Patrimonio cultural de la Humanidad)

First, let me explain what a “Pueblo Mágico” is why Mexico is filled with them. It translates into Magical Town and Mexico created a program that names several small towns in the country as such since these towns have a history, symbols and other attributes related to Mexican history. Symbols can be statues, cave pantings, churches, missions, virgin beaches, etc. After being named a Pueblo Mágico, resources are focused so the town may increase and maintain tourism. There’s a lot more to say about this program and why it has been criticized but I won’t get into the politics of it. Here’s a list of all Mexico’s Magical Towns. For tips on what to do, see and eat Guanajuato City, see this post.

jicama
I LOVE jicama on a sunny day!

La Sierra de Santa Rosa 
Our tour started in some shops that sold affordable silver. We were there for about 30 minutes then started up the mountain towards La Sierra de Santa Rosa. Our tour guide shared stories of José Alfredo Jimenez, a famous singer from Dolores, Guanajuato who wrote all his songs based on his experiences, some in La Sierra (the mountains). He is buried in a humble cemetery but the locals built him a memorial with a huge “charro” hat that he was famous for wearing. In front the cemetery we tried home made Mezcal, mixed fruit with hot sauce & lime, craft beers, etc. We also went to a small shop near the highway were a group of local women sold craft snacks and drinks, such as chamoy (sweet and sour fruit sauce), honey covered peanuts, jams, etc.

Dolores Hidalgo
Later, we went to Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican Independence began with a scream. I won’t go into detail about the story, but it was great getting a refresher from our guide, as well as hearing myths from my textbooks as a child, debunked.

My favorite thing to do here is try the many exotic ice cream flavors

Dolores is a cute and small town that can be explored in a few hours. The most popular things to do here are to visit the Independence Museum and José Alfredo Jimenez’ home. My favorite thing to do here is try the many exotic ice cream flavors. I tried avocado, cheese and mole (cacao and chili based sauce). There’s also shrimp, nopal (cactus), beer, chicharrón (pork rinds), and an endless list of odd flavors. Each stand competes for the most original and authentic tasting flavor each year. So feel free to indulge on flavors you will try nowhere else.

Church of Atotonilco
In my opinion, this place was not worth the time. I wish that instead we had more time in San Miguel de Allende. This catholic church looks like all most. Covered in golden statues and catholic murals, with the exception of a Dolores statue standing outside. I don’t mean to sound like a hater, but I was initially told we would have 3-4 hours in San Miguel de Allende and that turned into 1 hour and 15 minutes, so keep that in mind when a tour vendor tries to sell his tour over another. They are really all the same.

Dolores
Dolores & The Church of Atotonilco

San Miguel de Allende
This small town has become very famous. Celebrities have come to buy properties here. That has brought a lot of money into the town, but unfortunately it has also raised prices exponentially compared to the rest of Guanajuato. So, if you’re on a budget, I recommend staying in Guanajuato City instead and doing a Day Trip to San Miguel. There are buses that connect both towns. They are 1 hour 30 minutes away from each other. Since my visit was short, I cannot share much on this town but below are a few recommendations friends shared with me prior to my visit.

SanMiguel
Parroquía de San Miguel Arcángel

Keep in mind that most day tours stop at a restaurant near the highway in which they have a previous agreement with. In most cases, these restaurants mainly serve meat.

Friendly reminder that I have another post with tips on what to do, see and eat Guanajuato City. Enjoy your time in this beautiful state. There is so much to see, do and, especially, eat. Always, BE PRESENT!

Guanajuato

After two years of nonstop travel in Europe, I finally get to travel in my home country. I know it’s a popular destination, but I really wanted to visit Guanajuato, which ironically enough gave me European vibes.

The small-colorful houses on the steep hills reminded me of Portugal. The beautiful cathedrals reminded me of Spain and the iconic Teatro de Juarez reminded me of France. But, I was reminded I was in México when I paid $6 mxn for a bus ride to the Museum of Mummies. Also, when I paid $15 mxn for a mouth-watering, hand-made gordita for which I felt like giving my soul while living in Spain.

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Mercado Hidalgo – upstairs

I was again reminded I was in a special and new place, when exploring the underground streets, the mercados filled with original artwork, jewelry, spicy candy, aguas frescas; also, when seeing murals appealing to my country’s history. The real eye-opener was when I took a Day Tour and got to explore small villages, highways going up the green mountains, I got to try home-made Mezcal and hear the natives tongues. All of these reminders made me feel like I was where I belonged. I discuss this tour in detail in my Day Trips post.

Teatri Juarez
Teatro Juárez

What to do
La Callejoneada is a must while in Guanajuato. As with almost everything, you can find ticket sellers in front of Teatro Juárez. This is also where the tour begins. Callejón means alley, so Callejoneada is a tour through Guanajuato’s narrow alleys given by La Estudiantina, a group of funny dressed men with instruments. You’ll follow the Estudiantina through the alleys stopping in certain areas where the they tell talles of locals and the city in song. Most songs are funny and they involve the audience. If you’re traveling with your significant other, this can be a very romantic tour since the last stop is “El Callejón del Beso“, Kiss Alley.

The Museum of Mummies is a landmark in Guanajuato. It’s affordable, even if you have to pay to take pictures. You’ll see mummies from all shapes and sizes, including fetuses and people buried alive, some by mistake, some for torture. If you’re not into the grotesque, the museum also has a lot of history. I do recommend you bring a Student or Teacher ID if you have one since the discount is significant. I also recommend you avoid buying the second part of the museum, seemed like a cheap haunted house.

Mummies
The famous Guanajuato mummies

El Mirador del Pipila is a tall viewpoint with amazing views of the city. There are other tours than include a ride and a meal up there. There is also a cable car if you would like to avoid the hike.

Other places to visit are Museo Casa de Diego RiveraMuseo Iconográfico de Don Quijote and the Alhóndiga de Granaditas.

Mdo Hidalgo3
Entrance to Mercado Hidalgo

Where and what to eat
Mercado Hidalgo is a large warehouse offering every type of Mexican dish. This is also where you will find the most variety and best prices for souvenirs, as well as for food. There’s fresh squeezed juices, fruit salads, enchiladas, tortas, chicharrón, micheladas, tostilocos, corn in a cup or stick, gorditas, tacos, chiles rellenos… literally, any Mexican dish, but the one to try in Guanajuato is the “Enchilada Minera“.

Easiest way to explain an enchilada is a wet burrito. The wrapped tortilla is filled with chicken or cheese, laid out on the dish and covered with green or red sauce. The green sauce is made with tomatillo, a small and green tomato with a sour taste. The sauce in the mineras is with chile guajillo, so expect them to be spicy. The dish is topped with potatoes, carros and jalapeños in vinegar, lettuce, cream and fresh cheese.

“Esquites” are also found in every corner of the city. You can try this delicious roasted corn on a stick or in a cup. I prefer them in a cup since it’s less messy. I noticed Guanajuato had different ingredients, instead of butter like we do in the north, they use mayo, along with dry-shredded cheese, lime, hot sauce and chili powder. Some offered cream instead of mayo. Feel free to tell the seller to skip or go easy on certain ingredients.

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Enjoying a Michelitro at a rooftop

Where to stay
I stayed in the center which made everything walking distance. The bus station was a 20 minute car or  a 30min bus ride away. The airport was about an hour away since it’s in another city, Silao. There’s a bus to take from the airport to Guanajuato City’s bus station departing every 30 minutes, the schedule is here: une bus.

I loved my Bed & Breakfast! Casa de Pita is cozy, colorful and family owned. We had delicious and vegetarian home cooked breakfast every day, our room was small but cute and had everything, including a window where the Callejoneada would pass by, a bathroom and everything we needed. It was a 5 minute walk from Teatro Juárez and had the best gorditas stand right down the street.

There is so much to see, do and eat in this magical city. Here’s a Google maps list of the all places I’ve mentioned in this post. If have the time, I recommend taking the “Independence Route”, a day trip to other towns in the state of Guanajuato. I describe in detail on my Day Trips post.

Enjoy your time in delicious and beautiful Guanajuato and always BE PRESENT!

 

Bretagne


Saint-Malo is a port town famous for Intra-Muros, a medieval city next to the sea surrounded by tall walls. It’s quite picturesque and worth a visit when in Bretagne. Intra-Muros is the most centric area, so it’s best to stay here, specially if you don’t have a car since St. Malo lacks public transportation, besides a few buses that run during the day.

This area is also famous for the small “disappearing” islands that you can only visit when the tide is low. The tide changes so dramatically that if you are in one of the islands during high tide, you’ll be stuck there for about 6 hours until the tide comes back down again. One of the memorable spots near Intra-Muros was Le Velvet, a cozy and vintage looking bar that serves delicious mulled wine in the winter.

low tide
Saint-Malo during low tide

Another historical landmark to visit when in St. Malo is Solidor Tower, it is beautifully light at night. I loved walking around it at night listening to the beach waves. 

Dinard is another Bretonne beach town. It is right next to St. Malo. I recommend visiting during the day and visiting the Market. There are many places to try delicious Bretonne goods such as cider, cheese and pastries. After this, I went walking along the “board walk” that actually surrounds some rocky hills offering both an ocean view, as well as views of my “future homes” aka really beautiful and large houses by the beach I will never be able to afford but I can still appreciate and dream about.

Dinard
“board walk” in Dinard
gallete
Gallete du St- Jacques (Scallop crêpe)

After the walk, I found myself at a local pub that had the best thing to eat in both St, Malo and Dinard, the Coquille St. Jacques, aka Scallops. They are served in a crêpe, with pasta or in their shells. I lost count of how many I had during my visit to Bretagne. That’s where most of my money went. I also spent it in Kouign-amann (buttery cake) aka Bretonne Cake pronounced “Queen Aman”. Another thing to try while in Bretagne. The server at this local pub called Le Skipper was so nice and patient with my “baby French”. She was mainly intrigued, since it seemed I’m the first Mexican they had ever seen in that town. At least, that they know of.

 

 

 

The most curious thing about the Northern French, is the way they drink coffee.

Coffee bowls are a thing! Their excuse is that they have to get the energy from somewhere else due to the lack of sun. Sounds legit. 

My reaction to coffee bowls

I noticed the trend when I saw the bowls with names on every souvenir shop. I thought there were for dogs. Later, a local explain the logic behind them. Quite a contrast from the rest of Espresso drinking Europe. My though was “And they saw Americans super size everything”, but then again, to each its own.

A curious rumor about Dinard is that the house from Hitchcock’s Psycho was inspired by a house along the coast of Dinard. This explains the random Hitchcock statue with birds, that ironically was covered in bird poop.

Hitchcock

There are many beautiful cities and towns to visit while in Bretagne besides the mentioned above, such as Rennes and Nantes. Pays de la Loire is also very near and worth a visit. Remember to bring an umbrella, even when visiting in the summer, since the weather changes drastically. No matter where you stay, enjoy the delicious French wine, cheese and bread. Give seafood and Kouign-amann a try when in Bretagne, walk it all off with a stroll around the coast (during low tide please) and always BE PRESENT!

 

 

Nantes

Nantes left an impression on me despite its gloomy weather so much so that I’ve been here both during Christmas time, as well as summer. This college town offers so many attractions as well as good public transport. I’m a sucker for Belgian beer and Nantes’ Delirium Cafe was never as crowded as the original in Brussels.

What to eat
The center is pretty walkable with plenty of restaurants where to try the famous Gallete Bretonne (salty crêpe) as well as the Kouign-amann (buttery cake) aka Bretonne Cake pronounced “Queen Aman”. Don’t forget to pair your Gallete with the Bretonne cider. A small but great spot in the center is Crêperie Au Vieux Quimper.

L'Epicerie
L’Epicerie is a cosy and delicious tavern looking restaurant that is opened late and serves delicious and local food. A good option for a cute date night. I can’t even remember what I had, but I do remember it was cheesy and damn delicious. Sorry for the blurry pic, but I also remember being hungry.

 

What to see

…serves as a canvas where a stunning and colorful images are projected to the beat of the music.

 

Catedral
Cathédrale with Christmas light show

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Louis is beautiful and has an amazing show during Christmas season. The front of the cathedral serves as a canvas where stunning and colorful images are projected to the beat of the music. Not that it was related to Christmas, but I saw exotic birds flying in a forest, among other landscapes. You can get a glimpse of this odd but beautiful show in my Instagram Highlights.

Another beautiful landmark in the center of Nantes is the Castle of the Duques, shown as the Feature Image on this post. There’s an entrance fee but if you have the time, I truly recommend exploring this Château. It is not far from the train station, so def worth a visit if you got an hour to kill.

 

One of the most visited areas in Nantes, apart from the castle is the Passage Pommeraye. This Renaissance inspired mall is quite fancy. I personally do not care for high end brands, but walking through this mall was free and offered many great selfie corners. It is beautifully decorated during Christmas as well.

 

 

Passage 2
Passage Pommeraye

Last but not least, my favorite place in Nantes, even more so than Cafe Delirium, is Les Machines de l’Île, The Machines of the Island. This place is hard to describe, but it’s basically a steampunk paradise. There’s a gorgeous and sophisticated carrousel with a variety of mechanical creatures. You can also ride through the center in a larger than life size mechanical elephant. Or if you decide to pay the museum fee, you are also able to get to get inside and drive a mechanical spider and look at other mechanical animals such as hummingbirds. Even if you’re not into steampunk, this place is worth a visit when in Nantes. You don’t need to pay the entrance fee to appreciate most of the machines.

 

Where to shop
After living in a small town and riding horses everyday for two weeks, I was in dire need of a new pair or jeans. Passage Pommeraye is not an option for my unemployed self, so I had to resort to my well known chains such as H&M, Zara, Bershka, etc. You can find these stores, as well as some small locally own boutiques near the center on Rue de Calvaire. It leads to other small streets like Rue de Budapest. It’s all very walkable.

Where to party

I was drawn into the “Canadian pub” out of curiosity and because of

Bar Tabarnak
Bar Tabarnak

Being that Nantes is a college town, some bars are more affordable but crowded with college students, specially during the weekends. I was drawn into the “Canadian pub” out of curiosity and because of their “vin chaud”, hot wine or mulled wine. One of my favorite winter drinks.  Bar Tabarnak was quite spacious, with outdoor seating and friendly staff.

Le Chait Noir (The Black Cat) is cool speak-easy type bar with live music and a good wine selection… because France. Delirium Café is always a good idea if you’re a beer fan. It’s a good spot to go as a group or start the night, maybe even a pre-dinner drink, maybe before dinner and after dinner… I could have Belgian beers anytime of the day, no judging here. If cocktails are your thing, La Ribouldingue, which can mean “party” is cool spot with a terrace and a DJ on some nights.

Whatever your reason may be for visiting this jolie ville, you are guaranteed a memorable time. Enjoy your visit, bring an umbrella or rain coat and always BE PRESENT!

Pays de la Loire

I had the privilege of doing volunteer work through Workaway at an equestrian center in Pays de la Loire where I also got to explore a bit of Bretagne. Which deserves its own post where I write about towns like Saint-Malo, Dinard and Nantes. And as always, I’ll list my fave food spots and what I ate in beautiful (and butter covered) Brittany, Bretagne in French.

Horsey
Bae doesn’t like selfies

Workaway is for travelers who want to live, work and eat like a local. My work at the center included teaching English, helping with the stables, assisting in the kitchen, as well as supervising and entertaining the campees. In exchange, I received free lodging, all 3 meals a day (including plenty of French cheese!), beach trips, private equestrian lessons and most importantly, I practiced French everyday. Also, my amazing host was gracious enough to drive me around to explore the surrounding towns.

I arrived at the St. Nazaire train station and my lodging was located at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins. My work schedule was so flexible that, some mornings, I could run to Plage L’Ermitage, a beach next to a small forest, or to Plage de Saint Michel. Neither beach was ever overcrowded despite it being the middle of summer. Not even on Bastille Day where we had an evening picnic to watch the fireworks.

Pornic (1)
Pornic and la femme enjoying her strawberry ice cream

Among some of the most memorable towns I visited were Pornic, Le Croisic and La Roche. Each town has its own water views, landmarks, boutiques, cafes and ice cream shops that are best exploring on foot since the summers are pretty tempered here due to it’s northern location. You’ll find delicious strawberry ice cream everywhere as well as affordable Belgian beers at the bars and cafes. Pornic was busy with Parisians during the summer making it a bit more expensive, but still beautiful. Le Croisic is famous for its WWI US Naval base and Le Roche is a bit more local and small, a hidden gem.

Guérande 2 (1)
Les Remparts de Guérande

Being that I am the product of the Disney generation, I’m a fan of castles, especially medieval looking castles. Guérande is a medieval town next to Le Croisic where you’ll find several castles and old churches, mostly used for events such as weddings but open to the public when there are no events. Here is a list of several castles in Guérande.

My Workaway host has a sweet tooth and I’m grateful because French pastries quickly became my addiction. Cheese already was, I totally adored that French people have cheese for dessert! If it wasn’t for my horrible pronunciation, I could so fit in with this culture.

Pastry
Christophe Roussel pastry (I just remember there being lots of chocolate)

 

If you’re craving some sweets or damn tasty bread, I recommend Fournil du Pays Blanc and Christophe Roussel. On Sundays, we also visited the market where you can find every local product imaginable such as bread, pastries, jams, all kinds of cheese, coffee, cider, hand made jewelry, etc. Definitely visit and bring cash to the Marché de la Pierre Couché. I have videos of the market and the pastry shops in my Instagram Highlights of Pays de la Loire.

There’s so much to see, do, drink and EAT in North Western France. I’m sure no matter where you go, you’ll have a delicious time. When visiting, keep in mind this area of France is not too far from the UK. Don’t expect a lot of people to speak English but do bring an umbrella, even in the summer. I found the weather would change dramatically one week from the other. En fin, also remember to always BE PRESENT!

 

 

 

 

Madrid like a local

My first Madrid post serves the tourist who’s visiting for a few days. It gives basic info on the MUSTS in Madrid such as Rastro, which is the Sunday flea market. As well as a DIY walking tour of landmarks in the city center. I also listed some amazing places to visit outside the center for you to pick from.

The second post is on Where to Eat & Drink in Madrid. A comprehensive list of my fave spots I frequented during my two years living in this lively city.

“This post focuses on the coolest neighborhoods in Madrid,
as well as tips and tricks to experience the city like a local.”

BEST BARRIOS IN MADRID

Lavapiés is a short walk from Sol and it is one of the most affordable neighborhoods near the center. It has numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy and is home to Tapapiés, a food (more specifically, tapas) fest celebrated in October. Many of the restaurants in the area offer a special and affordable (€1-2) tapa for the event. Beware of the many Indian restaurants in the area, most of them are tasteless.

Tapapiés is how I found one of my favorite spots in Madrid, Toscanaccio, a small and family-owned Tuscan bakery. I honestly visited this place weekly. It is delicious, affordable and offers veggie and vegan options. It has both savory and sweet choices.

“If you’re a risk taker and want to blend in with the locals and expats…”

Plaza 2 de mayo
Botellón @ Plaza Dos de Mayo

If you’re a risk taker and want to blend in with the locals and expats, then stop by Plaza Dos de Mayo in Malasaña. Beware, it smells like piss most of the time. The reason being that this is the most popular area for “botellón” which is the Spanish tradition of sitting and drinking on the street. It is not legal to do so, but most days, the police looks the other way. Police cars will show up later in the night to disperse the crowd so as to avoid noise complains, and I have heard stories of people who have been fined in this plaza, so this is an “at your own risk” experience.

La Latina is the neighborhood for foodies. It is home to the many restaurants in taverns for all tastes and budgets. I made a list of my fave restaurants in this area including El Buo and La Taberna Sanlúcar in the Where to Eat and Drink in Madrid post. For drinks, I recommend Hopper, which has amazing cocktails and a great happy hour. On hot summer nights, I went to the rooftop of El Viajero, just be mindful that you’ll have to be patient to get seated. Another great roof top that is frequented by tourists, since it belongs to a hostel, is The Hat. A cute place with a terrace near the metro stop is La Bobia, famous for its delicious and affordable Asturian cider.

There are infinite options to choose from in La Latina. You can walk around and look at the menus posted outside, just be mindful that most places close after lunch and open for late dinner.

PintaMalasañaMalasaña is home to numerous boutiques, bars, restaurants and local specialty stores, as well as a lot of original street art because of a festival called “Pinta Malasaña” where shop owners select an artist to decorate their store front. This fest is celebrated annually, keeping the art fresh and different every year, while making way to new local artists.

Malasaña is a cultural hub and also the home to the Conde Duque Cultural Center, which hosts all kinds of events. From art exhibits, to free concerts, even beer fests.

Goya
Plaza de Goya

Goya is a “pijo” area. Meaning that people with funds tend to live or visit this area. Hence, it is a bit posh but has the best stocked stores in my opinion. It is near Retiro park, so you could easily exit from the north side of the park and walk around Goya. The plaza is known for the Wizink Center where many international artists have performed. Unlike Gran Via, It is not usually crowded nor are the stores picked out. It is beautifully decorated during Christmas and there’s plenty of local restaurants, so this area definitely deserves a visit if you’re in Madrid for a longer stay.

 

 

 

 

Don’t buy day trip tour packages and don’t pay for museums.

THINGS TO KNOW

  • Museums are free during the last 2 hours.
    Arrive 30 minutes before the free hour (6pm or 7pm, depending on the day) to get in line. It will be long but it will move fast as soon as the doors are open for free visitors. Check each museum’s website for their schedule:

  • Thyssen Museum is free on Mondays but closes at 4pm.
  • History Museum of Madrid is always free
  • Avoid route buses during rush hour.
  • Avoid bocadillo de calamares.
    I love calamares but fried calamari on a dry baguette is not the best. Drier than a  torta de tamal.
  • Avoid taxis departing from the center.
    Use Uber or Cabify., they cannot enter the small streets but can pick you up on may avenues that are always near. Taxis tend to overcharge and taking longer routes, with the additional fee if you get picked up at the center.
  • Tap water is potable and tastes fine.
    Don’t pay for water, buy vermouth or wine instead.
  • Don’t buy day trip tour packages.
    These are sold at kiosks and they’re rushed and overpriced. It’s really easy to move around in train or bus to other cities. Below are the details on how to DIY day trips like to Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Zaragoza and El Escorial/San Lorenzo from Madrid.
  • Spanish schedule:
    • breakfast 9-10am
    • lunch 3pm (shared raciones & tapas or menú del día)
    • dinner 9-10pm
  • Eggs are also for lunch and dinner
  • Paellas in Madrid tend to be frozen.
    It’s best to try it in Valencia or Murcía, even Andalucía
Toledo
Toledo. Castilla La Mancha

DAY TRIPS

Use the renfe website for checking train schedules. Cercanías trains move within the Comunidad de Madrid, meaning the outskirts. For example, you can take the Cercanías train to El Escorial which is still Madrid Comunidad, but it’s not Madrid city.

To visit Segovia or Toledo, you need a Long Distance train (tren de larga distancia) which is also renfe. If you want to go to Barcelona or Málaga, you can take the AVE, which is the fast train to further Comunidades. Barcelona being in Catalunya, for example and Málaga in Andalucía, but Segovia is Castilla León and Toledo y Castilla de la Mancha, which are the neighboring Comunidades to Madrid. Easiest way to understand this is imagining that the Comunidades are like States.

Once you’ve arrived in the station you can use public transportation to get to the city center or wherever your lodging is. To explore the schedules of metros and buses in Spanish cities or in other European countries I recommend using Citymapper and the Moovit app. You can see The Essentials blog post where I explain how to use these. Google maps tends not to have accurate info on buses in small cities like Toledo.

Feel free to reach me with any questions regarding travel within Spain, especially departing from Madrid. I was once a lost tourist and know the struggle. Spain is incredible easy to travel, not only because of its size, but also because its many transportation options within the country. You have the option of using low cost airlines, fast trains, comfortable buses and BlaBlaCar. This last one is a ride sharing app where you travel in a local’s car. Much more affordable and faster than other road transportation options.

Wherever you go, I am sure you will have a blast in this beautiful and diverse country. Enjoy every moment of your travels and always BE PRESENT!

Where to eat & drink in Madrid

I’ve made 3 posts on Madrid so far since I lived in this lively city for two amazing years. I don’t claim to know this city inside and out since there are new things popping out all the time, but I’ve listed the places I frequented making it “My Madrid”. For info on landmarks or for a brief and efficient visit, check out my first post. For insider tips on the city check out the Madrid like a local post.

WHERE TO EAT

Lavapiés is a short walk from Sol. It is one of the most affordable neighborhoods near the center. It has numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy and is home to Tapapiés, a food (more specifically, tapas) fest celebrated in October. Many of the restaurants in the area offer a special and affordable (€1-2) tapa for the event. Beware of the many Indian restaurants in the area, most of them are tasteless.

Tapapiés
is how I found one of my favorite spots in Madrid, Toscanaccio, a small and family-owned Tuscan bakery. I honestly visited this place weekly. It is delicious, affordable and offers veggie and vegan options. It has both savory and sweet choices.

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Ceviche peruano in Mercado San Fernando (man butt not included)

Besides Toscanaccio, I also frequented Mercado de San Fernando in Lavapiés. This food market offers options from all over the world.

My faves are, no doubt, the Mexican spot as well as the Peruvian since you’ll find delicious ceviche in the latter. The Mexican restaurant has amazing micheladas and several types of tacos, as well as tamales. Near it, there’s a Puerto Rican and Lebanese spot. This Mercado also has all types of Asian, including Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, etc.

 

Taberna Sanlucar
La Taberna Sanlúcar en La Latina

La Latina is near Lavapiés and it’s the most famous barrio for dinner. My favorite restaurant in this neighborhood is La Taberna Sanlúcar, which is a cozy and delicious tavern serving Andalucían food. The menu might take some time to decipher but the waiters are so kind and will gladly offer suggestions, I do recommend you try the “vino de Jerez”. Sanlúcar is next toOff Latina” which is a legit flamenco venue if you’re planning on catching a show.

Buo
Buo en La Latina (objects are larger than they appear)

If Tortilla (Spanish omelette) is on your list to try, which despite being egg based is enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I suggest Buo. There’s one in La Latina and another in Chueca. It also has its sister restaurant, La Buha. Despite location, I never found any differences between the two. The one in La Latina has a terraza (outdoor tables), so you could enjoy your dinner outdoors when the weather permits, just be aware that Spaniards are avid smokers. Buo has a large selection of ingredients for their large Tortilla and it’s only €10. It will feed at least 6 people. Another famous Tortilla spot is Pez Tortilla. There’s one in La Latina and another on Calle del Pez in Malasaña. Pez offers raciones (slices) of a wide selection of tortillas, as well as craft beer.

 

 

 

Extremeño
Tosta de Pulpo & Sangría Blanca, El Capricho Extremeño


El Capricho Extremeño is a must on Rastro days (Sundays) and only serves 
Tostas which is toasted bread with a variety of toppings. They also have a delicious white sangría that pairs great with the Tosta de Pulpo. La Extremeña offers veggie and vegan options. The line is long, but it moves fast since it only serves “To-Go” and premade toasts.

Also in La Latina, Lamiak has the best pintxos, which are bigger tapas from the north of Spain. It gets really busy so it’s best to arrive for US dinner time instead, considering that Spanish dinner time is between 9 and 10pm.

Txirimiri is a chain so there’s a few locations in different neighborhoods.  It serves Basque country cuisine and it has the best Solomillo I’ve ever had, which is a very tender beef bathed in a type of light gravy

Juana la Loca is near Sol and is a great place to go with groups. Reservations are available. The decor is very original and cute, but the real deal are the delicious and affordable tapas.

Los Artesanos 1902 .Churros & Chocolate (fudge) are a thing in Spain, especially during cold weather. This place has the best chocolate I’ve had in Spain, taking into account that it’s a thick fudge for dipping, although some locals sip on it.

 

WHERE TO DRINK

Madrid has probably more bars than people, hence the long list below. I listed a few bars I frequented with the reasons why. Keep in mind that there’s a plethora of options depending on the kind of night, or day, you’re looking to have.

La Playa de Lavapiés is a bar frequented by locals that serves Estrella Galicia on tap. Believe me, much better than Mahou which is the only beer you’ll find in almost every bar. La Playa is not far from the Lavapiés metro stop and it’s on a popular street filled with bars and terrazas, which are a hot commodity unless it’s raining since everyone wants to smoke and drink at the outdoor tables.

Chinaski
Beer Menu at Chinaski in Lavapiés

If you’re a craft beer lover, you need to stop by Chinaski. It is on Calle de la Fe and conveniently located across from Toscanaccio. Chinaski has plenty of indoor seating, perfect for a rainy or cold night, but the biggest attraction is the wide variety of European craft beer at affordable prices.

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Yayos at Casa Camacho

Casa Camacho is a landmark and a must when in Malasaña. A great way of starting the night in Madrid is with a “Yayo”, the staple of Casa Camacho. A Yayo is a small glass of  Vermouth, gin and tonic water. Beware of the alcohol content, don’t be fooled by its size.

Sala X1
Decor in Sala Equis

Sala Equis is an old porn cinema turned bar. It is difficult to describe this place since it is still a cinema, but showcases modern films. Downstairs there is stadium seating with some lounge chairs facing a the projected film. Upstairs is a bit more intimate and covered in red neon lighting. Cocktails are great and there’s a good selection of Spanish beers.

Pepe Botella is an indoor and typical tavern frequented by locals with plenty of seating. It is deal for an intimate night with friends or date.

Vacaciones Cocktail Bar is a cute but small summer themed bar, great for dates too. Fyi, there’s more seating downstairs.

Ojalá is another interesting place in Malasaña, it is known as the “sand bar” because the floor is covered in sand. I’ve heard the food is good here but I’ve only been for drinks.

La Realidad was my go to place, especially for dates since its corky decor and dim lighting make it a perfectly cozy place to get to know someone. It is also near, Pirata Malasaña, which is another one of my go-to craft beer bars, along with the recently opened Mikkeller Madrid.

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Stranger Things decor at Twist&Shout

Next to Malasaña, you’ll find the famous ChuecaI could write a whole post about this popular neighborhood, but I’ll stick to mentioning one of my favorite, and the nerdiest bar in Madrid. Twist&Shout is decorated with Sc-Fi and comic book fandom. The drinks are themed as such, and you’ll find anything from Butter Beer to Game of Thrones or Disney themed shooters.

Fuencarral street is known for its many shops during the day, but further up towards Tribunal metro stop, it is known for its lively night life. You’ll find a mix of locals and expats in this area, drinking at bars such as Freeway, Triskel Tavern or dancing the night away at La Vía Láctea, unless you’re looking for a club, then Teatro Barceló is nearby.

BEST COFFEE SPOTS

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Cafelito with Sarah ❤


HanSo Café  best avocado toast I’ve ever had! Free Wi-Fi and great place to work in Malasaña. Just remember that it’s pronounced “wee-fee” in Spain.

Cafelito, cozy and cute coffeeshop in Lavapiés with an affordable  and wide menu. Conveniently near Toscanaccio, my fave Tuscan bakery.

La Doña is quite affordable, centric and spacious. it is located next to Noviciado metro spot. It has plenty of seating and a clean bathroom. The only downside is that the Wi-Fi is limited to about an hour per visit.

Wherever you go and however long you stay in Madrid, you are guaranteed a good time. This city has something for everyone and I hope my list serves as a guide for an unforgettable time. Enjoy beautiful Madrid and always BE PRESENT!