Day 28 (MY BIRTHDAY!!!!) continued:
Along the three hour drive to Madrid, we made a stop at a gas station where my sister valiantly used that magic eraser to remove even more of the green paint from the side of our white Alfa Romeo from our small collision in Cordoba. She was wildly successful, and we were feeling even more confident that we would be able to get away with it when we dropped the car off that afternoon.
When we arrived in Madrid, we planned wisely to park the car in a parking garage close to our hotel, drop off our bags, and then return the car to the rental facility. What we didn’t anticipate is the heavy traffic in the city, along with how packed and tight the parking garage would be. Once we found a parking spot, I had to jump out of the car to guide my sister into the spot. One of the attendants came out and attempted to help as well. Really, he just “yelled” at my sister in Spanish. Finally, we had most of our bags and were able to take the escalator up the street and navigate our way to Vincci The Mint, our hotel. It was easy to get there, but we had a big scare at check-in. My passport was missing.. Thankfully, as I was panicking, the young man working the front desk helped me out by accepting my drivers license opposed to my passport. Because of this, we were able to get into our room, and I was able to dig through everything in search of my passport. It wasn’t there. It was either completely gone, or I had left it in Sevilla some how. I was so frustrated, the last thing I wanted was to have to drive back to Sevilla for it or spend a few days more in Spain while waiting for a new one after a long visit to the US Embassy.
After digging, we had no choice, but to move on with the day. We headed down to the car to take it back to the rental facility. Before we left, I made it a point to check the car for my passport. I remembered that I had it when we were leaving for Tarifa, and I had set it down quickly right before I went to pay for our parking. Thankfully, I found it down on the inside of the seat. YAY!!!!! I was plagued with relief as I waved it at my sister while she paid for our current parking. She got back in the driver seat, and I guided her out of the parking spot as best I could. It was so intense, but she made it happen! You go, Erica!
We made our way outside of the city to the address that was on our rental car email. Funny enough, after about a 30 minute drive in traffic, there was no rental car drop off at the address we drove to. We didn’t know what to do, so we drove back into the city. We circled around the train station and pulled into a parking spot in front of a hotel, where I jumped out and attempted to ask the doorman for help. He was saying that it was right in the vicinity but he wasn’t 100% sure. So, being as it was, we drove into the parking lot of the train station. My sister jumped out & went to find it. After about 20 minutes of sitting in the car, she showed up, and knew exactly where to go. She got us there! The rep came out and looked over the car & gave us the receipt. We were not charged for any damage! WOO HOO!!!
We had some of our smaller belongings with us that we had opted out of carrying to the hotel earlier, so we decided to hail a cab back to our hotel. It was a quick and easy ride. We dropped off our belongings, layered up and headed out for dinner. My sister was hell-bent on taking me to the mushroom bar, Meson del Champiñon, for my birthday. I was 100% in, but we were having a hard time finding it because Erica didn’t have the name. She knew it was right around Plaza Mayor. We did a full circle inside, and the mushroom bar was nowhere to be found. We were hangry & ready to give up, but we gave it one last try. We wandered down the stairs leading to the outside & took a look around. WE FOUND IT!!!!! We walked over to the right and headed in. They were packed! There were no tables available, so as soon as a spot cleared at the bar, we moved in. We ordered a couple plates of mushrooms and a couple of beers that were so satisfying. We were also served a small plate of bread to accompany the savory stuffed fungus. You guys, oh my god. These mushrooms were the most incredible mushrooms that I have ever had, and may ever have. Despite the mushroom ecstasy, we decided to escape the crowd and find a place we could sit down. We headed back into the plaza and found an outdoor cafe where we were able to use blankets near a heater & ordered the worst paella we had the whole trip, simply because it was under-cooked… but it was hot, and that was all that was really important considering it was freezing and damp outside. Our meal was accompanied by the sounds of locals making music around us. It created a fun atmosphere that we really enjoyed.
After that, we went on a quick hunt to find a Spain patch for my sister for her back pack, and then we headed back to the hotel to sleep.
We woke at a normal hour and headed out into the city. It was going to be just an easy day for us. We got breakfast at a small cafe and ordered a couple of omelettes. The omelettes were completely runny inside, so we did our best to eat all that we could and split. We then headed toward Plaza Mayor. We figured we would check and see if there were any street artist… When we got there, we were completely taken aback. Not only were there street artists, there were performers, and there was a whole market lining the entire square full of vintage stamps, coins, trinkets, and more. It was awesome. It was a great place to spend the morning. We ended up buying a some vintage postcards for my dad that depicted bull fighting, and we each bought one more oil painting to add to our large collection. It was a really great way to start the day.
From there, we knew that we needed to pick up additional luggage, so we headed back toward our hotel, down one of the wide shopping roads that had several shops offering luggage. We found a couple pieces that suited our needs &, even better, were on sale! From there… we went back to the hotel & began attempting to pack up our souvenirs since we were leaving the following day. We got a pretty good start, but it still needed some work. It was a little nerve-racking packing our beautiful ceramic pottery into cheap luggage, but the good news is that it all made it a-okay.
Anyways, back to the trip… We decided to head back out for lunch & made our way down the street to Le Pain Quotidien where we proceeded to have an incredible dish of vegetable lasagna followed by carrot cake that was divine. Not to mention, that the glass water bottles were the most incredible shade of blue, that we decided to take them with too! I know use them as vases.
We began our journey toward the Palacio de Cristal which sits in the very large and beautiful Retiro Park. It was a beautiful day. The weather had finally warmed up a bit, and the sun was shining. We talked about history and life as we cruised through Madrid. We enjoyed watching the street performers entertain visitors in the park & seeing the people paddle boat in the large fountain/water feature. We were in the park for a while, we enjoyed seeing the palace & even going in side. Then we stopped at one of the cafes to finally try the churros, a deep fried pastry dough served with chocolate sauce. To be honest, I didn’t understand the hype. I think Mexican churros are better, and the ones at Disneyland are the best… mmmm… that cinnamon sugar goodness!
We decided to explore more of the city on foot. We aimed to find the palace, but that didn’t go as planned. I think we were in the vicinity, but Erica ended up having to go to the bathroom so badly that we ended up heading back quite quickly and making a pit-stop in a Burger King.
We were still hungry since our lunch was light, and decided that an early dinner was necessary. We did what any reasonable person would do, and went back to Meson del Champiñon. This time though, we beat the rush and got a table in back right next to the charming keyboardist. Not only did we order a couple rounds of mushrooms, we ordered cheese, we ordered olives, and we ordered fried peppers…. It was all so amazing!!!! I loved every minute of it. I could eat there all the time, and I wish there was a Meson del Champiñon here in Scottsdale. haha.
There was one last stop that we had to make while in Madrid & that was the bull bar, La Torre del Oro. Along with its interesting history, the decorating was intriguing as well. There were heads of slain bulls on the wall along with vivid and graphic photos of bull fighting. There were also photos of celebrities and presidents that had visited. It was a really cool place, but I don’t know that I have the stomach to go back. The men working there were very kind. When we ordered the beer, they served us another small drink that was definitely comprised of beef broth & a mystery ingredient that kind of freaked me out. (Out of politeness, I finished it.) There is something about drinking beef broth drinks while look at injured bulls and injured bull fighters that really just turns your stomach a bit. I’m glad we went, and if you are up for it, go. It’s a cool place. But considering I’m not one to condone animal abuse, which I think is a category that bull fighting may fall under, I most likely won’t go back.
We decided that we should start heading back toward the hotel, but I really wanted one last crepe, so we stopped in at a cafe that had just that… a chocolate crepe… a chocolate crepe with an orange flavor… THE DISAPPOINTMENT STRUCK!!!! Orange has no place in chocolate, I don’t care what anyone says.. I did eat it anyways, but I was happy when it was gone.
We headed back to the hotel & finished organizing & packing. We were leaving super early the next morning for the airport, so we went to be early.
When we woke it was dark and raining. We were schedule on the 8:25 AM flight, and therefore wanted to ensure that we had plenty of time to get there. We wanted to leave the hotel by 6 AM. We were originally planning on taking the train, but opted for a cab instead. After checkout, we headed outside & quickly hailed one. The drive took longer than expected because of heavy traffic.
Once we got to the airport, a man came up and grabbed our bags and placed them on the trolley and began pushing them toward the American Airlines counter. He insisted that we tip him, and we declined. We thought he worked for the airport initially, and were a little frustrated that a stranger would just come up and assume that you want there help and would pay them for it. He was angry with us, but we didn’t care… We were way to exhausted to care. Instead, we got our tickets, checked our bags, and headed to our gate.
We were worried that we wouldn’t make our first flight because it would be too full and we were flying standby… but that wasn’t the case. We got on the first flight out headed for NYC without any issue. We even got to sit next to each other.
Just like that, it was bye-bye, Europe. Hello, home! I was okay with that. 29 days exploring other countries was more than enough. I was excited to be back in my own bed with my dog in my family’s home.