I have officially completed my first week here in Madrid! The extravagance of this city never fails to blow me away with each passing minute. I mean what could possibly beat the sound of continuous clanking dishes outside my window at 3 A.M., the three-hour-long piercing cycle of the washing machine (which is in the kitchen?), or the occasional poignant stench of the metro wafting through the underground system?! Okay, okay, so this city does have its downfalls, but the love that has grown in me for this city far outweighs any loud noise or awful smell I may encounter throughout my day-to-day life in Madrid.
This blog, as well as this trip, would not be complete without mentioning the incredible people I have met so far on this adventure. The students in my program (all 20 of them) are friendly, incredible people that I am so lucky to have the privilege of knowing. The bonds we have created continue to amaze me as the days go by. But mostly, I could not have imagined better apartment-mates that have so beautifully blossomed into close friends. In the short time of just one week, the four of us have managed to become extremely comfortable with one another. Whether it’s from sending each other stupid memes on Instagram or constantly reliving inside-jokes from the trip so far, I can confidently say that whenever we are together the laughs never cease. People who were solely strangers one week ago are now dear friends of mine, ones I know I will cherish forever.
Okay, enough of the sappy friendship stuff, let’s talk about Madrid! Because I believe any story isn’t complete without a visualization of the scene, I will first talk about the streets and homes and restaurants and shops that have constituted this wonderful adventure so far. The buildings are coated with soft whites and dark greens and mellow yellows and deep browns that have a romantic red tint to them. Each building has more window than wall to it, and almost every street-facing window has a small balcony filled with lush, green plants, making each gaze at these fine buildings last a few seconds longer. Most streets are narrow and busy with hectic drivers who stop-and-go so fast yet so confidently. But the lack of driving space leads most people to the city’s metro system. A metro stop is conveniently located at most busy street corners and can be reached anywhere by a 5 minute walk. Don’t let Spain’s crazy metro system freak you out when traveling – it is surprisingly very simple to get from place to place without getting too confused along the way (although, I did get very lost in an uncharacteristically large metro station on the first day of school…yikes)!
The purpose of my month-long stay in Madrid is to learn Spanish, meaning that I am in class for 16 hours during the week. I attend class at Don Quijote Language School from 9A.M. to 1 P.M. each Monday through Thursday. With three classes done so far, I am loving the learning experience here. The class is definitely less difficult than those I have taken in the states, but the environment here has me wanting to learn Spanish so much more than ever before. In fact, my roommates make fun of me due to the excessive amount of times I say “bueno” in a single day. The speed at which I am understanding new terms and recalling ones I have learned before is incredible compared to my language class experience back home. I have two professors, and they only speak Spanish. This can be confusing at times since we are not advanced Spanish students, but it has proved to keep me attentive and curious during class. When I arrived in Spain, I thought most people would be able to speak English. I was wrong. I was surprised at how little people speak English here. Most people know a few words here and there, but for the most part communication with locals is solely done in Spanish. I absolutely love that aspect of living in Madrid. I really get to practice my speaking abilities day in and day out. I would never trade this experience for a classroom back home.
One of the busiest centers in Madrid is La Puerta del Sol. This is a large downtown area made up of shops, restaurants, apartments, bars and other attractions. This is the spot to party, shop (for literally anything), or just walk around with friends. Located here is a statue of Madrid’s symbol, The Bear and The Strawberry Tree (yeah, I know, I’m confused too. Strawberries definitely grow on vines, right?). The metro will take you to any corner of the center you would like, and walking a short distance can get you lost in a world of magical streets of busy shops or homey neighborhoods. You can find rich history in this part of Madrid, as I discovered on a tour that my program took us on. La Puerta del Sol is a must-see if you are ever in Madrid!
An honorable mention that I must divulge to you all is the wonderful place that is Chocolateria San Gines. Oh man. Talk about sweet-tooth heaven! The moment my sister told me about chocolate and churros in Madrid I knew I had to go. Not surprisingly, it was one of the first recommended spots by the ACCENT Center (the program I am with). It is centrally located in La Puerta del Sol, which was great when the center was one of maybe three places we really knew how to get to during the first few days in the city! When we first arrived, the line was long and the tables were full, but soon enough our group of six (turned eight when we ran into two of our friends from the program) found a nice outdoor table with a fan and fun, live music from a tiny street band. I think my eyes just about popped out of their sockets when the waiters brought the hot churros and warm, melted chocolate to our table. If you know me you know I love sweets, especially if it involves anything chocolate. So this was a dream. The first bite into my toasty, chocolate-dipped churro melted into a savory gulp in my mouth. And that first bite turned into about 20 more…no exaggeration. When the churros were finished, we picked up our cups of chocolate and drank what remained. It tasted like a thin, dark chocolate pudding. Okay, enough of me fan-girling over a literal churro with chocolate, sorry. But anyway, I highly recommend trying churros with chocolate while in Spain!
So, Spain has been a beautiful whirlwind so far! I have done so many other things, which I did not mention above due to the lengthiness of this blog post, such as grocery shopping (it’s so cheap here), eating out with friends at different restaurants, and partying like the Madrileños from 1A.M. to 6A.M. at a local seven-story club called Teatro Kapital. If you have any questions about my trip so far or suggestions of things to do or places to go, let me know! I would love to talk about all things Spain! It’s now time to make dinner at the locals’ go-to eating time, aka 10:30P.M. (why?!) Thanks for reading, friends! I hope you enjoyed “a taste of Madrid” (un sabor de Madrid).