I am finally getting a chance to catch up with this blog! My friend and I landed in Madrid on Wednesday, and we stayed at a hostel until today (Saturday) when we met up with our group. The first day we got here was pretty rough. We arrived at the Madrid airport at 10:00 AM and had a lot of difficulty getting wifi in order to get directions to the Way Hostel where we were staying. Lugging our huge bags up and down the metro and clearly looking like tourists was pretty embarrassing. Anyways, once we finally found the hostel, we showered and explored the city. It was tiring, and we were both hungry and slightly cranky so it was a relief when we finally came home to sleep.
The next day was amazing. We went on a day trip to Toledo, which is absolutely stunning. Every nook and cranny was a beautiful sight to see. I ate a bocadillo con jamon (it had delicious and fresh Iberian ham) and my friend ate a veggie wrap (she is vegetarian). We stumbled upon some amazing places like a nearby university and a gourmet market near the Plaza Zocodovo. The food here is fresh, delicious, and surprisingly cheap. I bought a huge sandwich that lasted for lunch and dinner for 3 euros, and the gourmet dessert and coffee was only 4 euros.
When we arrived back to our hostel, we met our roommate who ended up becoming a really great friend. We all explored the city together, and I honestly fell in love with Madrid and Spain. We ended the night at a beautiful outdoor café next to the Parque Retiro.
On Friday, we stayed in Madrid and took a metro to a district on the outskirts of the city. Then we walked throughout the city. At Tribunal, we stumbled upon an outdoor pottery sale where vendors were selling handcrafted artwork and pottery pieces. Then we walked to Principe Pio, where we stumbled upon (we were very lucky to walk to the right places by accident) an absolutely stunning park. There were beautiful bridges and cafes lining the park. It was the perfect place to run, and I instantly regretted not bringing my running shoes for the trip. There was a stretch of pavement about 3-5 miles that was dotted with runners and bikers. It was such an incredible experience to sit on the bridge and watch families, children, couples, and tourists wander the streets. We were planning to head towards the metro when we met a lady that told us to keep walking ahead because there was a huge festival happening (lucky again!!). On May 15, Spaniards celebrate San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid. Somehow we had managed to walk from Tribunal all the way to the Parque San Isidro. There were tens of thousands of people. Some were dressed in the traditional costume, and almost all had the red flower of Madrid in their hair (of course we bought some too!). The streets were lined with vendors selling delicious food—from paella to raquella—and the atmosphere was electric. Thousands of people sat in the shade on the hill sides and listened to music, watched street artists, and enjoyed drinking and eating. The San Isidro festival was easily one of the best experiences of my life. We had the opportunity to witness the beautiful Spanish culture and traditions. Later that night we hung out with more friends from our hostel and went to Parque Retiro to watch the fireworks. Then we walked to a nearby bar to order food. We headed home around 2:00 AM so that we would have time to pack.
This morning we had breakfast with our new friends at a beautiful restaurant next to the hostel. The other days we enjoyed churros offered by the hostel. At the café, I ordered a croissant with chocolate and a coffee. It was one of the best meals I have had. It was sad saying good-bye to our new friends, but I hope to one day see them again. We then packed up our bags and headed to the metro to meet the UConn study abroad group. We actually missed the train, but we got on a bus instead. Everyone seems very nice and friendly, and I am so excited to get to know everyone better. I am really looking forward to my Spanish class. I love the language so much, and coming to Spain made me realize how much I want to learn it fluently. I hope to have time to blog more frequently when the days aren’t as hectic. Anyways, that’s all for now. I’ve been missing my friends and family but Madrid easily feels like a second home. I’ll post pictures soon!