I love Duolingo as a language learning tool. It has pretty interface, very light, simple exercises that don't consume your brain power too much and has many languages for learners wanting to brush up their skill.
Having said that, I honestly do not attend proper class to study Spanish and since 2013 I have been hopping from one textbook to another and frequently use Duolingo to keep myself in track.

What I really love about Duolingo?

First, It is FREE!! Nothing can beat a free app in your smartphone. Not only it is free but it is also educative.

Although you obviously cannot magically speak Spanish fluently in a day just by using Duolingo, but being able to start communicating using a few phrases of another language is definitely COOL, right?

You can run duolingo in your computer, tablet and smartphone. I love it on my Android and I put myself into 3 lessons per day goal for about 15 minutes. As it is fun, sometimes I don't feel like I am learning a language. Duolingo feels like a game and very addictive!

Second, definitely helping me in building my vocabulary bank. Although from time to time I still need to check with a dictionary just to make sure that I can differentiate the masculine from the feminine noun.

There is no grammar explanation in Duolingo though (which I wish the team could include that in their future updates) so I still need to learn some grammar first before attempting the lessons. As I progress, the lessons become progressively difficult too. It makes learning fun when the lessons get harder.
Third, the forum ( I like to call it as such for now). In each test sentence or word there is an accompanying section where you can comment and give your opinion. I definitely can learn a lot from other native speakers' comments be it if they are Spanish from Spain or from other Spanish speaking countries.
Fourth, the daily goal. I can do one lesson per day, three or five. Depending on my strength or whether I really want to push myself to learn Spanish faster or not.

I have opted for 5 lessons per day (insane) previously but from my own observation, I became very bored once I reached the 4th lesson. It is as if I am forcing myself to learn. Hence, I am l sticking to 3 lessons per day goal. Yeay! I am categorized as a serious learner there.
Fifth, finally...I love this added bonus skills like idioms, proverbs and flirting where I can practise it with my husband and we laughed like crazy whenever I used them incorrectly. Hahaha...Learning Spanish with Duolingo is seriously fun!

When I look back, I don't know why there was little to none interest in me to learn Spanish before. It seems natural to learn Spanish after English, right? No!

The only thing that connects me to Spanish culture before was the Spanish telenovela. Among my favorites was the Venezuelan telenovela Mi  Gorda Bella in 2002 which was adapted to Manjalara - a local Malay drama in year 2007.

But now with Duolingo, I think I can revive my interest in Spanish language and make myself study a little bit harder than before. Alhamdulillah.

Vamos a aprender Español !

In my opinion, Plaza Mayor is a must visit Madrid tourist spot if you have never seen such architecture before.

It was built during the year 1598-1621 of Philip III's reign. The plaza is rectangular in shape and on top are the residential buildings. OMG, people do live here! I wonder how much the rental is. Quite costly I suppose as it is central of Madrid.

There are a lot of plazas in Spain and even in Europe. Plaza means a public square, marketplace or similar open space in a built-up area.

I am not Spanish and initially I just pronounced the word as 'plaza' with the hard 'z' in English. Unbeknownst to me, Plaza 'Mayor is pronounced as 'Plasa Mayor'. The letter 'z' in Spanish is pronounced as 's'.

Such as the famous local brand, Zara is pronounced as 'Sara'. At first I felt weird but after some time it has become my second nature. Time will heal my hard tongue. Hehehe..


Back to Plaza Mayor...I love the view of the plaza be it during the day or at night but I really adore the sight of Plaza Mayor particularly when it is around Christmas time. The lights displayed enhanced the aesthetic of the architecture more.


Remember my post of another plaza; Puerta del Sol recently? Plaza Mayor is just walking distance from here. If gauged by Google Map it is around 3 minutes. Really close!


Do you see the white umbrellas lining out the terrazzo in front of Plaza Mayor? They are cafes where Madrileños and visitors alike sit, sipping a relaxing cup of cafe con leche ala Ana Botella (ex-mayor of Madrid) while enjoying the majestic amber architecture.

FYI, there is a slight price difference between eating inside and outside at the terrazo. Eating outside is much more expensive. Depending on the establishments, some can be from a few centicimos (cents) or much higher.

Madrid Tourism Center is located here too in one of the sections called as La Casa de la Panaderia (Bakery House). In Spanish it sounds sexier huh? It reminds me of the Spanish telenovela shown in Malaysian local channel when I was in middle school.


See the Spanish traditional costume in the picture above? They are the street art performers donning costumes for photo opportunities. It is not FREE. Depending on them, you should ask for their price first before snapping your camera. I paid a euro for a photo with them but at Real Palace, I had to pay four euros per person!

I love the cobbled stones paving the road here in Plaza Mayor. They add up to it's aesthetic value. Such as this road leading to another Madrid tourist spot; Mercado de San Miguel.


How to go to Plaza Mayor?

You can reach here easily either by Metro line 1 (blue) ,2 (red) , 3 (yellow) or Cercanias to Sol Station and walk a bit.
Puerta del Sol is just two stations away from my house and normally I will either stop in Atocha station and walk to Sol (which I normally call it).


23 minutes or if you walk pretty slowly about 30 minutes. It sounds a lot of walking but trust me, you won't feel it especially if you are in Spain during one of the best seasons IMO.

The center of Madrid is occupied with so many aesthetic architectures and soon you will be lost in time. Never realizing that you have walked that whole 1.8 ~2.0 km. It is really an amazing walk and we love walking around this area.

Puerta means door.

Del is de + el means of the.

Sol means sun.

Puerta del Sol means door of the sun.


This is the location of the 0 km, which means the center of Madrid where all the Spanish roads start.


Right in front of the 0 km walk of fame is the clock building where the Spaniards or anyone who wants prosperity for their life in the new year ahead will eat twelve grapes (las doce uvas de la suerte) at midnight right before the clock strikes 12 on the 31st of December every year.

Around this time whenever we want to buy some grapes, we realize that there is a spike in grapes price. Demand and supply rules!

What can you do in Sol?

Hmmm...major sightseeing.


Right in the center of Sol Plaza, you will find the bear and strawberry statue (El Oso y El Madroño); the most famous symbol of Madrid (other than Real Madrid FC and Christiano Ronaldo hehehe).


Other than that of course food gastronomy. If you want to try tapas (wide variety of appetizers and snacks in Spanish cuisine), you can visit Mercado de San Miguel, one of the oldest and most beautiful Madrid's market.

You can watch theater or musical at one of the many theaters along GranVia, watch movie at Callao, shopping at famous local brand names like Zara, Mango,  El Corte Ingles and etc.


Plaza Mayor is just walking distance from 0 km.


The Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is very near too about 10 minutes walking distance from Sol, a little less than a kilometer.


There are so many attractions nearby Sol and every major ones are just walking distance. I always advise my friends who normally have only one day to spend in Madrid to stop by at Sol and then walk about from here.

My recommendation

Churros!


I am not really crazy about it because it reminds me of cakoi or youtiao in Malaysia but when churros is served with yummilicious hot chocolate dipping sauce, one dip is all you need.

Make sure you ask for a glass of water too. It's normally free. You will feel very thirsty when you eat churros con chocolate.


Try either San Gines or Valor. A plate of churros (4 sticks) with hot chocolate is between 5 to 8 euros.

Don't forget to download all your maps from MetroMadrid before you come. I especially love their Touristic Map of Metro Network. It helps me a lot in planning where is the location of the tourist spots that I want to visit or if I want to omit them from my list.

How to go to Puerta del Sol?

You can reach here easily either by Metro line 1 (blue) ,2 (red) , 3 (yellow) or Cercanias to Sol Station.