Despite the fact that I’m constantly travelling, it’s very rare that I visit the same place twice. I’ve still got the longest bucket list of cities that I want to visit so, whenever I have the time and money to adventure, I try to choose a brand new location. However, it seems that there is an exception to this rule: Madrid, the city that captured my heart after I lived there for a semester on my year abroad. C’mon, you all knew I wouldn’t be able to stay away!
So, just to fill you all in, I’m back at university in the UK for my final year and mannnnn, it’s stressful. I’ve somehow been brainwashed to believe that the entirety of my future success depends on the next few months and although I’d like to think that there’s more to life than grades on paper, failing isn’t really an option right now. A year worth almost 70% of my degree should be my one and only priority and I’m trying to make sure that it is… I really am. I spend far too much time in the library, I’ve pretty much given up nights out and when I do have a free second I’m working to earn money, doing extra-curricular activities (CV, ya feel me?) or planning my post-graduation life.
It’s kind of miserable, I’ll admit, so there was absolutely no chance in hell of me giving up my travel habit. Although the year abroad is over, you’ll be glad to know that my itinerary for the next few months hasn’t gotten any less exciting (although if you listen carefully, you may be able to hear the sound of my bank account weeping in despair).
My university gave us a week off to ‘read and prepare for assessments’ and of course I used my linguist abilities to translate that as ‘GO TO THE AIRPORT IMMEDIATELY’. Funny thing is, I bumped into my Russian teacher, my Spanish teacher and a friend from university on this trip (what the hell are the chances?!) so I think it became a well-known fact that I wasn’t studying. Oops.
Madrid was an obvious choice. I’d promised my friends there that I would return as soon as possible, and I never break my promises. That said, I really couldn’t have picked a worse time to visit. All of my Spanish university friends had exams, all of my friends with jobs were working 24/7 and the weather was so grey and rainy that my umbrella became a permanent accessory (not that I care too much because it’s a really cool umbrella).
I know that this may seem like some pretty serious bad luck (confirmed further by the sudden heat wave and summer sun that swept the city as I stepped on my plane back home) but I kind of like it when things don’t work out perfectly… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; what I post on this blog and social media isn’t real life. Well, I mean it IS my life but it’s just the highlights. Do you really think I’m going to post an Instagram of Madrid looking grey and bleak in the pouring rain? Of course not. I’m going to put a black and white filter on a landscape photo where the sun came out for 0.5 seconds so that my day looks more ‘singing in the rain’ and less ‘shit, I stepped in a puddle’. Travelling doesn’t always go to plan and sometimes on those rainy days, you’ve gotta make your own sunshine. (And yes, by ‘make your own sunshine’ I absolutely mean put a filter on it).
Then again, what is so wrong with rain? My friends will know that I get really preachy about this, so I apologise in advance – I once dragged my flatmate from the comfort of her snuggly bed at 11pm to adventure with me into the depths of a thunderstorm. She came, but I think she still hates me to this day. And in the same way that she doesn’t understand why I love it so much, I don’t understand why people DON’T love it. It’s the most liberating thing to get drenched and run around empty streets, while everyone else takes shelter. Plus, in a city like Madrid where I lived for a whole 6 months, rain could never phase me because I love it regardless of the weather but I admit it sucks when you visit a new place and never get to see it at it’s finest. There you go rain-haters, I’ll let you win that one.
It’s funny because I’ve spent most of this blog post talking about the weather which is probably as generic and boring as topics come but you’re all still here for some strange reason (no, please stay, never leave me), so I’ll try and get to the point now.
As soon as I arrived at Madrid’s Adolfo Suarez airport, I hopped on a metro to Chueca so that I could reunite with my favourite Kiwi as quickly as possible. Just in case you don’t remember Sarah then feel free to read about our adventures in Seville and Alicante and if you do remember her then you’ll know how excited I was to see her again after 3 whole months apart. Snuggled up in bed together watching Netflix and nursing a tummy full of frozen yoghurt made me feel like I’d never actually left. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much time to play due to conflicting timetables but 1) we can spend 10 minutes together and feel like we’ve been laughing for an eternity and 2) she’s moving to London next year so she’ll be permanently down the road. Hallelujah.
For the next few nights, I stayed with my friend Jade in her new flat on Gran Via. It was amazing to be so central and I didn’t even feel guilty when I stayed in one afternoon to do some work because the views out of the window were to die for! Although she’s a busy, budding actress constantly travelling between Malaga and Madrid she still made the time for what I like to call my ‘intensive one-on-one Spanish lessons’. Basically, she talks at me super fast, refuses to clarify anything in English and expects me to respond with grammatically perfect sentences. I usually appreciate this a LOT but at 6am in the morning when she’s about to leave for a casting and giving me instructions about what time to meet her for dinner, it’s hard not to sleepily scream ‘EN INGLÉS, JADE, POR FAVOR’. My linguist abilities just don’t work before sunrise… (And to anyone who makes a joke that they never work please know that I hate you).
I didn’t actually do anything very exciting now that I think about it. I ticked the ‘must-sees’ off last semester as you all know but I did spend a lot of time wandering the streets, getting lost and taking the metro to random stops that I’d never been to before. I followed a trail of 22’s (my lucky number) to La Latina and Lavapiés and found some of the coolest street art that I’d somehow missed before. I read my book in pretty much every park Madrid has to offer. I went shopping and ate tapas in my favourite plazas. It may not sound like much in ‘exciting-travel-blog terms’ but it was amazing to not worry about visiting all the tourist hotspots, so in this sense I have a LOT of time for re-visiting the same place twice. Turns out it’s just as great as exploring somewhere new.
I also managed to squeeze in a few important visits, coffee breaks and dinner dates with old flatmates, university course mates and even my wonderful au-pair family. It’s always comforting when you’re surrounded by familiar faces and even though there were a few important ones missing (shout out to my Mi Casa Inn amigos) it was insanely nice to forget about university and drift away into that year-abroad mentality for a few days. The familiar faces didn’t just stop there… the street musicians, the doormen, the shop assistants and even the workers at my favourite cafés were same! I was greeted by huge smiles and one of them even remembered my juice order. Plus, when you’re commuting through a city and your phone connects to WiFi on every corner you can’t help but feel at home. My attachment to this city runs deeper than an internet connection, though. Madrid has a very special place in my heart.
I don’t think I can explain in words how difficult it was to adjust back into a routine after being free for so long and I’ve spent far too many nights staying up with my flatmates (who also spent the last year gallivanting around the globe) reminiscing and remembering some of our most favourite moments. We’re all in agreement that the longing to return to our precious cities is conflicted with the knowledge that things won’t ever be the same if we do and I can 100% confirm that with Madrid. Maybe it was too soon to go back, who knows? It sounds weird but it almost hurt to know that the city just existed without me and getting a taste of my old-life didn’t help my current ‘I hate university, what is the point?’ mood. Then again, re-visiting kind of helped me turn the page and start a new chapter. I was suddenly able to put things in perspective; Madrid was never supposed to last forever and new doors can’t open when you don’t let the old ones close. I am grateful for the memories made in this beautiful city and grateful for the chance to return but most importantly, I’m grateful for right now.
It seems that I’m making a habit of returning to familiar cities because my next trip also involves somewhere that I’ve been before – I guess the bucket list will have to wait! Where could it possibly be? Stay tuned to find out!