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February 23, 2009

Me gusta Madrid!

This is beautiful Madrid at night:

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This is me in Madrid. You may notice I am a tad on the freakishly blurry side:

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That's what happens when you have a crapass camera and don't really want to bother strangers with a detailed explanation of how they have to stop breathing and become one with the rotation of the earth to get a somewhat unblurred image. (I am going to buy a new camera this year. I can't take another year of blur!)

Last year I had so much fun on my Valentine's solo trip to Rome that I decided I should make it a regular thing, taking myself somewhere fun and far away on Valentine's Day. Madrid is beautiful and alive and crazy and delicious and it was perfect for a little getaway.

The first time I went to Madrid I was in my twenties and my ex-husband and I arrived in the middle of the afternoon and we stayed in a hotel right on the Puerta del Sol and I remember looking at him later that night when the whole world was walking by -- teenagers in groups with their friends, old folks out at eleven o'clock in the evening just taking a paseo, ladies with baby strollers, couples hand-in-hand -- and I told him I could live in Madrid the rest of my life. Madrid has an energy that matches mine, or maybe it's the energy I want to have, either way I love it. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Spain and how great the Spaniards are, it's been almost ten years since the last time I was there.

I didn't stay in the Puerta del Sol this time since it has turned into the world's largest excavation dig :
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The last trip I took to Spain was a long meandering driving adventure through the countryside of Galicia and the Basque area and Portugal, too. I knew I wanted to go back but I never in a million years dreamed I'd be arriving in Madrid by myself (and might I add I arrived with merely a carryon bag) but that's what I did and it was muy bueno. It's so much easier to be in a place where you can communicate, too, my Spanish is MUCH better than my French or Italian. I think last time I was in France I ordered a cheese sandwich on a grandmother with a side of boots.

While in Madrid I stayed in a GREAT hotel:
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The Catalonia Las Cortes. Fantastico!

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Minibar, nicer TV than I have at home, even room for a desk for my laptop. (King size bed ... you can kind of see the corner of it in this picture.)

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The bathroom was really nice. I need a nice bathroom. I am prissy.

I got a great deal on the hotel through Orbitz.com, and this trip to Spain was about 70% cheaper than the trip I took to Maui over Christmas. I AM NOT KIDDING YOU. I was in Maui for about the same amount of time and it was twice the price of this trip to Madrid. (I don't think I wrote about going to Maui, did I? It was very pretty and nice but I had booked that trip way back last April before prices fell and I was locked into what ended up being a VERY spendy vacation, by my standards. Just as an example, my hotel in Madrid cost 1/5 of my hotel in Maui. Seriously.)

I know I've said it before but if you can afford it, this is a great year to travel and a great year to travel abroad. I got a good rate on the Euro and the flight was very reasonable compared to last year's prices. Usually when I travel I set myself a budget for spending while I'm there, and this budget is the amount of money I change into foreign currency at my bank before I leave for my trip. I get a base rate on the exchange so this works best for me (and I'm not paranoid about carrying money) but everyone is different. And of course if I need more there's always ATM machines. Usually I manage to stay within my spending budget, though. Especially when taking a carry-on bag -- no room for a lot of souvenirs!

By the way, I cannot believe I managed to travel to Spain for six days with just a carry-on bag. In winter. I never thought I would become someone who could travel light! I used to need a sherpa and a pack mule just for a weekend visit to San Diego. I think it was that damn book tour that did it ... after weeks of hauling around a suitcase the size of a Smart Car, I was exhausted by my own stuff. Now I try to pick hotels with a hairdryer in the room and toiletries so I didn't have to bring shampoo and stuff, and I packed clothes that all matched and were interchangeable. Since these people were never going to see me again I didn't figure anyone would just die of embarrassment for me if I wore the same red sweater twice.

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The secret to packing light.... packing cubes!! I use three for every trip, one large one for pants and sweaters and two small ones. In one of the small cubes I pack undies and socks and in the other T-shirts, something to sleep in and accessories. I also pack a little cosmetic bag and in my shoulder bag I take my ipod, a book, notebook, knitting, and other stuff.

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This trip was great, perfect, exactly what I needed. I haven't been in a funk per se, but close enough to funky to be icky. Nothing gets you out of your little tunnel vision like traveling! There's something about getting on that airplane and going to a whole 'nother continent and breathing the air of a new city that makes you feel alive. I guess it's because everything is so new all your senses are alive and on guard and you're awake. It's definitely what I needed right now, the right city at the right time.

I love traveling by myself. More pictures tomorrow!

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Posted by laurie at February 23, 2009 10:21 AM