I hadn’t expected to fall in love with Madrid. Many travelers I talked to said Madrid was “just another city” and “not safe.”
Yes, Madrid is “just another city” and, like any city, it isn’t always safe. But, I was fortunate enough to have a different perspective of the city than most travelers. I was able to live and breathe the city like a local.
I hadn’t expected to stay as long as I did in Madrid, but everything happens for a reason. For me, it solidified my desire to live in Spain and be a part of the magnificent and vibrant culture.
After I committed myself to the VaughanTown in Monfrague, I decided it would be easier to just stay in Madrid for the week in between the programs and take day trips.
Anthony offered his place to me, and of course, I accepted the offer. He and I got on so well, I figured it would be perfect.
My first night back in Madrid following Valdelavilla, I stayed in a hostel, but the next week was spent at Anthony’s flat with him and his charming roommate, Miguel.
Saturday afternoon Anthony and I wandered through town, attempting to hit up the free evening at The Prado museum.
We arrived, sun still shining outside, to a line of people wrapped around the building.
“Uh, D, I really don’t want to stand in this line,” Anthony said to me.
“Me neither,” I said, grateful he hadn’t wanted to stay and wait. I don’t do crowds. In fact, I’m the person at the mall who powers through the casual mall strollers, elbows out, hands on hips, shoulders high, filled to the brim with anxiousness.
Instead, we ventured to the Reitro, a gorgeous park in Madrid, and enjoyed the early spring weather. And the couples getting it on, on the green.
Really. Like, hardcore-hands-everywhere-on-top-of-eachother-I-should-look-the-other-way-and-yet-I-can’t type of making out.
“Seriously,” I said, turning to Anthony. “There are kids here!”
“It’s just what they do, D,” he said.
But still … part of me wanted to be rolling around on the grass with someone. It was romantic wrapped up with voyeuristic at the same time. Intriguing.
By the evening, I was already in love with Madrid.
The following day, we had a Valdelavilla reunion — a mix of Anglos and Spaniards — for ostras at the market.
Most of them left after we consumed enough tapas and drinks for a Sunday afternoon, but a motley crew of us headed to La Latina at Silvia’s recommendation, to try the “best mojitos in Madrid.”
Later in the evening, an even smaller group — Bob, Emma, Anthony and I — headed to a cute outdoor restaurant near Sol and enjoyed a few more drinks and tapas.
Monday, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to move, and so I didn’t. I spent the entire day on Anthony’s couch, relaxing and just breathing … recounting the past three weeks of my travel life.
Tuesday, I decided it was time to do something else, so I headed to Toledo for a day trip, followed by an English/Spanish mixer in the evening, and then a night spent hanging with my new “roommates.”
Wednesday, Emma and I decided to hit up Caixa Forum, a free art museum, which includes a whimsical and colorful vertical garden that changes with the seasons.
Neither she or I are huge art buffs (I like a little culture, but appreciate art when I know the artist). We whizzed through it and then decided I needed to do some research for the tapas story I was working on, so we went on a tapas tour through Madrid, ending up at the fabulous El Tigre in Chueca.
El Tigre is the place to go for cheap drinks and plates piled high with whatever the bartender/tapas god feels like doling out. We got a mix of tortilla and meats and cheeses.
By Wednesday night, I was in a hardcore relationship with Madrid. I had learned to navigate the Metro, speak my beautiful Spanglish to ask for food, drink and directions and knew how to get up and back to Anthony’s without stopping to look for landmarks.
Yes, I was on Madrid automatic pilot.
Thursday was another day trip, this time meeting a new friend, JC, (Deanna and Jess from Valdelavilla had worked with him on a previous VaughanTown and had introduced us via Facebook) in Segovia. Then, Thursday night, Anthony and I went over to Emma’s for some veggie curry, beer and some unexpected liquor.
Of all of the nights in Madrid, Thursday was my favorite.
For people I had only known two weeks, I felt remarkably comfortable with both. So much so that when we found “Time Warp” on You Tube I had no problem doing the “pelvic thrust” (it really drives you ins-a-a-a-ane) and having a sing-a-along of our favorite music.
When Anthony and I waited for the bus at 2:30 a.m. and he assured me it wasn’t coming, we went back to Emma’s for an impromptu sleepover.
Friday was spent relaxing and attempting to catch some precessions (it’s a big deal in Spain) then Friday night Anthony and I ended up at another English/Spanish mixer with plans to head out. Only, I was tired, so instead of a night raging, I went with him to a jazz bar, then headed back home and hung out with Miguel until the early morning.
My last full day in Madrid was Saturday, and I hadn’t hit up the Reina Sofia yet, a museum that has such rave reviews. Of course, I had to go. It was beautiful and features amazing works of art from Picasso to Dali and other remarkable exhibits.
And then, suddenly, it was Saturday night. After having a delicious Moroccan meal with Emma, Anthony and I headed to another El Bajo reception for VaughanTown, this time mingling with our program and the new Valdelavilla Anglos.
A group of us went out after to Chueca (liters of beer on the super dirt cheap at Nike) and I made friends with an Irish guy on the other program … and lost him to another woman at the end of the night (it’s not a juicy story, it’s actually rather boring, so that’s all you get until I write my book).
Then, Sunday morning, big ol’ sunglasses covering half my face, Anthony and I headed back to Bilboa to catch the bus to Monfrague.
An entirely different and wonderful experience.