More on the train/my hotel in Salamanca…
This is the Renfe website. Make sure ida y vuelta is selected (that means round trip). First, I put Madrid* for origen (you don’t just want trains that leave from Atocha). Then, you should put Salamanca-Al Alamedilla and then put the dates. Do not choose any times and then click Comprar. Once you get to the next page, scroll to see what times you want and choose the prices with the purple box/two arrows going in opposite directions icon next to them. And then you hit Continue and enter your payment information. Pretty simple!
As for my hotel, I stayed in the NH Puerta de la Catedral. The front desk receptionist, Nuria, was so nice and the hotel was decently priced and close to tourist sites. One morning, I was serenaded awake by a man playing the accordion beneath my window (since he was sitting in front of the Cathedral). My room overlooked part of the Cathedral and the rolling hills of the Castilla y Leon countryside. So beautiful! However, I will say it is definitely more cost effective to get an Airbnb and, even better, to go with a group.
More on going out…
Gabana 1800 is great if you are a college kid (or a few years older). Ages 18-25. Beautiful people, SUPER EXPENSIVE drinks but great dancing/music and a great place to meet people your age. One downside is that everyone smokes inside and there is zero ventillation so your chest and throat will be hurting by the end of the night. But, never fear! Café y Té is right up the street – they open at 6 am so you can get a cup of tea or breakfast depending on hungry you are or how late you stay out. Also, there is always VIPS. Joy also had GREAT music, expensive drinks and super fun dancing. Always go in a group for maximum fun. Some of the guys were creepier at Joy but not all. All clubs you go to, unless you know someone, will cost 12-15 euros to get in so be prepared to spend some money. NEVER drink at the clubs unless you want to be broke. Do what the locals do and walk into any bar in Gran Via, La Latina, Chueca or Lavapies for a trendy way to start the night. Like I said in an earlier post, El Tigre has huge drinks (mojitos are best) and massive helpings of tapas that come for free with the drinks. Cerveceria La Surena in Plaza Mayor has tapas for very cheap and you can get a bucket of cervezas or tinto de verano for 6 euros. I also went to an art gallery in Lavapies called Slowtrack for the premiere of a new exhibition which was really fun too – there are always nibbly things, great wine and conversation. You even get to meet the artists!
Tips for Americans
– BE QUIET. Americans are typically very loud and this is definitely more pronounced among some Spaniards. Just be respectful and try to do your best to balance your comfort level speaking and acting in public with the comfort level of others around you.
– If you go to Catholic church, which I did this week, print out a copy of the missal in “castillian” Spanish (with vosotros) and bring it with you. It was very awkward for me this week just standing there not knowing any of the prayers, since there are no books in any churches except for the songs.
– Again, the La Latina metro stop has great restaurants and bars. You typically go to bars from 10-ish pm to 12/1 am and then go to clubs all night. Liteally. I need to get my stamina up. I haven’t even attempted this yet.
– Chocolateria San Gines. Great place for some Churros y chocolate but not safe for people (like me) with nut allergies, sadly.
– VIPS. I can’t even begin to explain the glory that is VIPS in one small blurb but I will do my best. Half convenience store with snacks from the U.S. and Spain and half-restaurant with AMERICAN BREAKFAST. Not cookies and chocolate like normal breakfast in Spain – I’m talking about eggs, bacon and french fries (not so normal, but still). And free Wi-Fi.
I would absolutely recommend taking an overnight flight because if you sleep on the plane, the jet lag will not affect you as much, if at all.
Once we landed at Barajas, we went to the AeroCity kiosk in the airport (which is located after exiting the baggage claim and turning right) to meet the driver who was going to take us to our hotel. I would absolutely recommend this car service – they are fast, friendly and you can make reservations online before your arrival to Madrid. We hired a van (not a shared one) since we had several bags and it cost about €41 (just under $50). Also, side note, before you leave for Madrid, make sure you call your bank to tell them you are studying abroad so your cards do not get frozen and exchange currency at the airport. Do not exchange too much since pickpockets love to target tourists and you don’t want to lose all of your money if you are robbed.
Our hotel, the InterContinental Madrid, was very lovely and the staff was remarkably friendly and helpful. Visit their website for rates and other relevant information. Also, if you get an IHG membership rewards card, WiFi is free in the room for up to four devices. The hotel is also near great breakfast places, cafes and tapas restaurants so there is no need to pay the ridiculous prices for the food in the hotel. The hotel is also down the street fro El Corte Inglés and other shops if you need to pick up anything or just want to browse.