Madrid: Week 1
A week ago today, I was making my way to an AirBnB in the hot sun. Having been delayed a few hours at the airport, plus an overnight flight from Philly to Madrid, I was ready to put my things down, get a shower, and do nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. Well, except maybe getting lunch, which was what ended up happening next…And then a break at a café two hours later. So that first day, I guess my exhaustion sort of hinged on what activity I could be anticipating which, in the event of food or coffee, would be well worth the walk.
For those who have absolutely no idea why I am in Spain again (“Like, does she just have all this money to travel to Europe whenever?”)- it is not for my minimum wage accompanist job at the school, surprisingly! Rather, my professor wrote a proposal and received grant money from Grove City to carry out research on Representations of Queen Elizabeth in Spain during The Golden Age (end of 16th-17th century, fyi). In short, the interesting nature of her research + the school’s money is why we both get to be in Madrid and then Valladolid for the month of June, researching in places such as The National Library of Madrid and other national archives.
Every morning around 8:45, we walk to our respective places of research. For me, that has been La Biblioteca Nacional.
A normal day looks like sitting for a few hours, reading old sermons, addresses, etc., taking a coffee break around noon and then lunch around 2:30 or 3:00. I tend to leave the Library no later than 6:00 each evening and from there, I literally do whatever the heck comes to mind.
Mostly, my adventures have been down different streets near my neighborhood and into various shops, chatting with the owners at times or just perusing. I live in the hipster neighborhood of Chueca where it’s very easy to come across cute bookstores, boutiques, organic/eco-friendly/vegan restaurants, and of course, super hip coffee shops.
Say hello to a €3 café con leche which, according to the owner, is “worth it” because it is made so well. That’s debateable…but I can’t complain about the comfy, naturally lit ambience.
During this second time abroad, I have found fewer challenges in the way of navigating places and speaking to natives, which is what I had hoped after having studied abroad one semester in Granada. Additionally, it is such a blessing to be able to buy my own food. Since my professor and I share a food stipend, we are each able to go the store and purchase whatever we might need. What a joy to be able to consume eggs or yogurt and meusli for breakfast, with salad leaves, Brie, tomatoes, and jamón for dinner.
Plus, sometimes in the evening you get to sit outside and feel the cool breeze on our tiny terrace…
Still, lunches hold a special place in my heart. We normally eat the traditional, Spanish diet for lunch: two different plates( ej., gazpacho and ternera), one drink, and one dessert or coffee at the Library’s cafeteria or a restaurant in the city.
One of the favorites that my prof showed me is this one below. Sometimes, the owner likes to just give out free desserts. Even after I had consumed my flan and my prof the free lemon dessert she had been given, this hospitable man came over with yet another apple dessert. It was one of those moments where I wanted to be healthy, but also wanted to acknowledge the kindness of the owner; and so, I ended up eating as much as I could stomach.
(Pictured below: the flan I ordered before he brought the other desserts).
Other baked goods he had in his pastelería…
After eating so much food, it feels good to get a run in or do some abs at the end of the day. When it’s the former, I normally take a jog to Parque del Retiro which, conveniently enough, is just before sunset. What an incredible place to soak in the last, beautiful rays of the day.
In my short time here, obviously it is difficult to really meet people, besides short conversations here and there with employees of places or other English tourists on the street. I have gotten the chance to meet the man who owns this piano shop, though!
After entering one day and asking if I could play, he invited me back whenever I wanted to play on his pianos. So, I go once in awhile to just get some space and enjoy playing a few pieces I know. It’s such a blessing.
Last Sunday, I walked a ton and ended up at The Reina Sofia where it’s free after 2:30 on weekends. I looked at the incredible Guernica, as well as some very disturbing and quite often (for me) distasteful Surrealist work. Otherwise, the Civil War era had a collection of captivating photography and artwork. Since I could not take pictures of the art, here are the stairs, a hall, and the courtyard in the center of this museum.
Otherwise, I’ve just been living life like I normally do, but with a lot more coffee during the day…
…and some different scenery than usual.
Excited to finish out the week here, and then it’s on to Valladolid this Saturday!
A Broad Abroad