I’m sitting in my hostel in Madrid, Spain wondering exactly how I ended up in Europe, more specifically, the top bunk (boo).
i’ve never had a hard time saying no to things before. but spontaneous travel? that’s another story. The truth of the matter is I know precisely how I ended up here. The real shock would have been if I hadn’t ended up in Spain, as I’ve been entertaining the idea for quite some time.
It’s actually a funny story as to why I’m in Spain in the first place. it’s a measly 20 minute boat ride away from morocco, but it requires a bit of planning to actually get there. As much as I would like to attribute my random travels to my spontaneity, the weekend trip to Spain was none of my conniving. Believe it or not, I actually wound up in Spain with three of my friends for the sole purpose of exchanging currency. I wish I was kidding.
There’s a lot of weird rules in morocco. Like for me, the most annoying one is how the government blocks skype and FaceTime. In my friend Gurk's case, he thought the whole “we don’t exchange your country’s currency” thing wasn’t so cute. he had fundraised tons of money in Australia to donate to his volunteer placement… only to find out that morocco doesn’t exchange Australian dollars. like anywhere. they told us we'd have to go to another country to do that.
we *had* to go to another country for that. well, ha. joke's on you, morocco.
And so, alas, three of the volunteers I’m working with and I made the super adult decision to fly to europe. I know you’re probably admiring our maturity in the face of a difficult decision, but we did as any practical minded individual would do ;)
After sitting anxiously on our plane tickets for two full days, Friday finally rolled around. I woke up extra early from sheer excitement like a 4 year old on christmas day. Rachel and I had decided to meet at the Rabat train station at 9:30 to catch our 9:45 train. Problem was, I was so pumped to get going that I rolled up to the station about 2 hours early. Thankfully, the book I had purchased a few days before was perfect early morning company, and the park across the street had a few empty benches. The only thing that would have made the morning better would have been a cup of coffee, but then again, what wouldn’t be better with a cup of coffee?
I met up with Rach exactly as planned, and unlike my previous train experiences, I boarded the train with time to spare. At 10:45, our train made a stop in the Casablanca station where we met up with the other two boys. Gurks and Joost hopped on our train car, only to inform us that we were sitting in the wrong compartment. We sheepishly gathered our belongings and relocated to the car next door where the four of us made friends with a Parisian Minnesota guy. PSA - if you ever come across one, make sure you talk to them- they’re hugely sweet, and their accents are hilarious.
With our 5 hour long train ride behind us, we finally arrived in Marrakech. Our friend from the bus helped us snag a taxi to the airport, and so our day of transportation continued. The time spent in the airport and the flight itself went by relatively fast, although not fast enough for me, as I was getting more and more impatient by the minute. When our plane finally did land in Spain, I felt the same wave of jittery excitement as I felt when I landed in Morocco and India- only this time, I had three adventurous sidekicks.
The first order of business was exchanging Gurk’s aussie money. While the other passengers waited to grab their checked bags, we rolled up to the currency exchange desk.
Feeling pretty confident in my spanish skills, I initiated conversation. My attempt at explaining the situation was undeniably genuine, but there was no covering my rusty language skills. “Como?” (“what?”) the guy asked, raising a confused eyebrow. I took a breath and giddily started again, only to cringe at the spanish word "vomit" that escaped my mouth. The worker looked at me and finally interrupted me mid sentence- “Do you speak english?”
Talk about low points. I bet my face was as red as the spanish flag behind the counter.
Thankfully, my summer rustiness wore off by the time we got in the cab to the hostel. Resolving to brush up on my Spanish, I made conversation with the driver. Unfortunately for me, I got the vibe that he wasn’t too keen on being the center of my little language experiment, so I reluctantly gave up and turned my attention to my friends- “WE’RE IN SPAIN!” we kept repeating, over and over.
When we arrived at the hostel, we were all in great spirits. we made instant friends with the lady checking us in and scored a sweet corner room overlooking a bustling plaza. illuminated tents with vendors selling everything from sweet nuts to replica m.c. hammer pants captured our curious minds and pulled us into the streets. Despite the 9:00 hour, madrid was bustling. Restaurants overflowing with people dominated the streets and overenthusiastic bar boys commanded the streets, thrusting coupons at us for free drinks. It took us a little while before the captivation of being in a new city wore off, and we realized we hadn’t eaten dinner.
We strolled around, shopping for the perfect restaurant at first until our hunger took over and led us to the first empty table. To our delight, the empty table was no indication of food quality. I inhaled my veggie platter- after that first meal, I decided if I didn’t come back to morocco 5 pounds heavier, I was doing something wrong. A deliciously sweet churro dessert from a vibrant little chocolate shop across from our hostel followed our meal. I don’t know if it was because we were stuffed or just tired from traveling, but we all four passed out almost instantly when we got back.
The next day was dedicated to shopping. Ironically, it was the boys that were our resident shopaholics (although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it). We scoured what felt like every store on the main stretch of downtown madrid and hit up a few coffee shops along the way. We took shopping intermissions to do a bit of sightseeing, checking off the royal palace, the catholic church, and plaza mayor from our lists of places to see.
By night, Joost’s friend met up with us to give us an official tapas dinner tour. He totally showed me up on my spanish speaking skills (dang natives!), but his invaluable knowledge of the city made up for it. We hopped from restaurant to restaurant, ordering signature spanish dishes and drinks. Spain has such a cool “tapas” food culture- I love the idea of getting a bunch of small plates from different places. It forces you to enjoy your food and company more- definitely a very cool experience.
We spent the late hours of the night atop the highest rooftop bar in Madrid. The panoramic views spanned as far as the eye could see, and I delighted in the soft glow of the city around me. I ended my “mojito tour” here, and rightfully so, as it was easily the best mojito I’ve ever had, the only issue being that the icy drink made the chilly night even colder. Can't have your mojito and drink it too, I suppose.
I’ve got a day and a half left in this magical country, and I am already sad about leaving. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this adventure holds. As per usual, this spontaneous little getaway couldn’t have been more ideal... remember, say yes to new adventures!