Hello!! I am very much still alive despite my radio silence and am back with a brand new blog post. Because I know you’ve missed them 😜. Joking aside, I’ve missed writing on here so I thought I’d update you all on what I’ve been up to over the past month and share some memories I made.
First things first, I should probably explain why I spent the last month in Madrid. As some of you may already know, I was meant to have my year abroad this year as part of my degree at university. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get abroad due to various covid-related reasons. However, Spain lifted the travel ban for UK tourists at the end of June and, as it was on the UK’s Amber list, travel there wasn’t illegal. Hence, Rach (fellow UoE language student) and I booked last minute flights and accommodation for Madrid and the rest was history.
If you haven’t already been to Madrid, you must. It might be a capital city but it has – at least in my opinion – a lot of green space scattered around as well as some incredible cultural attractions. The architecture of the older buildings is also stunning, with gorgeous facades in various colours and beautiful little balconies. It does get rather (unbearably) hot in Madrid in the summer, with the average temperature sitting at about 33 degrees whilst we were out there. Having said that, I got used to the heat relatively quickly and learnt to adjust my body clock to seize the best hours of the day.
Museums & exhibitions
Rach and I spent a fair bit of time at some of the numerous museums dispersed throughout the city. We, of course, went to El Prado, La Reina Sofia and El Thyssen-Bornemisza. They’re probably the most well-known museums in Madrid and are well worth the visit – especially the Reina Sofia, which had an incredible temporary exhibition of Ida Applebroog’s work which we both loved. Most museums in Madrid are also free for students under 25, so we went to the Reina Sofia twice! El Museo Sorolla is also a must-see; it’s a house-museum featuring the Spanish impressionist painter, Joaquín Sorolla’s, gorgeous art.
I also recommend a visit to La Casa Encendida and La Tabacalera, both in the Lavapies neighbourhood, as well as El Conde Duque (Malasana). They’re cultural centres which host free exhibitions and the ones we saw were excellent.
We also had the time to visit a couple of nearby towns: Segovia and Toledo. Toledo is a 27 minute direct train journey away so is very easy to do. Segovia was slightly more difficult to get to, but we got the bus (very cheap) and it took about 1-1.5 hours. My top tip would be to arrive at the station in Moncloa with at least 30 minutes to spare because we *almost* missed our bus… and the stress of that situation is not one I ever want to experience again. The aqueduct in Segovia is simply breath-taking though so definitely go!
Runs and swims
I was lucky enough that our flat was situated a 5 minute run from El Retiro, a stunning park perfect for running in. I went there often first thing and enjoyed the cooler hours of the day along with most of the other runners in Madrid. There was also Casa de Campo, a huge (16km perimeter) park that was 3 km’s away where I did my Sunday long runs. If you go to Madrid in the summer, I highly recommend visiting the “piscina de verano” (summer swimming pool) at Casa de Campo to cool off. The pools there are clean, spacious, and a great way to spend the morning or afternoon. Plus, it only costs €1.80 for 4.5 hours there.
tapas and tinto
We really tried to soak up as much Spanish culture whilst we were out there. And what better way than with tapas and tinto de verano? My favourite tapas were: padron peppers, patatas bravas (bravas sauce was my crack out there) and the fried aubergine with a sweet/ sticky glaze (berenjenas fritas). In our first week out there, we also discovered tinto de verano: a classic Spanish summer drink consisting of a fruity red wine and gaseosa (a homemade Spanish lemonade that’s less sweet/ fizzy than regular) in equal parts, finished with ice and lemon wedges. Heaven in a glass if you ask me!
Finally, one thing we did which we wouldn’t usually do yet thoroughly enjoyed was take part in a couple of walking tours of the city. The first we attended was mainly to listen to and speak Spanish, as it was free, but in the end we loved our tour guide, Javi, so much and found the tour so insightful that we decided to pay for one of the other tours he offered. Not only did we get to hear and speak Spanish with natives, we also learnt so much about Madrid. We used OgoTours – check them out if you go and say hi to Javi from us 😉
Anyway, this was pretty self-indulgent and probably not very interesting to any of you but I loved reminiscing about Madrid. If you’re destined to go there for erasmus/ your year abroad, have the best time. I’m jealous of you already!