I apologize for the break in posts about Madrid, but I’ve been busy experiencing the city and spending less time writing about it. I want to do a thorough recap of the last three weeks and everything I’ve been experiencing, but I’m sure it will not do this city justice. This marks my third week of the trip and my last in Madrid and I am sad to go. Madrid has exceeded all expectations I had for a city. It was the perfect place to spend three weeks learning Spanish and is only the second city to be added to the list of international cities I would consider living in (the first is Buenos Aires). It also rates higher than Barcelona in my book. My time in Madrid has been everything I wanted and exactly what I needed.
So here’s why I love Madrid. The architecture is what makes this city beautiful. The entire city is made up of beautiful buildings that, in certain areas, make you feel like you’re on the set of DisneyWorld. Madrid has a rich culture and has a bunch of museums that can take you a full week to visit. The most famous is Museo Nacional del Prado), although my favorite was the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The city has a bunch of parks and is build around plazas, which serve as the meeting place for people. Restaurants and bars line the small streets, most with tables for outdoor dining.
The metro train system is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s clean, cheap (1 euro), extensive (takes you everywhere in the city) and fast (runs every three minutes).
The weather is great, albeit hot in the afternoons. The high 90 degree temps were only bearable because there is little humidity. The city gets about 17 hours of daylight, with it getting dark as late as 11:00 PM. This makes for a long enjoyable evening.
The people here are very nice and put up with my broken Spanglish There’s more diversity here than I expected and I never felt uncomfortable. The locals are night owls and everything here is done late. The biggest adjustment was the eating schedule. I am used to waking up around 7:00 am eating an early breakfast, lunch around noon, dinner around 7:00pm and in bed around midnight. Here my schedule looks something like this:
10:00 am Wake up
11:00 am Leave house to explore the city
2:00 pm Eat lunch (usually the first meal of the day)
3-7:00 pm Go to class
7-9:00 pm Walk around city, go to one or two bards for drinks
10:00 pm Dinner
Midnight Get home
1 or 2:00 am Go to bed
This is still an early schedule compared to the locals who don’t eat dinner until 11:00pm and can party until 4:00 am.
This city loves its jamón (ham)! I have never seen so much ham in my life. They have found a way to bring ham to everything, which is seen in the abundance of ham-flavored Ruffles. Some restaurants would have an extensive menu of just ham. That said, overall the food here is very good. I had my favorites, which were patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy red sauce), pulpo a la gallega (octopus with paprika), rabbit paella from La Baracca. Other popular dishes are the infamous croquettes (fried cheese and ham puffs) and bocadillas (dry sandwiches that come with different meant, usually ham). These two were low on the list for me, but ok in general. For drinks, sangria and gin and tonic were my favorites. Surprisingly, gin and tonic is popular here. We found a bar called that Gin Club that was our favorite. They serve huge bowl-side glasses of gin and tonic. I was never a gin drinker, but these are delicious! I also thoroughly enjoyed the abundance of helado and heladerias. I ate ice cream almost every other night and tried almost every flavor. My favorites: Turron (almond), Manzana verde (green apple) and Yoghurt. They also have an appreciation for white chocolate here. There’s way more white chocolate than in the US. I love white chocolate, but rarely eat it because it’s hard to come by. In Madrid, I indulge in white chocolate ice cream bars, white chocolate Oreos and my favorite, white chocolate Kit Kats.
My interesting observations about Madrid: there are a bunch of dogs here and they all look like straggly mutts. Some were strays, but most had owners. It didn’t matter because they all look tattered.
I also took two weekend trips to Toledo and Granada (more about Granada later).