I have been out here in Europe since late August and I´ve been lucky enough to be able to do some traveling since I´ve been out here so I thought it would be a good idea to give a few traveling tips that I´ve learned. I thought this would be a good idea because the first thing I learned is that traveling in Europe is very different from the United States. Some of these tips I´ve learned from my friends, some just from experience, and a few I´ve just picked up along the way.
In Spain I have traveled to Toledo, Valencia, Segovia, Barcelona, and I went to Salamanca this weekend. In Europe I´ve been to Rome, Lisbon, London, Galway, Dublin, and a few other cities in Ireland. I also have tickets to Edinburgh and Amsterdam for the holidays. I have been to these places by bus, train, car, and airplane. Now when I travel it is a lot easier then when I first started so I’ll take that as I learned a few things. This entry will just provide some general travel tips as well as a few specifics to some of the places I´ve been. I will also include some of my favorite places I´ve been and fun things to do.
First little thing that I have noticed is that I don´t like when the menus are posted outside of a restaurant and are translated in five or six languages. This means that their target market is obviously tourist if it´s translated so many times. This might, but not always, indicate a lack of authenticity. I also don´t like when the menu is translated so many times because I like trying new foods, and sometimes not knowing what you’re going to get is just half the fun. For example when I was in Lisbon, Portugal I had no clue what I was ordering half the time because I cannot read Portuguese. I always had really good food for the most part. However, one day my friend and I went for some seafood at a really small local shop next to the port and I guess I ordered grilled squid. I didn´t know it at the time but after we ordered the waiter went in the restaurant and came out a few minutes later and started cooking a whole fish and a whole squid on a small grill about six to ten feet away from the table. The food was very fresh but I am just not a big fan of grilled squid since it is so chewy, but I was glad I tried it and now I know.
Another thing that I have learned is that word of mouth is a very good thing when traveling. If someone recommends you something it is probably because they liked it themselves, if not you are probably talking to a promoter. Almost all of my favorite places to eat here in Madrid are places my friends or someone I know has recommended to me. One good example of this was a flamenco show I went to in a barrio in La Latina. I wanted to go see a flamenco show since it is a very cultural thing here in Spain. When my sister came to visit me we looked into and found a few places for the shows, but they were all very expensive and had some short of package deal you had to buy. Most of the prices we found were 40 euros to 80 euros.
We ended up not going because of time and price but a few weeks later my friend invited me to a place that he heard about. The place is called Artébar and it’s a very small bar and in the back they have an area for the flamenco dancing. We ended up seeing two shows since it was so cheap and so personal. It was only 10 euros for one entrance and 7 euros for the second. The performance was absolutely amazing. I was surprised the quality of music and dancing. To say the least, I was more than satisfied. Since that I have recommended it to two of my friends who have also gone and liked it as well.
Like I said my favorite places to eat and go to here in Madrid have been recommended to me, so I will give a few recommendations to anyone coming over here. Since the Spain is so well known for tapas I will start with those.
Top Three Tapas (all very different in style, food, and price)
El Tigre- This is a small chain with three locations in a very close walking distance to Gran Vía. If you go to one and it is closed there will most likely be someone outside with directions to the other ones. If they are all closed you are very early- remember the Spanish eat very late. This place is always packed full of locals. If you try to go on Wednesday through Saturday just plan on standing up-most people do it anyway. At El Tigre they are the most tapas I have ever seen given to eat person. You order a beer or wine for five euros and they give you mountain of food, and once that is finished they give you some more! I sometimes question on how they make profit since they give out so much food. When my family visited we had to tell them to stop bringing us food. We were just sitting there and someone would come around and drop off more food.
Orio- This is another very good tapas bar. There are two of these that I know of: one in Madrid and one in Barcelona. This bar works a little different from most tapa bars but these are some of the best tapas I have had. Unlike El Tigre you get a large variety of tapas and you get to choose them yourself. There is a bar that has lots of plates each with different types of gourmet tapas. You sit down order a drink and then they bring you a plate, and how you pay at the end is by the amount of toothpicks you have accumulated from the tapas. Each are 1.95 euros so if you are hungry and not paying attention you can spend a lot of money, but I assure you it is very worth it!
The third tapas place I would highly recommend is not a bar or a restaurant but a bunch of small shops inside a market called Marcado de San Miguel. This place has just about everything you can think of: wine bar, cheese bar, deserts of all kinds, tapas, fresh vegetables and fruits, seafood, coffee products, meats, and much more. This is a definite must see if you come to Madrid! You can grab a table with some friends or family and just go around to each place and try a little bit of everything. This place is a little more expensive because they sell everything individually but you can also find some good deals and try some deliciously fresh food.
One important thing to know about this place is to save your receipt while you are there! If you don´t have this they will charge you to use the bathroom! I had to use the bathroom but she made me pay even though I had a drink in my hand that was clearly from the market. I asked her if I got my receipt from upstairs if I could get my money back. She said that was fine but I came down a few minutes later after I had paid her to use the bathroom but she claimed she didn´t remember me so after a few minutes of arguing I just left because I figured she needed more than I did but I was still frustrated she charged me then forgot about me all of a sudden.