After one long train ride, four flights, and countless taxis, I’ll be in Madrid in a little over a week. Just a few weeks ago, my parents decided to book a last minute vacation in Orlando so my youngest sibling could experience the magic of Harry Potter World, which I would dare to say is even more magical than Magic Kingdom. I’ll then be flying up to Washington, DC for a last minute round of summer internship interviews on the day before my flight to Europe.
For anyone reading this who has not known me for at least two years (shout-out to my family and Bowdoin friends, my most loyal readers!), you’ll need to know now that I run very poorly on lack of sleep. Other than my eight-year-old sister, I’m one of the only people I know who sleeps a full eight to nine hours a day. I’ve learned over the years that when traveling, that number dwindles quickly. Take my inability to function when exhausted and add a packed schedule of orientation in Madrid and, well, we don’t want to go there. Lucky for me, I have a few friends in London who are welcoming me to Europe a few days before my expected arrival in Madrid to let me de-jetlag.
All my backpack necessities for the next week and a half.
As for now, I’m just fitting in as much prep for my upcoming trips as possible. I have approximately 7 hours between when I arrive home after my interview in DC and my departure from my house to get to the airport for my flight to the UK, so I have to be fully packed by tomorrow morning. This is quite the daunting task for me, as I’ve over-packed on every single trip I’ve ever taken. I’m debating whether to lay out all my items and then have my dad, one of two guys I know who can pack for a week-long trip in a backpack, come through and tell me exactly what I don’t need to bring. I’ve always been told to lay out everything I think I need and then subtract half of that, but it’s never actually happened. My mom has even offered to help me out with getting most of the documents I need organized so I can photocopy them all later (thanks mom!).
My carry-on bag with everything I need until I get to my homestay.
Just under 50 pounds in my checked luggage.
Thankfully, my bag is clocking in at 49.2 pounds, just slightly below the 50-pound limit! I’ve got a little extra space in my suitcase as well as an extra duffle, so if I manage to come back in May with more than I’ve left NY with, I’ll have enough space!
Packed and ready to go!
Once I’m actually in Madrid, I’m looking forward to getting situated and comfortable in my host family’s home and then starting to explore the city. I traveled to Madrid many years ago, but I have virtually no memories of it, so I’m excited to have a fresh start in the city this spring! Here are my top five things to do and see (in no particular order) for the first month or two:
1. Tapas: It’s been many years since I’ve had some authentic tapas and after spending time in San Sebastián with my family, I can’t wait to explore tapas bars in Madrid. I’ve heard there are tons in Lavapiés, the old Jewish quarter of Madrid.
2. Casa de Campo: The largest park in Madrid (also home to the zoo!) is only a 17-minute walk from my homestay. I’ll definitely be making a few trips there, especially once it gets a bit warmer, as I love doing homework outside.
3. El Rastro: I’m a sucker for outdoor flea markets and I’ve heard awesome things about el Rastro.
4. 100 Montaditos: I’ve had a few friends recommend 100 Montaditos for small sandwiches called montaditos, similar to bocadillos, for meals or snack food at any hour of the day.
5. Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid: Going to school in Brunswick, ME cuts my access to world-class orchestras. I’m definitely planning on making it to at least one symphony concert during my semester abroad.
I’ll give a quick shout-out and thank you to my grandma and mom for prepping me with travel guides for next semester. My grandma got me an awesome little pocket guide to Madrid that will surely be my airplane reading and my mom has helped me realize the depth of European knowledge that Rick Steves, a European travel author and guide, has and shares on his website and in his guidebooks. The two together will definitely help me out quite a bit as I settle into my new home overseas!