Who wants that perfect travel story anyway?
Cliché, cliché, cliché, cliché…
1. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
As a friendship group, we had a number of things to celebrate when we left for Madrid. Among the many things was Lulu’s birthday, so we planned, without success, to go out and celebrate her quick ascension towards her dirty thirties; night #1 was destroyed by a pre-club nap that evolved into full blown sleep (and now nobody takes Lulu’s calls for a nap seriously – sis, just say you want to sleep with your chest). Then night #2 was devastated by the rain in Spain which fell firmly on the plains of its capital city. We took comfort in the knowledge that the rain initially threatened to fall the entire time we were in Madrid, so we were happy to let one night succumb to some farmer’s rain dance. Our rainy night in allowed us to have an epic girlie sleepover complete with balloons (what’s a birthday without them?), pizza, rosé and a cheeky karaoke session. None of this footage made the vlog (THANK GOD), but they are memories we will always cherish and definitely makes a sweeter glass of lemonade than an empty night in a random club. Thankfully, we were rewarded with a sunny day the morning after.
2. Stop searching – happiness is right next to you
Arriving in Madrid, we were determined to locate the best sangria in the city (yes, we are about to equate sangria to happiness – roll with it). It was like we had blinkers on:
Q: Should we eat there, then?
A: …Do they serve sangria?
We expected this search to be much easier than it was, to be honest with you. We had thrown hella euros at some “ok” sangria, and then it seemed like the search fizzled out. We were tired of searching until it was time for our Segway tour, which Lulu & Gloria joined but Abi and Nadine checked out of (all that balancing business? Can’t come and die). Abi and Nadine, hoping to pass time in style, went to find a rooftop bar to sit, wait and look cute at. Arriving at Hotel Urban, just a mere 10 minutes’ walk away from the Segway Tour shop based near Opera metro station, it was found – the perfect sangria blended with fruit, smiles and happiness! It didn’t come cheap at €13 a glass though, but who cares! It came just as the search was called off – yay!
3. Give more, get more
Assuming we could get by in Madrid on ultra-basic Spanish was a rude awakening for us. Us not getting beyond common greetings (hola, buenos noches) and courtesies (muchas gracias) and expecting the Spanish to give us the other 98% back in English was the wrong move. The entitled spirit in us really JUMPED OUT. Language barriers are tough – and miscommunication is more often than not the reason we might perceive others as “rude”. In Madrid, the language barrier had us abandoned by two taxi drivers and in tension with a waitress due to confusion over what was ordered. Learning more conversational Spanish definitely would have got us off on a better footing with those lovely people providing a service to us. It ultimately would have enabled us to feel as though we had a much more successful trip as it would have been the access to becoming more deeply immersed in Madrid life, even if it was just for a long weekend.
4. The best things in life are free*
Don’t get us wrong, we had an amazing time paying for some exciting experiences in Madrid (like the Segway tour), but one of the moments that put smiles on our faces? Strolling through Retiro Park just as a violinist busker began to sweetly play the Game of Thrones theme tune. And the smile on his face as we joined in with enthusiasm was equally as sweet! It was the same joy that overcomes us when a DJ drops the theme tune to 50 Cent’s ‘Power’ TV series. Now we really should have said almost free*, as we repaid his entertainment to us with a few euros each, but what it all comes down to is that you don’t need to break the bank to live your best life.
5. What is popular is not always right
We are very aware that there are more profound causes that this quote can be attributed to, but stick this out with us please! Reading blog after blog and receiving recommendation after recommendation about things to do and see in Madrid, the San Gines chocolatier in Madrid would appear over and over again. Now if you’re hoping to visit somewhere in Madrid for aesthetics and history, we would hands down recommend San Gines on these features alone – the 124-year old chocolatier’s gorgeous dark green and rich gold interior is incredibly visually pleasing. But if, like us, you were expecting sugar galore, mind-blowing churros drowned in cinnamon that would elevate your blood-sugar levels to the moon and back? This ain’t it. It’s definitely a dessert place for grown-ups and, well, maybe our taste palettes just weren’t mature enough.
6. Live in the “now”
As blessings (not luck) would have it, our trip to Madrid was extended by an extra day. Did we see it at as a blessing at the time? No. That’s because only a few hours after checking out of our beautiful Erik Vokel apartment in Atocha, while we did our last round of pre-airport sightseeing, SkeezyJet had cancelled our home-bound flights. At the time of the cancellation, we were able to book ourselves onto the next available flight, which would leave early the next morning. More blessings fell on us, as this rescheduled flight was also cancelled. We eventually got home in the afternoon of the next day. In the sheer panic of sorting out our accommodation for the extra night and which flight we would be on next, we had wasted the entirety of our blessing by arguing with GreasyJet about the cancellations and our unplanned expenses. Needless to say, we didn’t get very far with the low-budget airline in all those hours we were on the phone to them. In hindsight, that told us that we may as well have fought the battle at home and lived up the extra hours in Madrid like they were our last – because they were.
7. Where words fail, music speaks
Have you ever been serenaded? After our Madrid trip, we became official members of club “yes” in response to that question. Stepping out of Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport and into the taxi rank, the most cheerful airport worker burst into song for us – his song of choice was “That’s What Friends Are For”. If we said we enjoy being serenaded, we would be lying to you guys. It really is up there at #1 on the Cringe Hot 100 (much like this sentence). That aside, though, the lyrics to the song he sang ring so true for us as a friendship group; “I’ll be on your side forever more, that’s what friends are for”. We wrote earlier that we had a lot to celebrate on this trip, but we also had (and still have currently) many things to battle through and heal from – we were reminded in this moment that over the years up to now, the four of us (and even the other four in our wider friendship group) have seen each other through so much that life has thrown at us. Words haven’t failed here, but in that moment the music definitely spoke – we’ll see each other through it all no matter what. We’ve even transcended beyond simple friends by this point; we are sisters! So not only is that what friends are for, but that is also what family is for.