I have something to admit.
Despite learning Spanish for a total of 10 years, I have only visited Spain twice. Once to Valencia for an interesting, if not memorable, language course and then to Pamplona, last summer, for the Fiesta de San Férmin (or running of the bulls)
So when I got a text from my Mum asking if I wanted to join her on a two-day work trip to Madrid I jumped at the chance.
We arrived Monday evening, and went out for wine and tapas - so Spanish!
The next day my Mum headed off to work and I was left to entertain myself. So, naturally, I spent the day shopping
The hotel may not have been close to the city's historic centre but it was a stone's throw away from Calle de Serrano - Madrid's equivalent to a combination of London's Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets.
Not only was able to indulge in some serious window shopping at the likes of Gucci and Lowe, but my Zara obsession was sufficiently satisfied by one of largest stores I've ever set foot in.
I was in sartorial heaven.
I could have happily spent both days of the trip wandering around doing more shopping, but I felt that I needed to do something cultural.
So I decided to hit up two of Madrid's most touristy spots - Parque del Retiro and the Museo del Prado (thanks Kit for the suggestion)
Annoyingly, yet understandably, I couldn't take photos in the Gallery. But if you ever do find yourself in Madrid I would strongly recommend heading to the Museo del Prado. The gallery is a maze of breathtaking paintings, with masterpieces by the likes of Raphael, Rubens and Rembrandt round every corner. The best part is that students get free entry (remember to take both your student card and a form of ID), and for everyone else, there is free entry after 6 pm.
Moving on to El Retiro
There's no other way to put it, the park is huge. To put it into perspective it's 5 times larger than Central Park.
Luckily I had time to kill so I spent a couple of hours wandering around. Sometimes you experience the most when you have no plan
In the centre of the park there is the Palacio de Cristal. It's a greenhouse like structure very much like the one at Kew Gardens.
It was built in 1887 and now houses contemporary art exhibitions. Although I'm not going to lie, I had no idea that the bright glass squares were art.
But the coolest part had to be the lake next to it which had turtles.
I'm not kidding, alongside the ducks and the fish were around 50 mini turtles swimming about. I have no idea how they got there but they seemed pretty happy about their home.
I think it's clear a park is big when you can stumble across an art exhibit. Palacio de Velázquez is an impressive exhibition hall that sits within the park close to the Palacio de Cristal.
The modern art exhibits which it houses change regularly and are free to visit. As art goes it was at totally the opposite end of the spectrum to the traditional paintings I had seen at Museo de Prado.
Though I had absolutely no clue what the artist was trying to convey, apart from maybe remincising back to his childhood days of soft play areas, the pieces were still intriguing and strangely captivating.
I'm sure I didn't even come close to discovering all the delights the park has to offer, and I definitely didn't even scratch the surface on Madrid's museums and galleries.
But sadly I had to cut short my exploring and head off to the airport.
It might have only been a flying visit but it was the just long enough for me to get a feel for Madrid and finally have the chance to use my Spanish!
(N.B Apologies for the picture quality - my phone couldn't cope with the bright light and I didn't take my camera with me)