Becoming a Madrileña
These past few months have flown by faster than I could possibly describe, and as I’ve previously mentioned, Madrid has truly become a second home to me. Though I’ll always be an LA girl, Madrid has stolen my heart. If you are planning to come visit, whether for your first time or for your tenth, here is a list of my favorite places to go and things to do. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is my condensed version for Tumblr that I can always expound on with you later :)
1. Mercado de San Miguel- Taste yummy tapas, ogle at the beautifully colored fruits and veggies, try the mango juice, and admire the beautiful glass architecture! Be sure to get the goat cheese and caramelized onion on crostini.
2. Plaza Mayor- Eat lunch in the plaza, try tapas, and people watch! Look out for street performers dressed up as Disney and other cartoon characters.
3. Parque del Retiro- Rent rowboats, see the Palacio de Cristal, and have a picnic.
4. Valor- Try their churros con chocolate, the best in town. Much better than the famous San Gines churros, in my opinion!
5. Plaza del Sol- You haven’t seen Madrid’s nightlife until you wander around the plaza, check out various bars or Irish pubs, get annoyed by the guys selling beer and weird sunglasses, and enjoy the people-watching.
6. Palacio Real- Visit the Royal Palace and see its beautiful and extravagant decor that has inspired my future mansion’s interior design. Sadly, no photography allowed :(
7. Callao/Gran Vía- Go shopping in the heart of the city. My favorite stores include Sfera, Stradavarius, Oysho, Bershka, H&M, and Zara.
8. El Rastro- For any shopping fanatic or flea market buff, this huge weekly swap meet will melt your heart. Wander up and down the long street, check out the venders, and watch your purse!
9. Museo El Prado- Madrid’s most famous museum for a variety of reasons. Take some time to stare at Las Meninas, one of my favorite paintings there, by Diego Velázquez.
10. Casa González- Visit this fabulous family-owned tapas restaurant near Plaza Santa Ana and try their Cinco Quesos Españoles, vino espumante, or ensalada de caprése.
11. Kapital- Check out the infamous Madrid nightlife at this well-known seven-story club. Different music and a different vibe on each level!
12. See a flamenco show!
13. Chueca- Go shopping, bar hopping, and check out El Tigre for tapas and drinks in the fabulous gay district of Madrid!
14. Walk around and get lost. Take in the sights and sounds of the city. Explore and don’t be afraid to check out areas you aren’t familiar with. Enjoy Madrid as it was meant to be seen- through the eyes of someone with wanderlust who can’t wait to explore freely :)
15. Make friends with madrileños. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of different people through intercambios, aka language exchanges, as well as at plenty of bars and restaurants around the city. Though it is so nice to come here with American friends to have that familiarity of home, make efforts to meet the people. Madrid is home to some of the most friendly and amazing individuals!
…away from home, and I’m leaving this morning to fly back to Los Angeles. I cannot believe it right now. 9 countries and 18 cities later, I’ve studied abroad and I’ve loved every second of it. What a mix of emotions- I’m so excited to return to LA and see my family and friends, but at the same time I am devastated to leave Madrid. I don’t know when I’ll be back next, and it feels like I’m leaving behind my second home. But here I am, packing up the last of my things and heading out to a shuttle that will wisk me away to the airport for the last time! Goodbye, sweet Madrid! Hasta pronto :)
This semester has been an incredible whirlwind of new experiences, new cultures, and new places that have opened my eyes to how diverse and beautiful the world is. I feel that I have learned so much about myself throughout this journey, and couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to have done what I have this semester.
I thought I would make a sort of list, full of my favorite things from the semester. Hopefully they might be interesting to read, or a resource for anyone studying abroad in the future, or even just the best kind of time capsule for myself to look back on.
Here it goes:
Favorite hostel: Travellers House, Lisbon, Portugal
Fusion Hotel Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
Favorite tourist attraction: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Favorite castle: Quinta da Regaleira, Lisbon, Portugal
Favorite tower: Duomo, Florence, Italy
Favorite museums: Museo El Prado, Madrid, Spain
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
National Gallery, London, England
Favorite photo opp: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Areopagus Hill, Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Favorite churches: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Catedral de Toledo, Toledo, Spain
Catedral de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain
Favorite markets: El Rastro, Madrid, Spain
Christmas Markets, Prague, Czech Republic
Favorite desserts: Santini Ice Cream in Cascais, Portugal (strawberry/mango)
Nutella and banana crepe, Paris, France
Sticky Toffee Pudding, Rochester, England
Favorite tapas: Caprese at Casa Gonzalez, Madrid, Spain
Goat Cheese Croquetas with honey, Boca del Lobo, Lavapies, Madrid, Spain
Ensalada Bosque, Café Miranda, Madrid, Spain
Queso de cabra con cebollas caramelizadas, Mercado San Miguel, Madrid, Spain
Favorite foods: Grilled bacalao in Sintra, Portugal
Sandwich mixta, Caffé del Fin, Toledo, Spain
Gnocchi in Pumpkin Sauce, Barcelona, Spain
Tagliatelle con Fungi Porcini, Casa Marco, Madrid, Spain
Lasagna, Trattoria Monti, Rome, Italy
Favorite drinks: Hot chocolate at Moeder Babelutte Chocolates in Bruges, Belgium
“Cocktail de Frutas/Apple Temptation” Iced Tea at the Tea Shop in Barcelona, Spain
Red Sangria at Cruzes Credo in Lisbon, Portugal
Strawberry Daquiri at María Bonita in Madrid, Spain
Favorite plazas: Plaza del Sol, Madrid, Spain
Monastiraki Square, Athens, Greece
Plaza de España, Sevilla, Spain
Favorite bars: Delirium, Brussels, Belgium
Espit Chupitos, Barcelona, Spain
La Chupitería, Salamanca, Spain
Dubliners, Madrid, Spain
Favorite club: Orange Café in Madrid, Spain
Most picturesque city: Bruges, Belgium
I’d like to keep coming back to this post and editing it as I think of things, or as I visit new places in the future. Hopefully it will keep growing and continue to reflect the places and things that I love so much.
Things I Will Miss Hearing
“Atención: Estación en curva. Al salir, tengan cuidado para no introducir el pie entre coche y andén.”
“Vale, vale, vale.”
“Chicos! Look at this. Look at the bull.” -Paco
“Have fun. Enjoy life.” -Vicente
“WHY? Because…” -Arancha
“En español, en español!” -Loli
“Bueno…” -Michael (with hand motions)
“I really went wild on Instagram.” -Priscilla
“I’m confused.” -Priscilla
“My baby hairs are out of control.” -Priscilla
“Lo siento!!!” -Dayna
“I went to Oysho again…” -Dayna
“Bagel date after class?” -Dayna
Repetition of things: “Es preciosa, preciosa!”
“Está todo abierto. Está todoooo abierto.”
“Muy rico, muy rico.”
“Claro. Claro. Claro. Claro. Claro.” -Vicente
Just Touched Down in Londontown
Our flight from Amsterdam to London Gatwick was short and sweet, and my cousin Richard picked Lindsay and I up from the airport and drove us to my cousins’ house, just outside of London. Lindsay and I had originally planned to stay with my cousins for a couple nights, head into London and stay in a hostel for a few nights, and then head back to the cousins’ for Christmas. However, we ended up finding out from Richard that their house was only a quick (and cheap) train ride into the city, so we decided to stay at their house all week and do a few day trips into London instead.
To start off, this trip was my first time really feeling at home anywhere outside of Madrid. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve absolutely loved the places I’ve visited and stayed in this semester. But that being said, there is nothing quite like staying with family, not to mention in a real house and in a real bed!
Our first full day we hung around the house with the family, enjoying a total lazy day after our marathon of a few days in Prague and Amsterdam. We loved just hanging out, wrapping Christmas presents and drinking tea, and then headed out to a late lunch/early dinner in their town of Rochester. We walked around town after dinner down the high street, saw the beautiful Rochester Cathedral, and oogled at the “haunted” Rochester Castle from below. After stopping in the local fudge shop for Lindsay and the kids, we headed home and lounged around for the evening.
The next morning, 22 December, Lindsay and I got dropped off at the train station and headed into London! Our first stop was Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, where we especially loved seeing the incredible Van Gogh paintings, Renoir paintings, and Monet pieces. The Gallery was stunning, but unfortunately no photography was allowed, hence no piles of photos for the blog :(
Next we walked down Whitehall to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, followed by the stunning Westminster Abbey. After that we walked through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace. After taking pictures outside the gates (we decided to opt out of the expensive tour), we headed to Hyde Park for Winter Wonderland, a huge carnival and Christmas market set up in an area of the park. We tried a few different snacks before realizing we were famished and headed to a nearby pub for lunch.
After lunch we embarked on an adventure to Harrod’s, the most magical place on earth. Lindsay first showed me the princess window displays, where famous designers had created absolutely stunning versions of the Disney princess gowns. Heading inside, Harrod’s was absolutely packed with holiday shoppers, but we had the best time wandering through the various floors and admiring gorgeous items. We did some shopping in the Christmas gift section, though it was overwhelmingly crowded and we both essentially had panic attacks, hahaha. We finally exited Harrod’s hours later, arms full of bags and yearning for fresh air and personal space, away from all of the holiday shoppers!
After Harrod’s we did some touristy shopping at a few shops before grabbing a quick dinner and hopping on the train home. That night we hung out with the family and watched a movie :)
For the 23rd, we decided on another relaxing day around the house, playing with the baby and having Richard’s parents over for tea and biscuits. That afternoon we checked out the nearby town of Gravesend, where Pocahontas is buried! Who knew she died in England?! We saw the cathedral and statue commemorating her life before heading up to the high street for some shopping and grabbing dinner altogether with the kids.
On Christmas Eve, Lindsay and I made the last minute decision to head back into London. We took the train to London Bridge and walked around Borough Market, trying lots of yummy foods. I had my first mince pie, we tried various kinds of desserts, and we bought olive oil and rosemary bread with fresh cheese to take home to the cousins. After the markets closed at 3, we walked along the River Thames to Tower Bridge, and then across to the Tower of London. Who knew that it had once been used as a jail and torture chamber? You’d never know it now, as it has a happy little ice skating rink set up outside it for the holidays! There’s a bit of a contrast for you!
From the Tower we took a double decker red bus across town to do some shopping near Regency Street. After getting a great laugh going into Lindsay’s old place of work, Hollister, we shopped around and enjoyed the lights strung up all down the street, celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas. After that we headed back to Charing Cross to catch the train home to meet Michelle, Richard, and Ethan for dinner. That night we had super delicious Indian food at their favorite local curry place (which was super fancy!). After dinner we headed back to the house, and the kids came over from their mom’s to bake cookies for Santa. It has been so long since I’ve celebrated Christmas with any kids, so it made it so fun and refreshing to celebrate with Jade, Piers, and Ethan, along with Vinny and Sienna, their half brother and sister.
Christmas morning Lindsay and I slept in while the kids were ripping through presents at their mom’s house. When they came back to the house we all cooked lunch and Richard’s parents came over to feast with us. We had the most delicious, enormous meal, complete with various exotic British vegetables that we dont have in the states!
After lunch Richard’s parents headed home, and the rest of us lounged around in food comas for the afternoon. Around 6 we headed over to the kids’ mom’s house to hang out with all of the family. It was such a fun night will all of the kids, presents, and group dancing to Gangnam style, including the grandparents…? I haven’t laughed that hard in a LONG time. Though it was my first Christmas away from home, I felt so at home and happy with my cousins, and of course it was so nice to have Lindsay there with me too! We had such a goofy, silly and fun Christmas with all of the kids, and I really loved the time spent with them all.
Now I’m back in Madrid for two days before heading home to Los Angeles. Honestly, I wish I could have spent another week or so in England- it went by WAY too fast and I had such a lovely time with the cousins. My homesickness for LA had subsided while I was there, a surefire sign that I was so content and happy there. But alas, it’s about time for me to head home and back to real life! Tomorrow I’m going to say goodbye to my Spanish friends and to Sarah, and go to a few of my favorite places around the city for one last time. It’s becoming real now- I’m coming home on Friday!
Quick notes of a few vocabulary words that are different in England than in America! I loved learning some new terms while I was there :)
Body warmer- vest
Vest- tank top
Trolley- shopping cart
Bum- diaper change
Cling film- Saran wrap
Kitchen roll- paper towels
Give way- yield
Carpark- parking garage
Football boots- soccer cleats
Chuckin’ it down- pouring rain
Smart- looking sharp, spiffy
Proper fit- hot, attractive
Lemonade- 7Up/Sprite (lemonade as we know it doesn’t exist?!)
Crisps- potato chips
High Street- Main Street
Mind the Gap- Tengan cuidado para no introducir el pie entre coche y anden
Enjoy this joke from my cousin, Jade:
Q: What do you call a one legged donkey?
A: A wonky!