Last spring when we were living in Madrid - but our lives looked pretty different to how they do now, as least job-wise - I did a similar post to the one I'm doing today (check it out here, if you want). Life changes for most people by season, location, job, etc., and we're no exception, so last Tuesday I kept a notebook with me and pulled it out frequently to keep a tab on what my day was looking like.
At the end of October, we had a four day weekend, which we spent primarily in the towns of Ronda and Granada. However, on the way to Ronda we made two stops - one in Consuegra (see more here if you please) and one in Setenil de las Bodegas. I found out about Setenil de las Bodegas on Pinterest (I always get so excited when something I see on Pinterest actually works out in real life, is that just me?!) when we were first dreaming of coming to Spain, and then when I was planning this trip, I read about it on a blog as a good place to stop in between Madrid and Ronda.
The last weekend of October we had a four day weekend and we were still on a road trip high from our trip in September when we explored Basque country (see more here if you missed it) and became convinced that the best way to see Spain (aside from the big cities) is by car. So, Saturday morning we set off from Madrid with a car double the size of our last one (poor Danny - I think the 15 minutes we spent in Madrid on both sides of the trip we were both holding our breath and praying we - but mostly the car - would make it out alive) and headed south.
One thing's for sure, when it comes to Madrid there are a couple "top tier" day trips (Toledo & Segovia) that are really fantastic and then a few others that are pretty great (Ávila, El Escorial, Cuenca, maybe Salamanca although I've heard it deserves more than a day). Last year we explored all of the heavy-hitters, so this year we've been reaching a bit further, which means we've mostly been going to smaller towns that are a little more off the beaten path. Once we've exhausted those that can be reached by public transit, we may have to repeat places we visited last year or go to places that we consider just a bit too far for a day trip (2.5+ hours plus one way) and stay for one night.
On Fridays Danny and I both finish work early - I'm usually home by 3ish and Danny by 4ish. When the weather was still nice, we'd often go to one of our favorite parks (okay, we only really know three and we like them all) shortly after Danny got home and be back in time for dinner - wild Friday night, I know. Sometime in October I read about Parque Europa via a link posted on a Facebook group (see the blog I read here) we're a part of and figured it would be a good Friday afternoon adventure. So, we figured out how to get there on public transit, and off we went.
As much as I love city living (and I hope you don't sense sarcasm here because really, I do love it - a lot!!), sometimes it's really good to just get out for a little break. One Saturday in mid-October we figured out how to get into the mountains just outside of Madrid by public transportation thanks to a few blogs written by people who had been there before. We took the Cercanías train from Chamartín station in Madrid to Cercedilla, and a little over an hour later, we'd arrived.
Aranjuez is a town just 42km (26 miles) south of Madrid that is well-known because of the royal palace located there, and also because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I'd heard good things about Aranjuez (which I mistakenly assumed was a little bitty town, but actually has almost 60,000 people living in it!), but also knew that part of why people like it is because of its gardens, so I was waiting to visit in the early fall or late spring. Late September seemed like a good time for that, so we took a Cercanías train from the center of Madrid and about 45 minutes later, we were there. We had to walk 15-20 minutes from the station to the palace and gardens, but the walk is tree-lined and pretty.
After spending the last two Thanksgivings outside of the U.S., both of them without family and both of them working, I'd venture to say that, in my opinion, Thanksgiving is the hardest holiday to spend abroad. There's just something about it - the way it goes completely without observation in Spain, and I would imagine, the rest of the world, how most of the traditional foods can be difficult + expensive to replicate outside of the U.S., there's no four-day weekend, and how Christmas has been going on here since the day after Halloween. It just feels very different.