The trend these days in travel is surely to get as far off the beaten path as possible. Places that were once considered hidden gems are quickly becoming filled with backpackers and traveling hipsters as we travel bloggers spread the word about our favorite secret spots. Yet while everyone is getting lost trying to find what they are not supposed to be looking for, some people have forgotten how to be a tourist.
It’s simple, you may not travel like a stereotypical tourist, some sort of loud, obnoxious person with a money pouch (that is the stereotype of American tourists, right?) but if you are traveling for a short period of time in a place that is not your home, I’m pretty sure that you are a tourist, guide-book in hand or not.
The point I’d like to make today is that there is nothing wrong with being a tourist and doing “touristy things”. While tourist traps certainly do exist, the top 10 monuments on Tripadvisor for a destination are top 10 for a reason– they are pretty impressive! So before you go to Paris and avoid the Eiffel Tower like the plague, or visit Spain without seeing a flamenco show, think about what you are going to be missing out on, and weight that against your aloof, no map for me alter ego that really just wants to grab a beer in the city’s main square!
Not too long ago I had a Saturday free, and Ale and I decided to spend it as tourists in Madrid. We grabbed our cameras and took to the streets with a plan to do some of the touristy things we never seem to make time for. Truth be told we had a great day, totally proving my point that touristy things are touristy for a reason– they’re fun.
Templo de Debod
We started our day by getting off the metro at Opera, a beautiful part of old Madrid. As we walked by the Royal Palace and admired the gardens, we made our way down to a sight Ale had never seen after nearly three years in the capital, El Templo de Debod. This Egyptian temple was given to Spain in the late 1960s after Spain played a role in protecting some of Egypt’s temples that would potentially be damaged due to construction efforts. As a sign of thanks, the Egyptian government sent over this small but stunning temple, three pieces that rise above a reflecting pool.
Templo de Debod is beautiful at any time of day, but people say that the most impressive moment is surely sunset. We didn’t see the sunset this time, but that leaves us with a good reason to come back to this great spot, perhaps next time with a hidden bottle of wine…
We decided to eat lunch at the famous Casa Mingo, known for its roasted chicken and cider from Asturias. Despite all the hype, we’d never been there, and had heard stories of amazing, cheap food, and also of mediocre, expensive food. It was time to find out for ourselves.
When we arrived, the line was out the door– it was a Saturday afternoon afterall. But we waited, and it went very quickly, we were seated within 20 minutes. The menu is very simple, and definitely a bit overpriced for the type of food it is, but it still ends up being among the cheapest restaurants in the city we’ve dined at.
We ordered the roasted chicken, cabrales cheese, a mixed salad, and a bottle of dry Asturian cider. The chicken was very good and moist, although lacking in salt. The cabrales was very good quality, and the cider was also great. The salad was prepackaged as if you’d bought it at the supermarket, and truly mediocre. I also would’ve appreciated salt and pepper, but wasn’t able to get anyone’s attention. The bread was awful– as is common in most of Madrid’s restaurants.
Overall, we really enjoyed our meal, despite its shortcomings. At around 15 euro per person, I’d return in a heartbeat.
Madrid Cable Cars
Our next stop were the Madrid Cable Cars, a short walk from Casa Mingo. On the way we passed the church where Goya is buried, something I never knew about. We got into the cable car for a short, scenic ride over the city. The trip is only 11 minutes, but the views of the Manzanares River, Royal Palace, and Madrid skyline are precious. After a coffee at the cable car cafe in the Casa de Campo Park, we got back on for the return trip.
After our trip through the sky, we caught the metro back to Sol Plaza, the center of everything in Madrid. And despite the fact I stop at the incredible bakery La Mallorquina on a regular basis with Madrid Food Tour, I rarely ever go with Ale or get to sit down and have something in their tea room. Being Holy Week (Semana Santa) there was only one thing to order, a delicious torrija, Spain’s most typical Easter sweet and a kind of cold french toast. Check out my very own torrija recipe to make them at home.
Finally, we were exhauseted and headed home. We’d been good touists, and had a blast seeing different parts of the city. And to those of you out there rolling your eyes, don’t knock it til you try it– you might be surprised!
Do you tend to do the touristy things when traveling or try to get off the beaten path? Why?