My weekend in Salamanca

salamanca

So, all of a sudden, Spain decided it was time for winter. Yeah, I’m not a happy camper. The cold is always tough to deal with, but it’s even tougher when there’s no adjustment period. It was 75 degrees here like two days ago…what the heck happened?!

In loving memory of all the warm, beautiful weekends I had in Spain in this fall, I thought I’d do a little throwback with today’s post. I never shared my weekend in Salamanca with you! This post has just been sitting in my drafts. Oops.

Two weekends ago, I went to Salamanca with my friend, Ellie. We met a couple weeks ago at a party and hit it off. I’ve met a lot of fun and interesting people since moving to Madrid, but she’s the first person I’ve really clicked with.

When we arrived on Saturday morning, we met up with her college pal, Heather, and Heather’s Spanish friend, Laura. The whole group got along well, which was good since we shared a room at the Sweet Home Salamanca hostel.

Just over 24 hours was the perfect amount of time to see Salamanca, located in the Castilla and Leon region of Spain. It’s about three hours by bus from Madrid. Laura, who now lives in Valladolid, Spain, along with Heather, studied fine arts at the University of Salamanca and called the city “home” for six years. So, we had our own personal tour guide for the weekend!

 

Salamanca predominantly serves as a college town, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to see. In addition to having the oldest university in Spain, which was founded in 1134, Salamanca has gorgeous architecture, colorful gardens and a vibrant nightlife.

church salamanca

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Sightseeing always works up an appetite in me, and when I’m traveling, I usually end up spending quite a bit of money on food. Not in Salamanca though! Many bars give patrons a free tapa with their drink, and it’s not the baby bowl of olives or tiny tostada that you find elsewhere in Spain. In Salamanca, our free tapas were significant in size and ranged from paella to pulpo (octopus). It was easy to make a meal out of bar hopping.

With so many young people living in Salamanca due to the university, the city has a fun nightlife scene. After going to a few different spots for tapas and wine, we made our way to one of the city’s club.

Entry was free, and we got a complimentary glass of champagne for getting there before 2 a.m. With Spanish music blasting, we danced for a couple of hours before calling it a night around 4 a.m. The time changed while we were in the club, which allowed for an extra hour of partying.

Sunday’s highlights included a leisurely breakfast in a plaza near the city center as well as a delicious date and bacon empanada before catching the bus.

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Breakfast in Salamanca with Ellie.

Have you ever been to Salamanca? When you visit a new city, what’s more important to you–sightseeing by day or partying all night?

My first weekend in Madrid

madrid map weekend

This post is going up a little later than I’d hoped because recovering from my first weekend in Madrid is taking a little longer than I’d hoped (more on that later).

After picking up the boys from school on Friday and dropping them off at their grandmother’s house, I walked to the bus stop with my weekend bag slung over my shoulder. I was beyond excited for my first weekend in the city. Not even intermittent showers or the bus being nearly 30 minutes late (that’s Spain for ya) could wipe the giddy smile off my face.

On Thursday, I booked two nights in Living Cat’s Hostel near La Latina. I did so using the (fairly) new Hostel World app. TIP: If you’re planning a trip, download this app. I promise it will make your life so much easier. Plus, it’s free.

As always, I read through reviews of several different hostels before settling on Cat’s. Because I was traveling alone, I wanted a hostel environment that was conducive to meeting other travelers. Many reviewers complemented Cat’s on its hostel bar, which I agreed was a great spot to meet new people and chat over cheap drinks.

If you’re curious, I paid approximately 36 euros ($46) total for two nights in a 19-person dorm. In my opinion, it was a little overpriced for so many people in one room, but Cat’s is distinguished as one of “Europe’s Most Famous Hostels.” Because of its popularity among travelers, it can demand a few extra euros. Also, it was the weekend, which automatically means higher prices.

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Good vibes at Living Cat’s Hostel in Madrid.

It took 15 minutes on the metro to get to Cat’s from the bus terminal at Plaza de Castilla. God bless the Madrid metro. It’s so clean. It’s so fast. It’s so easy to use. Being totally serious here, I think it might be the most efficient thing in the history of Spain.

After settling in, I ordered a drink at the hostel bar. It wasn’t long before I met Lianna. Another solo female traveler, Lianna, who is originally from Brazil, told me she is spending a week in Madrid to celebrate the completion of a month-long company project in France.

cats hostel madrid
Had to stop for a picture outside Cat’s with my new friend!

We bonded instantly over a glass of wine and decided to get dinner together. Around 10 p.m., we left the hostel in search of more wine and tapas. We were joined by another solo female traveler–Nina from Germany. It was inspiring to be around other women who share my passion for travel and aren’t afraid to get out and see the world on their own.

For the next two hours, we bounced around from tapas bar to tapas bar. I’ve come to the realization that jamón is life. Don’t tell my boyfriend, but I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Spanish ham.

jamon madrid
This guy clearly feels some type of way about jamón too.

Several glasses of wine and I don’t even know how many tapas later, we said goodbye to Nina, who was going to meet up with a friend, and headed back to the hostel. Even though it was after midnight, the party was only starting in Madrid.

Despite swearing off hostel pub crawls in Barcelona this summer, I somehow got conned into joining the group leaving from Cat’s. Lianna and I agreed how overpriced hostel pub crawls are, but after four hours of drinking red wine, I guess we decided to just go with the flow.

The night was a blur of drinking and dancing. Before I knew it, it was 6 a.m.! I tried to find Lianna, but we’d gotten separated on the dance floor while trying to avoid some creepy American dudes. Yep, I came all the way to Spain just to get stalked by the same bar weirdos.

Rather than walking back on my own, I paid the six euros or so to take a cab back to the hostel. I may be a budget traveler, but I know safety trumps saving a buck.

Once I got back to the hostel, I crashed. Three and a half hours later, I woke up just in time to catch the last 10 minutes of the free hostel breakfast. Surprisingly, I felt great and was excited for a day of shopping on Gran Vía.

I was in the first store when my hangover hit me. It took all I had to get back to the hostel, and when I did, I laid down and tried not to move for the next 12 hours. It totally sucked but served as a good reminder why you need to be cautious with your alcohol intake when you’re traveling. There’s nothing worse than wasting a day in an amazing city like Madrid due to a hangover.

That evening, I had to cancel my plans with Lianna to get paella. She was super understanding and even brought me Gatorade to help with my recovery. I was touched by her kindness. Solo female travelers have got each other’s backs!

Thanks to sleep, a shower and the tail end of a baguette from a French girl in my room, I was feeling much better Sunday morning. After checkout, Lianna and I made our way to El Rastro–the most popular open air flea market in Madrid.

Happy to finally get my shopping fix, I bought a new pair of sunglasses and a floral kimono. I even haggled the prices down a bit!

el rastro madrid spain
I’m pretty sure you can find absolutely anything at El Rastro.

From clothing and jewelry to antiques and souvenirs, El Rastro (open every Sunday from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.) is must-visit for any bargain-hunting traveler. Even if you’re not a big shopper, the market is still a sight to behold with its colorful stalls and packed streets. Just make sure to keep an eye on your purse or wallet! El Rastro is known for having many pickpockets.

After a day of shopping and one last tostada, I said goodbye to Lianna and headed back to Alalpardo. I arrived around 6 p.m., and I have basically been sleeping ever since.

jamon and tomato
NOM NOM NOM. Tapas own my soul.

Madrid, you wore me out, but I already can’t wait to go back (hopefully next weekend).

What’s your cure for a hangover?