New beginnings: Looking back at my first days in Madrid

puerta del sol

Almost a full year ago, in September 2010, I made the big move to Madrid Spain. Many friends thought I was crazy for moving to a place that I had never been to before, and where I didn’t really know anybody!

Fate moves in mysterious ways. Before I moved to Spain last year, I was living in beautiful Santa Barbara. At a salsa class one day, I met Loan (pronounced Lo-Ahn), who was a cool Spanish/French/Andorran exchange student at UCSB. He later introduced me to his friend Ester, a native Madrileña also studying at UCSB for one year. I was thrilled to meet someone from the city I was moving to, and Ester and I hung out and exchanged contact info.

first time setting foot in madrid! at the airport with Ester

I am forever indebted to Ester. When I first arrived in Madrid, her and her friend picked me up by car from the airport, and I stayed with her and her lovely parents for a few days at their piso (the term used in Castilian Spanish for apartment) at Puerto de Toledo.

gambas and tasty paella

I got a head-first mini-crash-course into Spanish life. Her mom is an incredible cook, and made some incredible home-made food.

a match made in heaven - jamón and tortilla española

kapital=crazy discoteca

Ester showed me around and even took me out to party with her friends. So the first weekend I got to Spain, I went with Ester and her friends to Kapital. One of the biggest, craziest discotecas in Madrid (it is a 7-story club, and each floor has a different vibe and different music!). It was quite an experience, and it DID NOT help me adjust my sleeping schedule. When I went to Barcelona a few years ago, I kinda learned about the crazy Spanish partying schedule (aka all night long, bars close at 3am, and the discotecas don’t get popping until 2 or 3am! And then people usually party until 6am or even later), but I wasn’t prepared. Before we left to go out, Ester made sure she brought her sunglasses, because she told me that she didn’t want to get blinded after we left the club, in case the sun was already out. (And back then, I was still jet-lagged and out-of-wack, and I couldn’t process the fact that we may be out all night long!) Well we ended up dancing the night away and stayed until around 5am. It was definitely a crazy welcome to Madrid.

my life in suitcases: first day at my new piso

Another sign of my good fortune… Last year, I created a Facebook group for people doing the same teaching program as me, and who were also headed to Madrid. On the Facebook group, an American landlord had posted an ad for her family’s 5 bedroom piso in Madrid. Ester went with me to check the place out just a few days after I landed, and I decided to take it. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time in the beginning of the year to find a piso with Spaniards… but the year ended up being great nonetheless.

Almudena Cathedral at night

musicians on the metro

Almudena Cathedral during the day

Royal Palace

the exact center of madrid: kilometer 0

Plaza Mayor

Chocolatería San Gines

om nom nom. churros

Parque del Buen Retiro