After two full days in Ireland, Wednesday morning was spent getting a little rest, a lot of breakfast, and flying across the pond to Madrid, Spain. It was my first time flying a budget airline, and we timed the flight to give us a solid morning in Dublin and a whole evening in Madrid. I truly fell in love with Spain from the moment I arrived.
After a delicious, huge, and inexpensive traditional Irish breakfast at Rasher’s around the block from the hostel, we made our way to the airport to board our RyanAir flight. I had read a lot of negative reviews of RyanAir, particularly about the poor customer service and extremely strict baggage guidelines. I’m not sure if my flight was a fluke or if the company made changes recently, but I had a super positive experience flying RyanAir.
I made sure to follow all of the instructions, including checking in and printing out the boarding pass ahead of time and keeping out bags within the limits. The flight and gate attendants were incredibly nice and helpful, too. The airline doesn’t provide free snacks or beverages on the flight, but it was a short flight and I used the opportunity to get a quick nap in. I was still in a food coma from this behemoth:
After touching down in Madrid, we took a bus from the airport to the city center and walked to our hotel from the drop-off point. Even though everything was in Spanish, my high school conversational skills helped enough.
There is an express bus from the Madrid-Barajas airport to the Atocha Train Station in the city center that we used. The bus only has a couple of stops, making it easy to not get confused, and is air conditioned for the 40-minute trip. Tickets are €5 each, and the frequent pick-ups and simplicity of the bus option made it my preferred method of getting to and from the airport.
We checked into Hostal Astoria, but despite the name, this was more like a very small hotel than the hostel I had experienced in Dublin. It was incredibly comfortable and clean, and even had a hair dryer in the private bathroom! Hostal Astoria is right off Carrera de San Jeronimo, which put us walking distance from Puerto de Sol, the Prado museum, and the Parque de Retiro. (I’ll get to each of these in subsequent posts… my obsession with the Parque is ridiculous.)
After checking in and changing, we went to dinner at La Finca de Susana, about a block or two away from the Hostal. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so we made sure to arrive right as they opened for dinner to be seated. It’s gourmet, French-inspired cuisine for a much more reasonable price because the chefs are actually culinary students. The menu was somewhat pre-fixe, where we were able to choose from limited choices. It was delicious, but I can’t remember what I specifically ordered. I do remember the wine situation, though. The wine list was in Spanish, and when the waitress took our order I pointed to one of the more expensive wine listings for €7, and asked for two. The waitress looked very confused, so I attempted to explain that both ex-beau and I were going to have a glass of wine, so we would need two. In Spanglish, she clarified that the listings and prices were per bottle. At that time, €7 exchanged to about $11 in the U.S., and the wine was absolutely excellent. The wine situation may have something to do with my love with this country…
Before returning to the hotel, we walked off dinner by taking a stroll through the Parque de Retiro, which only reinforced my obsession with España.