SPAIN | Day 1: Madrid

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The whole going to Spain alone thing happened pretty fast. I think you all are aware of that, however by now, I’ve been able to talk in-person with my closest comrades about how the whole thing came about. Bottom-line, it was pretty awesome. I won’t pretend. Long story short, I went to Spain under the muse of having a photography workshop, however that workshop, which I indeed attended, was in the Canary Islands, so I said, hey, I’m not going to waste a grueling plane-ride over there and not go to one of my favorite countries.

I think I decided on the whole escapade less than a month before I left and I didn’t really tell anyone unless I had to. It just felt like the right time. I’ve been to Madrid once before (on accident, because my classmates and I were supposed to go to Rome) and I loved it. I was about to transition out of a job, trustworthy and supportive people encouraged me to do it, my next wedding wasn’t for another three or so weeks, and I thankfully had money saved up coupled with parental blessings. This would be the biggest trip I took alone. I was supposed to go to Canada alone earlier this year, but I had a friend join me later on and I’m glad I did because I wouldn’t have made it through the woods. A story for another time.

After a couple days of trying to plan a schedule and make multi-city flights and bus trips work, which hopefully you’ll follow along here, I had a rough outline planned out for the week before I’d go to the Canaries. Also, I got to use Delta and rack up those SkyMiles. Yessss. After arriving back from Mexico (ooops, another story, another time…) I made it to LA for the night and was taken to the airport early on a Monday morning. Thanks, Mom! The layover would be in New York and then straight to Barajas Airport outside Madrid.

I arrived sometime near the hour of 7 am on a Tuesday, screen-shotted on my phone what I hoped would be the best directions to my hostel using the airport wifi, fumbled around with a few tickets not knowing how to insert them into the machine, and took off from the Metro with a few transfers using Cercanias (short-distance trains). Also, stairs. Stairs plus rolling bag. I was going to use a backpack and I threw it into the fire last-minute because I realized I had too much camera gear and my back would break into little pieces. Now, a lot of people have heard this part of the story and I’m not ashamed. When I emerged from the Metro onto the street at Puerta del Sol, I cried. Maybe a tear or two. Or was it the biting chill? A raindrop? Maybe it was a mix of emotions due to a sense of pride from accomplishment, gratitude, and nostalgia. A sort of, “Finally, I made it… I did it.” Praise God. It was drizzling a bit as well and since it was so early, nothing was open, no one was around.  It was lovely. It wasn’t over though. Still had to drag my luggage all the way to the hostel, which wasn’t far, but hey, I hate attracting that type of attention.

Okay Andrea, “Look confident, you know where to go, faster, faster.” As the shopkeepers began preparations to start the day, I finally made it to my cute hostel, abandoned my bags at the front desk because check-in wasn’t until 2pm, took part in free breakfast, and started to plan my day. WIFI! Finally. I refuse to buy international data plans abroad, but I couldn’t help feeling excited when I finally hit “retry” on all those failed snap stories.

Before check-in, I planned to hit up all the must-sees. Places I’ve been before, but didn’t feel the need to spend too much time or money at. The majority of my time was about the food, photos, community, and walking as much as I could. I walked to Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel, and Palacio. The first thing I stuffed my face with was croquetas and a small sangria. Croquetas are my favorite Spanish tapa. The tapa or all tapas. But to be honest, the croquetas weren’t that good. I got it from inside the mercado and it was room-temp and made me feel a bit queasy later. Maybe it was the fatigue from traveling? Nonetheless, I eventually checked in, freshened up in my 8-person-room, yep you read that correctly. I got the top bunk, bunk number 4. Thank goodness I was the only one inside for the time being and had a good hour to myself. (Later that night while I was eating leftovers though, I met a smelly Argentinian who just finished biking all over Europe that took the bottom bunk. HAHAHA, oh man.) I then met my friend Martin whom I hadn’t seen in three years. I met him at the McDonalds by Sol (the place I cried), recognized him instantly amidst the crowd, we had a typical Spanish lunch, and went back to the Mercado for snacks. The specials all over Spain consist of a three-part meal, usually about 10 euros. You get two entrees and dessert or coffee. I had a flattened chicken and rice with soup and coffee. Afterwards Martin helped me with directions, translating, and using his phone to meet another friend, Johana. We walked to a coffee bar called El Jardin Secreto where we talked things like family, friends, religion, relationships, society, and everything under the sun. It was time to head to our respective homes and it was so nice of Johana to worry about me walking home and getting lost that she advised me to take the Metro. I lied and said I would, but I totally walked. Obviously lived to tell the tale and met aforementioned roommate and others from all over the world.

Here’s my day, and I looking forward to talking about day two.

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