Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year, in terms of sunlight, and also the first day of summer. I’ve never celebrated it before, because, really, it’s just never been important to me. But, I wake up Sunday morning and feel empty. It’s one of the side effects of starting a new life and just getting going. It’s an uphill battle to feel acclimated, and one I’m really not used to climbing.
I just need to do something for me.
For the past month, I have been overwhelmed. Filled with stress over acquiring my student visa for Spain, importing my cats from Thailand, feeling utterly lost and a myriad of other things. I’ve been hauled up in my flat, motionless as I try to sort out who I am, where I am and what the hell I am doing with my life.
But, on this morning, I try to take control back. I want to have that love which first encompassed me in Madrid five years ago. Now, when I walk through the streets, there is rarely any awe. It’s like I am taking life in Europe for granted, and I feel like a giant ass for doing it. My goal? To see if the best sunset in Madrid is at Temple of Debod.
Tonight, I will celebrate the sun sinking at 9:45 p.m. I will explore my city. I will stop, sit on a terrace, have a glass of wine, and think.
I begin my journey to Temple of Debod heading up Calle Embajadores and onto the Royal Palace.
When the enormous palace comes into my vision, I close my eyes and recall when I was there five years ago. The excitement within me for being in Madrid, for being in Europe. I watch as people armed with selfie sticks pose in front of the lush gardens.
Then, I continue on, circling around the Palace and onto Temple of Debod. It isn’t what I envisioned, but it is beautiful. But, I’ve got two hours until the sun is set to sink. So, I head to a cafe and grab a vino blanco and pause.
When I notice the colors turning from washed out to gold, I grab my la cuenta and head back down the street.
A few ruins from ancient Egypt were moved to Madrid in late 1960s and opened to the public in 1972. Dating back to 200 BC, today, this spot is the best spot to catch the sunset in Madrid. Seriously. Or, at least that’s what every person here tells me.
Tonight, the crowd seems to agree. People are everywhere, splayed out on picnic blankets in the grass, sitting on a ledge of a fountain, dipping their feet into the pool.
There’s a fence and then a drop to the parking lot, and that’s where I head. From the fence, Madrid splays out in front of me. Pinks and yellows and churches and green and then, in the distance, the mountains.
With an hour left, I contemplate leaving but know if I do, I will be angry at myself for doing so. This is supposed to be a time to reflect on me, and leaving before the sun goes down is cheating.
So, I stand there, leaning against the fence. Watching couples make out, families with their children, joggers, friends lining up for photos.
As the sun begins to dip lower in the sky, people start to crowd the fence where I am, getting too close to me when I am trying to find my own space. I close my eyes and remember to breathe.
Then, the sun goes from an orb that burns my eyes to a ball of fiery orange and begins to move lower and lower in the horizon.
In a matter of minutes, it disappears behind the mountains which now glow purple.
Just like that, the sun has disappeared.
I stand there for a moment, grasping for some sense of peace I so desperately need.
Live in the moment. Let things go. Don’t go through the motions of life. Live, like you always tell other people to do. Let this sunset take with you all of the things you’ve been holding inside and sink away into the distance.
And then, an applause comes from the crowd. Those people, they get it. They know the sun has set on another day, and there will never be this day again.
I walk slowly back to my flat, knowing once I am home, I will have the comfort of my cats, a roof over my head, and a life to live.
As for Temple of Debod being the best place to watch the sunset in Madrid? What do you think?