An Un-Guide to a Spontaneous Madrid Weekend

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When your friend asks you if you’d like to join her for a weekend trip to Madrid, you say hombre, claro. If, like me, you finish work early on a Friday, you should aim to get into the city just in time for the typical 9:30 P.M. dinner with a local. I happened to know one through our previous contact in Logroño, so I was in luck. We feasted on cachopo: “A gooey meat feast from Asturias, Spain,” according to The Guardian. It’s a combination of steak, ham, and cheese, which is crumbed like a snitty (which pleased my Aussie gut immensely).

After dinner and a gin-tonic, I was left to fend for myself in Lavapiés, so I made a bee-line to the closest craft-beer destination. I can almost sniff them out nowadays (not really…I use Google Maps to ‘star’ the cool joints before my trip. Genius.). The lucky bar that got the pleasure of my presence this lovely evening was Chinaski, where I enjoyed a couple of nice stouts and accidentally joined a Couchsurfing meet-up due to a fellow Australian accent that stood out in the crowd. I had also walked past Madritallica earlier (yes, it utilised the Metallica logo on its sign) and I’d planned to go in for a beer later, but it will have to wait until the next Madrid visit.

In the morning, make sure you head straight to Toma Café. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Order one of their creatively lovely pan options and enjoy your beautiful coffee. Grab a bag of beans to go, if you’re that way inclined (like me).

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Strawberries, goats’ cheese, and sunflower seeds. Can’t go wrong.

By this time, feel free to make your way towards the Plaza Mayor to meet your friend, who is due to arrive on her bus at anytime. I recommend standing at the statue in the centre of the plaza. That way, while you are waiting, you can photobomb everybody’s photos and have a good laugh. When your friend arrives after figuring out the Metro (go, Jill!), make your first stop Chocolatería San Ginés, where you can catch up over six churros and a classic Spanish hot chocolate combo for €4 each.

Next, if your body is ready, go to the Mercado de San Miguel and squeeze through the crowds and enjoy some great Spanish food and drinks. We thought we should make it a complete tourist day and fill ourselves up on sangria and paella. Walk off some of your new kilos on your way to the Palacio Real de Madrid, and detour past the Catedral de la Almudena. Pay the donation (€1 is sufficient) and check out the wondrous ceiling inside the cathedral. If you have access to them, bring along those special belay glasses that allow you to look up without moving your neck (if you have no idea what I’m on about, check them out here. I need some for cathedrals, honestly.).

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the streets, and don’t be afraid to indulge on the occasional mojito. Wave goodbye to your friend in the afternoon and head to your next hostel, which you may need to do if your trip is spontaneous like mine, and the place you stayed the first night doesn’t have any beds available for the second night. I stayed in U Hostels the second night, which I was really impressed with. If you didn’t sleep well the first night, now is your chance to have a quick siesta before Saturday night gets underway.

I was conveniently located near Tierra Burrito Bar and I got there around 8:30, just before the line snuck its way out the door. After my scrumptious pork burrito, I was on my way to The Stuyck Co to enjoy some nice craft-beers, when I bumped into my friend from the night before! It was such luck that I had to follow his group of friends to their destination, Macera Workshop Bar, a bar that creates a huge number of specialty gins, rums, and more. Set in a really creative space that draws in the hipsters by their perfectly pruned beards, Macera uses the process of maceration to create the wonderful flavours of their drinks. I recommend the Rojo Fruto Ginebra (with tonic, of course).

 

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Photo taken from the Macera website (their photography is much better than mine).

Once you’re finished here, feel free to have an early night, or check out one of the many bustling bars in the area, then let me know what life is like at that hour. If you had an early night, you’ll be up for a Sunday morning breakfast and coffee at HanSo Café in Malasaña. If you still have an hour to kill, don’t miss La Bicicleta Café, where you can bathe in the hipster essence a while longer, sipping your short-black and listening to The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Elvis. If you want to hipster-up even more, ride your bicycle there, or take your sketchbook to keep yourself from looking like an outsider.

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I’ll leave you here. I have to tend to my succulents whilst listening to a band you’ve never heard of.

-Monet

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Become a Hipster in London in Two Days

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An Incomplete Guide to Hipster Life in London

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I arrived at the Victoria Coach Station just in time for lunch. I was starving. The first place I saw, I went. Being an Australian girl who has been living in Spain for the better of six months, I didn’t hesitate in ordering the Steak and Ale Pie, which I paired with a colourfully-labelled craft beer of some description. It was two in the afternoon by this time, and I still hadn’t had my coffee fix, so I went to the first appealing café that caught my eye. I ordered my large skinny latte from Tomtom Coffee House and wound my way through the gorgeous streets, sipping my coffee and taking in the sun which I certainly had not expected from London.

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Pie of the century.

After wandering aimlessly for a while, I figured it was about time I headed to my hostel. I found the Visitors’ Centre, where I entered with the purpose of acquiring an Oyster card, and I left having acquired a bright smile from a great conversation about music and Shoreditch, where I was headed and was “sure to fit in” according to the salesman. I studied the tube map for a minute or two, before I set off for hipster town.

I got off at Old Street, proceeded to walk ten minutes in the wrong direction, gaping at the hipster bars and restaurants I’d been missing of late, before realising, and consulting Google Maps for assistance. The fifteen minute walk to The Dictionary Hostel was spent with a wide smile, making mental notes of places I wanted to visit later on. When I arrived I was greeted by the lovely staff, who didn’t mind me bopping along to their Fat Freddy’s Drop playlist while they checked me in. I grabbed a travel adaptor for £5 at the desk, and I took some free earplugs, too. I browsed the “book swap” shelf, smiling at the great selection. I quickly put my belongings away, before leaving to explore Shoreditch.

The first place I went was Jones & Payne, where Craig helped me become more “Shoreditch”. The staff even brought out a little piece of caramel slice for me to enjoy whilst I was being transformed! I left feeling fresh and new, and grabbed a quick chilli dog and Snickers shake at The Diner before getting ready for the gig later that night. I couldn’t resist a quick craft beer at The Old Shoreditch Station en route to Old Street Station.

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I enjoyed my night at The Dome seeing We Are The Ocean’s last ever headline show, which was incredible. I went back to the hostel to put away my new band shirt and I ditched my coat, going downstairs to Translate, where I used my hostel discount to grab a Salted Caramel Espresso Martini for about £6. It was one of the best cocktails I’d ever tasted! I met some people there, one of whom was a fellow Australian, and we followed each other around for a few hours. We noticed a karaoke pub across the road, where we accidentally crashed somebody’s 90th birthday party. Unfortunately the karaoke spots were full, so after singing along with the oldies for a few songs, we went elsewhere. The next few bars we went to were average, but the music was good enough to dance to, so we stayed a while.

The next morning I got up nice and early and treated myself to some free peanut-butter toast from the hostel kitchen. I hadn’t had peanut-butter since leaving Australia, hence the need to mention this. I was so excited to stroll down Brick Lane, however it seemed 9 was too early. I kept walking and found myself at the Tower Bridge, realising I wasn’t far from Borough Market, where I found myself a “Chilli Con Carnage” pie from PieMinister (how could I go past that pun-age?) and a long coffee line at Monmouth Coffee. Needless to say, I waited in that line and I was rewarded with a deliciously smooth latte to accompany me on my stroll further down the river.

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I had a quick sticky-beak at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, hoping for some free (or cheap) exhibition goodness, but disappointed by the £13 entry fee, I continued towards the Tate Modern. Everything in the collection at the Tate is free, apart from the temporary exhibitions. I was quite satisfied with the collection on its own, and the current artists weren’t of any interest to me, so I passed on the temporary showcase. I grabbed a quick lunch nearby, before following my curiosity to Carnaby Street. I browsed in all of the expensive shops and pretended that I could afford the designer labels which I only lay my hands on if they’re in an op-shop. The only thing I managed to buy was some hair product for my new do from Boots (still counts!). I treated myself to a health miracle vegan protein smoothie from The Detox Kitchen (it was actually just a delicious avocado smoothie).

It was time now to head back towards Brick Lane to give it another shot. I went via Spitalfields Market, where I picked up a cute ring for £10. Brick Lane didn’t let me down, although I was honestly sick of the overpriced vintage stores towards the end. I mean, I will never pay £35 for a pair of somebody else’s old Converse sneakers! ¡Por favor! I did, however, find an underground vintage market filled with stalls by individuals, where I happened to buy the coolest Wrangler button-up ever.

I got 2 compliments on this on the first night.

The shirt got 2 compliments on its first night.

I slowly continued up the lane, finally resting my feet at BrewDog, where I enjoyed a decent burger and a Jet Black Heart Nitro Stout. I grabbed some bottles from the fridge for Sofar Sounds. This particular Sofar gig was set up in a gym, and although it felt wrong drinking beer whilst sitting on a yoga mat, the bands were incredible, as they usually are at Sofar! I met some great like-minded people at the gig, and I felt more hipster than ever before.

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Elder Island at Sofar Sounds

Take my advice. Go to London, even if you only have a weekend. Go to Shoreditch. Go to a Sofar Sounds gig (they’re all over the world). Ditch your diet every once in a while! Drink good beer. Open your eyes to the amazing hipster-ness around you!

 

-Monet