My first few days in Madrid have passed by in a lightning fast furry. Between jet lag and red wine I have had no time to actually catalogue the experience besides quick notes in my travel notebook. So let me try my best:
Of course the week started with travelling here. And of course that meant my bags were overweight and I had to spend the first 30 minutes of this journey repacking my bags in a airport seating area just to get on the plane. All was well however, when the check in lady overlooked the four pounds my bag was overweight and let me through the gate. Word to the wise: if you ever travel out of Dulles airport in Washington, arrive early. I arrived over two hours early for my flight and still had to hustle to board on time after spending hours in security checkpoints. Additionally, if you can, get a window seat on the plane. Unfortunately, I was not able to do this and spent seven hours battling for armrest positioning while also trying to sleep.
Upon arriving in Madrid, I was met by CIEE representatives and was able to gather my (massive amount of) luggage and begin transport to the hotel. And suddenly, that was it. Boom, I am in Madrid. Apparently this is real life.
CIEE organizes a week of education that is centered around getting you settled in Madrid, explaining how to fill out necessary paperwork, helping you meet other Language and Cultural Assistants, and providing basic cultural experiences to help you understand the city. Knowing many people will find roommates to li
The orientation has, however, been extremely useful and important. I can’t imagine having to do all of these things on my own and in Spanish. I am so glad I chose this program and despite my social awkwardness at times, it has been fun. On our second night we went on a tour of historic Madrid. I have just begun to see all of the beauty this city has to offer. It is picturesque at every turn. The balconies, the colored apartment buildings, the cobbled streets. I walk around Madrid and I can feel how much the people here appreciate beautiful things. The buildings are old and have a history that is appreciated and celebrated.
Our tour took us through Plaza Mayor and we were told that the streets were named for the activities that once occurred on them. We passed streets names after salt, grapes, meats, and other streets that once lived as a market full of activities. We were then led to Almudena Cathedral. The Cathedral was commissioned in 1561 when the capital of Spain was moved to Madrid but was not finished until 1993. Because of its newness and its grey color, I was told that Madrid residents did not like it and believed it to be ugly. When illuminated at sunset, it is hard to believe that anyonce can find this cathedral anything but a sight to behold. And as if Madrid isn’t poetic enough, literally across the square from the cathedral is the Royal Palace of Madrid.
On my third night in Madrid, the group was escorted to a place called Casa Patas. Casa
Madrid is a city of life. People enjoy the company of dear friends into the wee hours of the morning and every aspect of the culture reflects the importance of beauty and strong relationships. Tapas are for sharing so friends and family can connect while eating. The meals are long and the nights are late for more time with loved ones and to create experiences. On our last night of orientation, the program took all of the participants to a rooftop bar called Gau & Cafe to celebrate and to officially send us off to experience Spain on our own. Reserved and nostalgic for home, I am really beginning to accept that I am here—and what better place to be than Madrid, Spain.
Rooftop at Gau and Cafe!