After a memorable night out in London seeing my favorite New Zealand producer Opiuo and the powerhouse that is The Glitch Mob, Dayna and I seperated and embarked on our own individual journeys. Dayna returned to Copenhagen to be with her boyfriend and to interview for Advertising internship positions, and I headed to meet one of my closest friends, Ally, in Madrid, Spain.
I flew to Spain as a lone wolf, relying only on my cell phone to help me navigate my new destination. When I arrived in Madrid late at night, I realized that for some reason my phone would not work. I had no service and I couldn’t contact Ally or use Google Maps to find our hostel. I thought to myself, “I am in a true traveling pickle!”
So, a helpless me decided to ask for help. I approached a a twenty-something female, who told me her name was Pilar. Pilar was a career woman who had been living in China and had just returned to Spain to see her family. Pilar looked at the address of my destination and happened to be going in the same direction, so she let me tag along with her. Coming from London, I only had pounds, so Pilar went ahead and paid the five euros for my bus ticket. She told me stories of China, the most shocking being the fact that she must check an air quality app everyday to see if it’s safe enough to go outside without a mask.
Pilar was my Spanish angel. Without her, I would’ve undoubtedly been lost in Madrid. Not only did she pay for my bus ticket, but she hand-delivered me to the nearest McDonalds, where I was able to link up with Ally. It is absolutely hilarious that McDonalds is the home base of the American abroad, but it is the truth! You may not love McDonalds when you’re in America, but the familiarity and the wifi make it worth the while.
When I got to Spain, I met Ally’s new group of friends. Her experience was very different from mine because she was staying in the same place for an extended period of time. I met her love interest, Jake, who lives in a penthouse overlooking the city. Jake was born in California, but had moved to Madrid years ago because of his dad’s job. A lot of Ally’s friends were American, but many were from other countries, like Brazil.
Madrid was absolutely beautiful and had a very different vibe from the other cities I traveled to. Architecturally, there was not as much stone as in France, and the buildings looked more modern and well-cared for. There were many outdoor restaurants, but the food was not as spicy as I would have thought.
I explored the city with Jake’s cousin, Tatiana, who was visiting from Arizona. The highlights were the traditional Spanish market, where I got a beautiful headband and spinach pastry, and the delicious risotto I had for dinner that night. There were many dogs roaming the streets, and many gypsies begging for change. Gypsies were common throughout Europe, but each time I saw them with hands out, heads down, and skin like leather from the sun, my heart hurt.
I saw a lot of men wearing purses, known as the Madrid “murse.” It seems to me that men are more comfortable with their sexuality in Europe. Because my phone was out of whack, I unfortunately didn’t get as many photos of Madrid as I wanted to.
Exploring the city
Ally’s friend group was so welcoming. And oddly enough, we ran into some fellow Gators who were visiting Spain as well. We heard a lot of old American music, which is now a confirmed trend throughout Europe. It really is a small world. Ally ordered us silver tequila, which only costs one euro each, and seemed to be the go-to drink for the entire group. The music was great, the drinks were cheap, the people were friendly… I have to say, the Spanish nightlife certainly does not disappoint!
After a big meal, we took a siesta, which is the hours where almost everyone snoozes during the hottest hours of the day. On my last afternoon in Spain, we hopped on a train to watch the sunset and picnic at a park called Casa de Campo. It’s known as the largest urban park west of central Madrid. We stopped at a corner store to grab some snacks. Known as “chinos,” these are the ubiquitous quick marts run exclusively by the Chinese. The sunset was beautiful while we hiked through the park, which was so large that we almost got lost in the vastness of it all.
Casa de Campo
As we were walking back to the hostel that night, we came across the aftermath of a revolutionary riot in Puerta del Sol square. The riot occurred because King Juan Carlos announced that he would abdicate the throne in favor of his son King Felipe, marking the first change in 40 years. Younger generations want to remove the monarchy and institute a pure republic because they believe it is unnecessary, as King Juan Carlos was recently caught hunting elephants in Botswana despite Spain’s 26% unemployment rate.
Aftermath of the Riot
We stayed at the Chic & Basic Mayerling, a very nice hostel in the center of the city, right near Sol. After just two days, I was sad to leave. The people were so warm and accommodating, the city was rich and beautiful, and the vibes were perfectly paced to be slow during the day and fast at night. I will never forget the kindness of Pilar, who chose to help me despite the fact that had no obligation and didn’t know the type of person I was. It’s people like her who keep this world pure.
Spain was the only place I visited where it was warm enough to wear shorts and a tank top, which I loved. I even got to use the few Spanish phrases that I retained from middle school. After only spending two days in wonderful Madrid, I can say that it is one of the most colorful cities I traveled to, with a completely unique cultural feeling. I know I will be back sometime, and I will make sure to see Barcelona too!