Imagine having the opportunity to travel somewhere new every weekend? Like your own magical, Narnia-like door or a never-ending bridge that connects to endless destinations, Madrid is the perfect place to be when looking to travel on the weekends to neighboring cities or countries. During my time in Madrid, my goal was to see as much of Madrid as I could throughout the week and travel out of it as much as possible every weekend. I wanted a few extra stamps in my passport and to do something that I would never get the chance to do while living in the states. I craved new faces, languages, food, and most importantly breathtaking sights. I wanted to be completely lost and immersed in the typical day-to-day life of your regular vagabond.
For my first weekend in Madrid, my roommates (and PINC interns), Amanda Fernandez, Amanda Price, along with (former PINC intern) Deidre Cromie and I decided to take it slow by traveling to the nearby city of Cuenca and La Ciudad Encantada (found within the rural city of Cuenca). On Saturday, June 20th we departed from Plaza de Toros de las Ventas with the Be Madrid group. Be Madrid was primarily created to help exchange students settle in and get to know the city better. They plan well-organized, and affordable trips to different cities within Spain, as well as different countries such as Morocco and Portugal. Be Madrid also creates activities such as “Salsa Sundays” and “Flamenco Show” viewings for anyone interested to participate in. Not only do you get to discover new places and have fun while doing so, but you are also exposed to different backgrounds and cultures.
The following weekend, I traveled to Valencia with Amanda Fernandez (once again), where we later met up with two other roommates and PINC interns Sydney Segal and Amanda Price. After an almost five-hour long bus ride in the direction to Playa Malvarrossa (Malvarrossa Beach), being the foodies Amanda and I are, our first stop after reaching our destination was La Pepica, a hotel, and restaurant right on the beach. After living in Madrid for a little over two weeks we learned that the Spanish are very punctual about when they eat and do not eat. Amanda and I had to wait until exactly 13 o’clock in order to be able to walk into the restaurant. (The siesta time as great of a concept as it is, isn’t very ideal when you’re absolutely starving!) Nonetheless, we were able to sit down and have a delicious paella a la Valenciana. After enjoying our tasty meal, we hit the beach where we met up with Sydney and Amanda P. who had already been enjoying the warm sand and beach waves on a slightly breezy, perfect beach day. This trip was much needed one considering Madrid is nowhere near salt water!
Weekend three I had planned since before I left for Madrid. Paris, for the second time in my life. When I had first signed up for PINC I never thought I would be going back to Paris considering I only wanted to travel to new places, but this trip was a special one. I was going to meet my boyfriend in the extraordinary “city of love.” Of course, as you can imagine the weekend was magical. Our first date, a few hours after my arrival that Friday night, consisted of a dinner at a Bistro called “le Canon de Tolbiac,” where I had a delectable chicken bruschetta. The next day I revisited the Eiffel Tower, the jardin du Luxembourg, and the Louvre. We had lunch in L’Escritoire, (which translates to a small writing desk). Afterwards, I finally got the chance to visit the Notre Dame. The first time I had visited Paris, the charming cathedral was under construction, but this time I had the chance to g inside and admire its construction, peacefulness, and undeniable enchantment. On my last day in the “city of lights”, I had brunch at Le Petit Leon (which my clever boyfriend, Léon, had picked out purposely for us). There I had the most amazing breakfast crêpes I’ve ever had!
After a remarkably, romantic Parisian weekend, Amanda, Sydney, and I packed our bags, grabbed our passports, and took a cab to the airport. This time our destination was Dublin. When I arrived I could not get over the fact that our taxi driver not only was driving on what I know as the shotgun side of the car, but he was also driving on the other side of the road! Even though I knew there were parts of the world were people drive on the opposite side of the road, it was just fascinating for me to see it up close. Truly, a great first experience in Ireland. That weekend we stayed in Spire Hostel, yet another first I must mention. Now, I don’t want to scare any of you out of staying in a hostel because it is the cheapest stay you could possibly have almost anywhere, but I must warn you to read the descriptions and reviews. The last thing you want is to stay somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. There are all types of different rooms, as well as hostels, so if you feel more at ease staying on a women’s only floor or room make sure that the hostel you’re booking has that option. Also, make sure to choose a hostel in an ideal location, near public transportation, nice sights, and decent restaurants.
Anyways, on our first night, we walked several blocks, and passed the famous River Liffey bridge, to a well-known club, located in the heart of the city, The Palace. After living in Miami for several years, the party capital of the USA, I can honestly say Dublin beats Miami or at least comes very close. Known to be the home of the best DJs, this club did not disappoint whatsoever. But unlike Miami and its standards on how you must dress, look, and act, people here don’t care what you look like, how you dance, or who you’re with. I felt like I could be myself here, no inhibitions included. I can without a doubt recommend this city to anyone who loves history, good music, great people, and a wide array of beautiful attractions. Our second day there we took the free, three-hour Sandeman walking tour, which departed from Dame Street promptly at 11 in the morning. On our tour, we practically saw everything one should see in this fascinating city. From the infamous St. Stephen’s Green Park to Trinity College we got to learn so much about the history and people of not only Dublin but Ireland as a whole as well. We continued our day at the official Guinness Storehouse and later that night at Passion nightclub with the best urban music Sydney and I had heard in a club in our whole Euro trip thus far. The following day, our last, we did some shopping around and ended up at St. Stephen’s Green mall. Out of all the cities, I had visited up to that moment, Dublin was definitely my favorite. The impact it made on me was incredible. The people were kind, helpful, and fun. Even on a grey, rainy day the city is filled with so much energy and life, that by the end of our trip I found it difficult to leave.
For weekend five, Amanda F., and two of our roommates (not part of the PINC program) and I took off to our next weekend escape: territorio Barça (Barcelona territory). Our first night consisted of settling into our Airbnb not too far away from La Sagrada Familia. The following morning was a bit of a hassle. I suggest planning restaurants to eat at and buying tickets for Parc Güel and other sites you’d like to see beforehand. (Note: Always, always carry your student ID for discounts.) We weren’t able to visit the infamous church until later that day and we were not able to see the popular mosaic bench in the “Greek Theatre” also known as the “Nature Square” until early the next morning. (If you go early enough you can get in to see the bench for free!) After breakfast, attempting to go to the church, and walking around Parc Güel we were finally able to visit La Sagrada Familia. This awe-inspiring, indescribably beautiful basilica had Amanda and I drawn to tears upon walking into the church. I honestly have no words to describe this sacred monument and sight. To stand there and realize that without the proper technology something so beautiful and perfect could possibly be made by mere humans caused so many emotions that we could not contain our reaction to everything we saw within that church. Afterwards, we decided to spend the rest of our afternoon at the well-known Barceloneta beach. We then grabbed some of the best Mexican food and ice cream I had ever eaten at La Heladeria Mexicana. Saturday night after our tummies were full we went to club Danzatoria. This amazing club reminded me of Dublin. Amazing variety of music and good vibes. Luckily, clubs in Barcelona close at 6 am. So a little after 4 in the morning we headed home for an hour and a half of sleep, then woke up to finally go see Parc Güel, which was definitely worth the lack of sleep. Warning: When traveling to new, fabulous places…there is no room in the schedule for a full night of sleep. Plan accordingly.
For my second to last weekend adventure, my boyfriend and I met up again, and this time in Africa. We stayed in Le Majestic Hotel in Tunis, Tunisia. This moderately conservative city reminded so much of the Dominican Republic. The noises from the motorcycles, the vibes, people talking and walking around the street, and weather. Our first morning in the city we visited the souks (covered streets where the local people sell things from jewelry to perfumes to pottery). Later on that day we decided to visit the neighboring city of Sidi Bou Saïd where we had fresh seafood, with the view of the sea and mountains at Café des Délices. We then journeyed down a small mountain towards the beach with the sunset advancing. If you do visit this city, I must advise you to wear a more appropriate style of bathing suit. All the women here were completely covered. Our last day consisted of a visit to the most important museum in the Mediterranean region, and the second in Africa, the Bardo museum, before leaving to the airport.
The PINC girls (unfortunately minus Amanda P.) and I spent our last weekend trip together in Ibiza! You can already imagine how our weekend went. Luckily we planned some things in advance like the Pukka Up boat party where we partied on a boat in the middle of the mediterranean sea enjoying life to the fullest and danced at a whole day music festival in Creamfields Ibiza at the Ushuaïa Complex the following day. We also made some time to go to the beach on our second day there and to the infamous Playa d’en Bossa. Ibiza is a very expensive city! Make sure if visiting you plan ahead of time and budget yourself out. The food, clubs, and stay are all important things to look into before visiting the party capital of the world.
My time in Europe and Africa was truly indescribable. The freedom of being able to pack a backpack, grab a cab, and go to the airport on route to a different destination was unbelievable. Every day since I’ve been back I wish I could do it all over again. To feel free from the restrictions of daily routines and continue learning from my surroundings, people, and their cultures. The PINC program is set up in a way that makes it possible for you (if planned appropriately), to be able to book trips every weekend through affordable airlines such as RyanAir and EasyJet, and flight search sites such as Skyscanner that make it simpler for you to make the most out of your money and time.
About the Author:
My name is Gisel Olivares and I am currently an online graduate student via the University of Florida pursuing a Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a specialization in Web Design and Online Communication. I was raised in New York City and I moved to Miami at the age of 18 where I completed my Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication with a track in Public Relations at Florida International University. One of my many passions, as you can tell, is writing, as well as traveling. Other than my place of birth, the Dominican Republic, I was lucky enough to have traveled to Niagara Falls, Madrid, San Sebastian (in Spain), Bordeaux, and Paris. When I found out about the PINC program and that the founder and CEO was my sorority sister I knew I needed to sign right up and go for it. I was missing some real hands-on experience in my field of study, and kicking myself out of the country was the best thing I could’ve ever done.
I got to intern at Ebualá media in Madrid, a boutique marketing agency that I absolutely loved and enjoyed working at every day. Up to this day, I can confidently say that that has been my best work experience yet. The people there understood and taught me so much and for that, I am forever grateful to them and, most importantly, Lisette for making it all possible. Since I’ve been back from Madrid I’ve landed two internship positions, one of which is officially my part-time job. I am a copywriter intern at Venue magazine, and an Executive and Marketing Assistant for yet another boutique marketing agency, M2 Brands Inc. Now to be able to write about my experiences within and out of Madrid for you all is something I am so happy to be doing. Being granted the opportunity to mix my passion for traveling with writing is yet something else I have Lisette to be grateful for.