Summers in Madrid & My First Experience in a Bla Bla Car

Madrid summers

The summers are unbearable in Madrid. I thought the heat would be manageable, because when I compare the temperatures in my own Boise, Idaho vs Madrid, they’re not too far off. Take a look at the summer months – the temperatures are almost the same. Similar temperatures, similar humidity, similar longitude/latitude. So why does it seem so much hotter here?

Madrid vs Boise monthly weather chart
Madrid monthly temperatures
Boise vs Madrid monthly weather chart
Boise monthly temperatures

My assumption about the difference is that Madrid is a massive city; a concrete jungle. There’s no escape. The buildings heat up, the streets heat up, and the people too. And, unlike Boise, you can’t drive ten minutes and jump in the river.

In July, specifically July 15 – August 15, the city “shuts down.” This was a foreign concept to me when i first heard about it, but it’s true. Everyone waits to take their four weeks PTO (aka, Holiday) during these dates. Why? Because Madrid gets so hot, that the only people crazy enough to go out during the daytime, especially when the temperatures reach their heights around 3, 4, 5, 6 pm, are the tourists that were psyched to get a great deal on a trip to Madrid… only to find that most establishments are closed thanks to the “holiday” hours (none at all.)

So, I decided to get outta dodge!

My summer itinerary:

Head up to Bilbao to see my cousin and her husband (mother’s-dad’s-brother’s-granddaughter.) There are several methods of transit – rent a car, take a train, fly, bus it, or… take a Bla Bla Car. More on that later.

Bilbao Map in Spain
Bilbao, Spain – Basque Country

After that, head over to Bulgaria (the first time in 11 years!) to see friends, visit the beach, and see some more family. (Same side of the fam.) To drive from Madrid to Bulgaria is 30 hours, so I opted to fly 3 1/2 hours instead. I plan to rent a car while there (we’ll see about that part… I have these horrific visions that driving in Bulgaria is just like watching those YouTube videos of Russians driving – probably not too far off.)

Madrid to Sofia, Bulgaria
3.5 hour flight

Mid-August, head to Budapest, Hungary and see another cousin. (Mother’s dad’s brother’s son. Who knew I have so much family here!? I love it.) Rather than driving eight hours, again opting for the flight, only 1 1/2 hours. If you ever fly in Eastern Europe, check out Wizzair. The ticket was 30€ (about $33.) Crazy cheap!

Bulgaria to Hungary
1.5 hour flight

Finally, come back to Madrid… September? Not quite sure yet… All I know is that I’m waiting for the temperature to cool down.

So, back to the point. Bla Bla Car! What is it? It’s like an Airbnb for carpooling. How it works: if you need a ride, you can check out departure times, driver reviews, even profile photos. As a driver, you post details like your car make/model, pick up points, etc.

At first, it seemed like a great way to willingly hand yourself over to strangers and never be seen again. The skeptic in me questioned it, wondering if it was trustworthy, reliable or used frequently. Come to find, it’s very popular in Europe.

Bla Bla Car trustworthy
With an image like this… would you trust it?

I jump online, search for people heading to Bilbao during my dates, learning the there were plenty of options. I ended up going with the most friendly looking person – a 22 year old girl named Paloma.

We arranged a pick up point, and I hop in the car with her and her friend. We also had another passenger. So, two friends and two strangers, road tripping together for 4 hours. This could be quite the adventure.

The driver, Paloma, and her best friend were celebrating her 23rd birthday in Bilbao, during “The Night of San Juan,” a traditional celebration to mark the first day of summer, celebrated by having bonfires on the beach. I got along well with the girls; we exchanged languages and talked the entire time. The odd man out was a 20 year old, who was heading up to Bilbao for the Spartan Race. His English was poor, but the four of us somehow connected… We made quite the quartet by jamming out to Despacito the entire time.

All in all, I would use Bla Bla Car again. Rather than hopping on a train or a plane, where you sit next to people that you may or may not talk to, Bla Bla Car is a great way to travel and meet people. When you commit to spending several hours with strangers, by default, you probably have to say a few words to each other.

Stay tuned for more adventures 🙂

Cheers, Roumena Kratchunova

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