The end, it seems, is in sight.
Over-the-top, ominous intro? Check. Accurate representation of how I’m feeling at the moment? Also check. It’s true that I still technically have a week to go, but given that I just concluded my final weekend in Madrid, I can’t shake the fact that for the first time it’s as if I’m haunted with the incessant ticking of a clock. The laughter in Retiro, the coffee shop buzz, the irritating-yet-lovable reggaeton – it’s increasingly drowned out by a heightening tick, tick, tick as I close in on the end of my program. Early in my time in Madrid, I relayed to my friend a study abroad-ism that I had once been told once: the days are long and the weeks are short. At this point, everything feels short; the days fly by at a rate that makes even a siesta seem like a misuse of time. So much for living como un Madrileño!
Note, however, my last week or so will not be drowned out by anxiety about leaving. Any sense of worry that I have is tempered with a motivation to explore places new and old and to more deeply connect with the wonderful people I’ve been blessed to meet in this city. I may be out of weekend evenings in Madrid, but there is still so much to do, so much to see. Finals are coming up and I’ll undoubtedly be spending a few extra hours in the library this week, but if that comes at the expense of exploring more of the city, I’m at least comforted by the fact that this past week was cool. Really cool.
Cool as in randomly finding a classmate from school in the Prado. Cool as in meeting a different Yale graduate who invited me out to dinner with he and his girlfriend. Cool as in talking to someone in a discoteca at 1:30 and learning that she is from the same suburb of Chicago as me, and cool as in making friends with Europeans who gave me the insider view of the best parts of their cities. I remarked in my first blog post that I wanted this study abroad experience to be about the people, and I am so fortunate to have come across citizens of the world who are likeminded yet diverse. This week featured an inordinate amount of crazy coincidences, no doubt, but I think the sheer number of occurrences says a lot about the effort I’ve been making to talk to others throughout the city. There are so many people to hear from and learn from, and I would be doing a disservice to myself if I kept quiet.
I’ve met new people, but I’ve also sought new experiences with my friends from IES Abroad. I’ll talk about a few of our excursions, but I want to first share a story about one of our more abnormal feats, one that took place on Wednesday nights at nowhere other than 100 Montaditos. 100 Montaditos, literally “100 sandwiches,” is a Spanish fast-food chain unlike anything in America – all you need to know is that they have 1€ everything on Wednesdays and Sundays. Thus, it was only a matter of time before we assembled a group of 20 students to purchase every single sandwich on the menu. My exchange with the cashier, who must have thought I was confusing Spanish words, went something like this:
“I would like to order 100 montaditos.”
“Yes, this is 100 Montaditos.”
“Right – we want to order every one of the 100 montaditos.”
The look he gave me doesn’t translate well in text: it was halfway between the shock of a character in a horror movie and the wonderful gaze of a small child on Christmas morning. After half an hour, our table was filled with an impossible spread of bread, cheese, meat and more. I’ll admit that despite our efforts, we did end up with a to-go box. Montadito mayhem may have gotten proven to be an insurmountable foe, but I still count the evening as a success.
While this was my last weekend in Madrid, I did spend a good portion of my time on the outskirts of the city. Friday included a trip to El Escorial, one of my favorite day-trips so far. El Escorial is the site of one of the royal palaces of Spain; the high altitude and abundant opportunities for hunting made it the perfect place in which Spanish aristocrats could spend the warm summer months. The palace and monastery was unlike any royal residence I had seen before – the building’s austere stone and the mammoth height exudes a palpable sense of strength and continuity. We also had the opportunity to take a few photos in the beautiful gardens outside of the palace – I’ve included these below.
On Saturday, I finally had the opportunity to make it down to Toledo with a small group of friends. We kicked off the trip with what was to be the highlight of the visit – the trolley tour through the perimeter of the city. Toledo is so naturally beautiful that one could forget about the stellar museums and gorgeous medieval architecture within its walls. The Toledo Cathedral was undoubtedly the most fascinating structure we visited – the interior feels like a mini-city with different “neighborhoods” that one can explore. We ended our visit with marzipan, a specialty of the city, and a bus ride where Neil and I may have lost the other half of our group. Shoutout to Aracelis and Izzy for making it back to Madrid with no map and still making it back in time for the group excursion to the Temple of Debod – they’re definitely doing immersion right.
Check out the pictures below to hear about what else my friends and I have been up to. As you can tell by now, I have more and more to write about each week, and I can barely fit all the information into the space for this blog. Between my final visits to my favorite spots around Madrid, a trip to Barcelona and a rollercoaster (of the emotional variety) taking place in this upcoming week, I’m certain that the trend will continue. Thanks for the read – talk to you next week!
For the most up-to-date notes on my study abroad experience, follow me on Instagram @tarxander https://www.instagram.com/tarxander
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<div>I'm Xander—a photographer, amateur restauranteur, recreational runner and humanities major spending six weeks of <span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">my summer in Spain. Traveling notebook-in-hand and iPhone-in-backpack (or maybe the other way around), I'll be </span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">showcasing the best of Madrid culture available to travelers and students on a budget. You can expect photographs of </span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">and musings on Madrid architecture, history, literature, food, music and the great people I find along the way. Oh, and </span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">there will be coffee, too —don't forget the coffee!</span></div>