Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
Hey there, ¡amigos! So I just got back from Mexico, and I had to tell you. I am so glad I got travel insurance. No, I did not need to use it, thank goodness. Yes, it was still 100% worth every penny. It gave me so much peace of mind both leading up to the trip, and while we were away from home. I didn’t worry once about what happens if we have a last minute trip cancellation, if I get sick or injured while I’m gone, or what to do about lost luggage.
Travel Insurance During the Pandemic
Usually when I’ve traveled in the past, it’s been without travel insurance. And I’ve been fortunate enough to skate through my previous adventures relatively unscathed. But you hear horror stories, from other travelers. And after a while, I started to wonder if I’m taunting the travel gods and tempting my fate, traveling without insurance. I figured at some point, my luck had to run out.
Especially this time around, traveling just felt…different. The pandemic was the number one reason I sought out travel insurance for our trip to Mexico. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve all learned to live with uncertainty and that even the best of plans can fall apart in an instant.
Even so, that uncertainty can be difficult to swallow when it comes to canceled travel plans and lost deposits. Countries announcing <yet another> lockdown, ever-changing travel restrictions, getting the sniffles…any number of things can threaten your travel plans in this new world we’re living in. If nothing else, having travel insurance gave me peace of mind. I knew I had options to work with if our plans went askew.
Travel Insurance: To Buy or not to buy?
I know, I know. Now a lot of people will say, “Travel insurance? That’s just a waste of money.” And it is certainly one of those things you purchase with the hope of never needing to use it.
The overall cost of our off-season, all-inclusive Costco package for Mexico cost around $3,250 USD. Then add on another $500 dollars if you choose to go on any excursions or want to buy a few souvenirs to take home. Our travel insurance policy cost us just shy of $100 USD and covered four people. It covered trip cancellation and medical expenses (my greatest concerns), and so much more.
While in Mexico, we learned that a fellow guest had the misfortune of slipping on a wet floor in their room. In falling, this guest bit their lip, broke their front teeth, and broke their arm in three places. Can you even imagine?!
The pain from injury and a spoiled vacation would be enough on their own. But then we discovered from our taxi driver (I swear, taxi drivers know everything about a country) that many hospitals in Mexico require an available credit card limit of thousands of dollars before you can receive medical treatment. Do you have that? Most of us probably don’t.
Of course every country’s medical system will be different. I had never realized the importance of researching how to get medical care in different countries. Maybe I believed the fallacy that I was young and impervious. I didn’t believe I would get sick or injured while on vacation. But going forward, travel insurance costs little in comparison to the total cost of the trip. And for me, it’s worth the security.
Advantages v. Disadvantages
Still sitting on the fence about purchasing travel insurance and not sure which way to jump? I find simply listing out and weighing the advantages v. disadvantages makes the decision-making process straight forward.
|List every item your policy covers here…|
|Peace of mind|
|It’s an added expense to your trip||Security|
|You might not need it||Then again, you might need it after all|
Of course it’s a gamble, purchasing or not purchasing travel insurance. But which bet would you rather place? I’ll take the safer bet.
What does travel insurance cover?
Different travel insurance companies and policies will cover different things. Some examples of the things they may cover include medical expenses, trip delay, trip cancellation and interruption, emergency evacuation, baggage delay, missed connections, and more.
Our particular insurance policy offered additional services, including lost baggage search, cash advance assistance, flight rebooking, and roadside assistance.
But with so many companies and policies out there to choose from, how do you know you’re choosing the best option for your particular trip and needs?
Travel Insurance Master
In the past, I would have just purchased whatever travel insurance may have been offered through the company I was purchasing my vacation through (amateur, I know.) However, the idea of comparing and shopping for the right travel insurance can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look.
I found Travel Insurance Master made the process headache free. They help you compare different policy options from the top 10 providers to choose the most fitting option for you and your trip. They’ll even break down and explain insurance terms, so you understand the fine print in your policy.
After purchasing through them for our Mexico trip, I won’t do it any other way. I spent our week in Puerto Vallarta just sitting under the palm trees, soaking up the heat, enjoying the sunsets…not a care in the world.
Have you ever had to use your travel insurance, or not had it and wish you had? I’d love to hear your experiences and perspectives. So please drop a comment below!
Further Reading and Resources
Now that you know how to keep your vacation plans safe and worry free, check out these travel quotes to get you excited about your next adventure. Or use this travel bucket list to inspire a new adventure!
Looking to book a vacation? Chantelle of Flannels or Flip Flops Travel Agency specializes in cruises, Disney, and all inclusive resorts. She’s here to help take the stress out of your vacation planning!
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Where I would describe Barcelona as being Intimate, I would probably sum Madrid up into the word Grand. The broad streets, the wide squares, the tall buildings and monuments. Yes, Madrid is indeed grand.
We took the train from Barcelona to Madrid, which was about a three hour ride. We then took a taxi from the train station to Gran Via, one of the main arteries of the city. That was as close as the driver was able to get us to our hotel, due to the holiday celebrations.
It was May 2nd, Dia de la Comunidad de Madrid, or “Day of Madrid.” This was the day that Madrid rose in rebellion against French occupation in 1808, which day marked the beginning of the the Spanish War of Independence.
Luckily, the walk from Gran Via to Puerta Del Sol wasn’t far. And although it was over cobblestone, it was downhill and easy going. We arrived at our hotel to find it surrounded by a commotion of festivities, and couldn’t wait to set our bags down and get out to explore. This post will highlight our favorite things we discovered.
A note about COVID: Our trip was pre-pandemic, so be sure to check each location for visiting restrictions before you plan your visit.
1. Explore Puerta del Sol
At the heart of Spain is Madrid, and at the heart of Madrid is Puerta Del Sol. “Puerta del Sol” translates as the “gateway to the sun.” And as would seem fitting to such a place, it held a spirit of constant celebration. We even ran into “Pikachu”, of all random things, and had our picture taken with him.
TIP: Be sure to carry a few euros with you for tips if you plan on asking any costumed characters or street performers for a photo together.
With its central location, this is a perfect starting point for exploring Madrid. We had everything we could want or need at our fingertips. We found tons of shopping and dining surrounding the square, as well as convenient subway access. The streets surrounding Puerta del Sol were wide, cobbled and filled with people during the day. It’s definitely a fun area to explore.
Puerta del Sol is also a convenient location to plan your adventures in and around Madrid. A couple of kiosks here offered tickets for Flamenco shows in Madrid, as well as day trips to surrounding cities, including Ávila, El Escorial, Segovia, and Toledo. We were easily able to book reservations the day of, or the day before, an event.
2. Explore Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is only a five minute walk from Puerta del Sol. This is where our Spanish Inquisition walking tour started. There are also a lot of shops and dining areas on Plaza Mayor and the surrounding streets. The streets in this area are just as crowded as near Puerta del Sol, but the streets here are more narrow and intimate, which I found very appealing. It piqued my curiosity to explore deeper.
TIP: Be wary of people offering you “gifts” in busy tourist areas such as this. They may claim it is a gift, but then right afterwards ask for a “gift”, or money, back. And they can be persistent, to put it nicely.
3. Spanish Inquisition Walking Tour
The Spanish Inquisition walking tour was informative, fascinating and entertaining, as our guide incorporated a dry wit as he narrated along the way. The tour started and ended in Plaza Mayor, and lasted about 2 hours. We learned that the Spanish Inquisition lasted an astounding 350 years. As is often the case, the Spanish Inquisition actually started and ended more for political reasons than for religious or ethical reasons.
We also learned about why the Spanish are so famous for their pork and ham. As the story goes, churches used to host Sunday dinners with a wide spread of food. Though the dinner was intended to feed the poor or to engender a sense of community, there was a good chance that the priests, or maybe even your neighbors, were watching carefully what you ate. If you didn’t touch the pork products, someone was sure to report your name to the Inquisition for further investigation to determine if you were a true believer or a blaspheming heretic. In other words, they were searching for people who might be Jewish or Muslim, disguising themselves as Catholic. No wonder pork products are so prevalent in Spain!
4. Catch a Flamenco Performance
Catching a flamenco performance in Spain is a must, and there are a lot of options to choose from in Madrid. Flamenco is a fusion of Spanish, middle eastern and Gypsy music and dance, filled with passion and vivacity.
We went to a Flamenco show at Cardamomo. (We booked our tickets at one of the kiosks on Puerta del Sol.) The atmosphere at Cardamomo was incredibly intimate. We managed front row seats in the small, darkly lit room while we enjoyed a delicious dinner with Sangria.
The Golden Triangle of Art
TIP: You can package admission tickets to the Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen museums into a one-day pass to save a little bit of money. But depending on how quickly you want to rush through these museums, I feel it would be too much for one day. Together, these three art museums offer a fully comprehensive experience and create what is called the “Golden Triangle of Art” in Madrid.
5. Prado Museum
The Prado Museum was huge. There was so much to see, I felt I could have dedicated an entire day here. As it was, we only had half a day to explore its artwork. Founded in 1819, it houses European art from the 12th through 20th centuries. You can see work here by major artists, including Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velázquez.
One of my favorite works we saw here was Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. It was fun to compare Velázquez’ original piece to Picasso’s Study of Las Meninas, which we had seen in Barcelona at the Picasso Museum.
We also saw a lot of work by Goya, including a few works he painted in commemoration of Madrid’s uprising against the French in 1808. It was perfect timing to view this painting, considering Madrid had just finished celebrating Dia de Madrid, and it certainly left us with an indelible memory.
TIP: If there are certain paintings you’re wanting to see, don’t be afraid to ask the guides at the museum! They helped us find a few paintings I wanted to see in particular, including Adam and Eve by Alberto Durero.
6. Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
Inaugurated in 1990, the Reina Sofia is a relatively newer museum focusing on more modern and contemporary artwork. It celebrates mainly 20th century Spanish artists, although it does host temporary exhibits of both national and international artists. Included in its permanent collections are exhibits of Pablo Picasso’s and Salvador Dalí’s work.
7. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Although the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum was founded in 1992, the collection was actually started in the 1920’s by the museum’s namesake. As the Great Depression hit the United States, many wealthy Americans began selling priceless artwork. Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza used this opportunity to grow his collection.
Today, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum covers categories of art missed by the Prado and Reina Sofia museums. You can view work by Italian, English, Dutch and German artists, as well as Impressionist and Expressionist artwork, and 20th century American paintings.
8. Royal Botanical Garden
The Royal Botanical Garden stands adjacent to the Prado Museum. Founded in 1755, the garden covers 20 acres of land and holds around 91,500 different plant species today. The garden is organized into seven outdoor sections and five greenhouses. You can wander through the gardens at your own leisure, or take a guided tour.
The gardens were absolutely beautiful. It was exciting to discover plants I had never seen or heard of before. Plus, it was a relaxing and refreshing break to surround ourselves with so many plants and flowers after the hub-bub and rush of the tourists and the city.
9. Buen Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace
Buen Retiro Park is massive, covering a vast 350 acres. There are wide paved paths, smaller gravel paths, open grassy areas, and great tall trees, offering shade. We saw bicyclists, joggers, lovers, locals, tourists, photographers, and frisbee players. The park initially belonged to Spanish royalty and was created in 1680, but then became a public park in late 1800s.
I always love being outdoors and enjoy a good park, but what really drew me to Buen Retiro Park was the Crystal Palace. It was built in 1887 of iron and glass upon a brick foundation, and it looks like something out of a dream. It was once used as a greenhouse, but today, the Crystal Palace belongs to the Reina Sofia Museum. For a small fee, you can go inside to view various art exhibits.
10. Catch a Real Madrid Soccer Game at Bernabéu Stadium
We stepped onto the subway at Puerta del Sol and found the subway cars packed tight with soccer fans. After jumping off at Bernabéu Stadium, we climbed the stairs from the subway station and stepped back into the sunshine. Eyes adjusting to the light, we joined an electrified mass of people all wearing their club colors, their excitement palpable and contagious. Congregating from all directions, the throng of soccer fans carried us toward the stadium.
Bernabéu Stadium is Spain’s second largest soccer stadium, second only to Camp Nou in Barcelona. If you are looking for a genuine taste of modern Spanish culture, or at all consider yourself a soccer fan, you can’t miss seeing a Real Madrid home match. ¡Hala Madrid!
11. Attend a Corrida, AKA Bull Fight
Ok, here’s a controversial one. I had some real misgivings about going to a bull fight. Corridas are controversial even in Spain. In fact, there are some regions where you can no longer attend a corrida, such as Catalonia, where it was banned in 2012. But they are still proudly considered an important part of Spanish culture and heritage by many people today.
When we visited Spain, we hoped to get a glimpse of real Spanish culture, something beyond just the tourist sights. When we attended the corrida, I was surprised to see people of all ages filling the hard concrete benches, including children. We just happened to find ourselves seated right next to a man named Victor, a former president of the corrida. Attending a corrida is definitely not for everyone, but the insights we gained from Victor regarding the culture and art of bull fighting made us realize there is far more depth to this sport than meets the eye.
12. Shopping along Gran Via
Gran Via is a short five minute walk from Puerta del Sol. This major street runs through Madrid like a main artery. If you’re looking for a good place to go shopping in Madrid, this is the place.
13. Hop on hop off bus tour
You can find a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour in many of the larger cities around the world. They’re handy for getting a quick overview of a city and its layout. It’s also a convenient transportation option if you’re planning on traveling to multiple locations in one day, as tickets are usually good for one or two days and typically cover a lot of major tourist sites. If you choose the ride the bus a full loop, it lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.
Madrid’s Hop-on Hop-off bus tour is split into two routes —a historical route and a modern route. The historical route covers locations such as Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, the Thyssen, Reina Sofia, and Prado museums and the Royal Botanical Garden, with multiple stops along Gran Via. The modern route also included Puerta del Sol, in addition to Bernabéu Stadium and the Museum of Natural Sciences.
Where to Stay in Madrid
I can’t recommend Hotel Europa enough. It was clean and the service was good. The location and price, though, were excellent. It stands at the heart of Madrid, with easy subway access just a few yards away. Our room looked over Puerta Del Sol, and it was mesmerizing to watch the pulse and vibe of the city night life from high above it all.
A few of the amenities at Hotel Europa include free WiFi, 24 hour service at the reception desk, and service provided in Spanish, English, French, Italian, and Portuguese. They even provide strollers if you’re traveling with little ones!
Next Time in Madrid…
On our whirlwind through Spain, we stopped at many places along the way, picking ourselves up and setting ourselves down in a new town every couple of nights. If you don’t want to go hotel hopping, though, Madrid would be an excellent city to set up as home base. There is so much to see and do both in and near Madrid, it would be easy to spend an entire vacation there while making day trips to the surrounding towns.
There was no way we could fit everything we wanted to see into the few days we had in Madrid. Did I miss one of your favorite things to do in Madrid? Tell me about it in the comments!
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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
Once you visit Ronda, Spain, you’ll never want to leave. There’s something about dining and slumbering on the precipice of the world. It gives you a hint of danger, of uncertainty. A thrill down the back of your spine and butterflies in your stomach.
Perhaps it has something to do with the way the twilight caresses the white walls of the small town with a soft glow. Or maybe…you know how when you’re truly connecting with someone, how the rest of the world just fades away? It’s exactly like that. The town just empties out at night. It’s just him and me in the intimate, quiet streets. We’re alone. And we’re alive.
Maybe it’s a little bit of all of it combined, plus some unknown factor, invisible to the human eye. But whatever it is, Ronda, Spain, has an undeniable spark of enchantment that makes it the most romantic city in the world. Paris, France, eat your heart out.
Orson Welles on Ronda
“A man does not belong to the place where he was born, but where he chooses to die”
Walking hand in hand with my husband down the ancient cobblestone streets, I think to myself, “I could die here. And that would be all right.”
Ronda, Spain, at a Glance
With a population of about 35,000 people, Ronda, Spain, is situated an hour and a half west of Málaga. It was an Arab village under Moorish rule for 7 centuries. Then, in 1485, when Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the Moors, Ronda came under Catholic rule.
Reflecting its split history, Ronda is divided in half by the Guadalevín river, cutting through the Tajo gorge. On one cliff side lies the older “Moorish Quarter,” and on the other side lies the newer “Mercantile Quarter.” El Puente Nuevo, or “the new bridge,” unites the two sides of the village.
Mini Spanish Road Trip
We took a rental car for a mini Spanish road trip from Málaga to Ronda and back. Road trip in a foreign country?! My husband did most of the driving, and yes, my husband is a brave man! But that’s a story for another day. Let’s get back to Ronda. I could have easily spent our entire vacation in this small village in the white hill towns of Andalusia.
Ronda is often full of tourists visiting on whirlwind day trips. Despite what Ernest Hemingway may have said <see quotes below, at the end of the post>, there is a ton to do in and around Ronda during the daylight hours. It’s certainly more than you can fit into a single day, and this is reason number one why you should stay over night in Ronda.
But the town empties out at night as the tourists filter out, returning to larger cities. And this is reason number two, and maybe the biggest reason, why you
want need to stay over night in Ronda. After dinner, we would explore the city. It was quiet, peaceful. The cobbled streets were narrow, crooked, and intimate, with a soft glowing light from the street lamps. And the streets were empty save for us.
Sleeping on the Edge of the World in Ronda, Spain
My husband and I stayed at Hotel Montelirio, a hotel situated on the brink of the Tajo gorge in the Moorish Quarter. This 15-room hotel occupies the former Count Montelirio’s palace, built in the 17th century. But everything inside has been fully updated.
Amenities include WiFi, satellite TV, an elevator, disabled access, and valet parking. Pets are allowed. There’s even a Turkish steam bath and an open air pool over looking the gorge! Plus, the hotel is walking distance to just about all of the sites you’ll want to visit in Ronda.
TIP: Be sure to communicate your check out time in advance to give the front desk time to prepare for you departure, especially if you’re planning on checking out in the early hours. Also, if you’re driving, be sure to arrange parking with the hotel in advance.
The hotel restaurant, Albacara, offers Mediterranean and traditional Andalusian dishes. We ate dinner on the restaurant patio one evening at sunset, and it felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world. And the food was as good as the view!
Plaza de Toros de Ronda and Museo Taurino
Ronda’s bull ring holds great historical significance in Spain. First of all, it competes with Sevilla’s in claiming the title of the oldest bullring in Spain. But it’s a little bit complicated.
Sevilla’s bullring began construction earlier, in 1761, and was completed in 1785. Whereas Ronda’s bullring construction began in 1779 and was completed in 1784. The first bull fight, or corrida, was held in Ronda on May 11, 1784. However, after some of the spectator stands caved in, the bullring was closed for repairs, and did not open again until May 19, 1785. I’ll let you be the judge of which bull ring claims title as oldest.
La Plaza de Toros de Ronda also competes to claim itself as the largest bullring in Spain. The actual arena spans 66 meters (217 feet) in diameter. That’s 6 meters greater than Madrid’s bullring. However, there is only seating for 5,000 spectators at the bullring in Ronda, compared with Madrid’s seating for 25,000.
The museum at the bull ring explores the history of bullfighting. We took the audio guide as we wandered through the museum’s displays of costumes and artwork from the past two centuries, many of which hold high importance in the history of bullfighting. We also discovered displays of weapons from Spanish wars over the years.
Every year during the second week of September, Ronda hosts the Féria Goyesca, to celebrate Pedro Romero. Pedro Romero, a famous and beloved Spanish matador, competed against his great rival Pepe Hillo, in Ronda’s re-opening in 1785. During this annual week long celebration, matadors and their assistants dress in traditional costume from the Goya period. The Féria Goyesca is one of the few times through out the year they still hold a corrida in Ronda.
Arab Baths of Ronda, Spain
The Arab baths were initially built just outside the city walls near the original main entrance to Ronda. It was only early May when we visited, but it was already a hot, 15-20 minute walk from our hotel to the Arab baths. Although it was mostly downhill on the way there, it was even hotter uphill on the way back. Note to self—bring water!
Once inside the old ruins, markers led us through the reception hall, to the cold room, the temperate room, and lastly the hot room. In the hot room we watched a short five minute video about the construction of the Arab baths, presented in both English and Spanish.
The technology involved in the Arab baths was quite impressive. Water entered the hot room via an aqueduct. The water and hot room were heated by an adjacent furnace room where several large fires were tended, creating a sauna-like atmosphere. The warm room would have been used for massages and treatments. The cold room was used more for socializing while cooling down.
Culturally speaking, the Arab baths would have been a meeting place where citizens and visitors would spend several hours, passing back and forth between rooms. Individuals may not have used the baths daily, but may have visited to cleanse their bodies before visiting the nearby mosque to worship.
Puente Nuevo was what originally caught my attention and drew me to Ronda. It is one of three bridges that crosses the Tajo Gorge, and it is certainly the most remarkable. At 66 meters in span and 98 meters in height, it’s construction lasted 34 years and was completed in 1793.
For a minimal entrance fee, we were able to enter a room actually within the Puente Nuevo. Rooms within the great bridge were previously used as a prison and torture chamber. And in case you’re wondering, yes, prisoners were on occasion thrown through the windows to the bottom of the gorge below.
When we visited, there were no prisoners being tortured. We found only a display about the history of the bridge’s construction, not to mention the stunning views. It’s a fairly short visit, something quick, easy and fun to do while exploring the village.
What we want to do next time we’re in Ronda, Spain
Because there will definitely be a next time! There is so much to do in and around Ronda, we simply did not have time for all of it. Here’s a few of things we’d like to do on our next visit to Ronda.
Arco de Cristo or La Puerta de los Molinos del Tajo
You can hike down the west side of the Tajo or take a cab to the Arco de Cristo, AKA La Puerta de los Molinos. From here, you’ll find an iconic, postcard-worthy view of the Puente Nuevo. Rumor on the street is that the best time for photos and a visit is during the afternoon when the sun hits the bridge.
Directions: Leaving the Plaza de España in the Mercantile Quarter, cross the Puente Nuevo. Turn right on Tenorio, and stay right when the road forks. You’ll come to a steep cobbled path leading down to the Tajo. Follow this to the Arco del Cristo.
Caminito del Rey
Caminito del Rey is an exciting and breath taking hike that can be visited from Ronda or Málaga. It lies about an hour and a half drive from Ronda. You must book tickets in advance and you must be on time. Pay attention to which pick up site you are going to. If you are late, they will turn you away.
Pileta cave contains over 100 prehistoric drawings inside, discovered in 1905. An important tip to keep in mind, you must make a reservation to visit the cave. Also, groups are limited to 20 people. The cave lies about a half hour from Ronda.
Quotes from some of Ronda, Spain’s most famous visitors
If you still don’t believe that Ronda, Spain, is the most romantic city in the world, take it from this guy!
Ronda is the place where to go, if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon or being with a girlfriend. The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set. Nice promenades, good wine, excellent food, nothing to do…Ernest Hemingway
Or this guy…
…and Ronda with the old windows of the houses, the eyes which spy out hidden behind the latticework so that their lover might kiss the iron bars and the taverns with half-closed doors in the night and the castanets and the night…James Joyce
I know I’ve only highlighted a few of the things to see and do in Ronda. Do you have a favorite sight or activity in Ronda I missed? Tell me about it in the comments below so I can check it out next time I’m there!
Looking for more places to travel in Spain? Read my post about What Happened When We Got Lost in Ávila, Spain, and Why I Fell in Love with the City. You can also follow me on Pinterest for more Spain travel ideas!