Welcome to España
Just one week ago, I had just gotten my visa approved, picked it up from Chicago, packed my life into three suitcases weighing a grand total of 121 lbs, said goodbye to my friends and family, and made the jump across the Atlantic. After a long flight through the night, I safely arrived in Madrid, España. The last time I posted, I was still needing to pack and waiting for my visa to be returned to the States. A lot has happened since then. Not only have I changed zip codes, but I’ve moved into a new country with an unfamiliar language with new friends. Here’s what I’ve been seeing and doing.
I got to wander around Chicago O'Hare for 4+ hours while Brenda and I waited for our flight to Madrid.
After a brief delay and much anticipation, our plane arrived at our gate. Needless to say, I was pumped.
These folks had seats in the middle section. Fortunately for them, the flight wasn't full so they got to take a row for themselves. They didn't waste any time converting their three seats into a bed for the eight hour trip.
As we descended into Spain's Madrid Barajas Airport, we got a nice view of some city lights. Which city? Not sure.
This is my friend, seatmate, and housemate, Brenda. It was around 8:00 a.m. Madrid time, we'd been flying all night, gotten less than restful sleep, but we were excited to be on the ground. Side note: About Brenda's Hollister, she read on a Spanish fashion blog that Madrilenos love Hollister so she dug out her things from grade/high school. I have yet to see anyone wear any Hollister since we've been here.
Madrid's airport is a traveling photographer's dream. It has fantastic architecture around every corner. I snapped a few shots while we were waiting for our bags to come through the carousel. I hope to take more time to capture its lines and shapes when I come in and out over the next few months.
After a long and unsuccessful day of searching for an apartment in Madrid, my four new friends and I had our first meal. I had pasta with a meat sauce and a Budweiser. It was delicious. I'm glad I went for something not so adventurous this meal, because I needed the energy for our apartment hunt.
Brenda, Peter and Audrey at the Vodafone store. || With light fading and our energy levels dwindling, we decided to cut our losses with the apartment search for the day. We figured if we got cell phones, we could have one positive mark for the day. The language barrier has proven to be a challenge, especially when more than a few of us know less than conversational Spanish.
Long exposure from down our street, Calle de Santiago de Compostela. || After we got tired of feeling pretty hopeless about finding a place to live, we contacted a housing broker that my friend, Joe, had used when he studied in Madrid. We contacted her on Friday night and by Saturday morning she had responded and was ready to set up a visit to a place that could house all five of us and was near a Metro station. Within minutes of seeing the place, we were sold. Our 15 story building is the first building (darker brick) in the right third of this frame.
During our walk around our new barrio at sunset, we stumbled upon the circus' setup.
There were hundreds of families with small children flocking to the event.
We ride the Metro almost every day. More than a couple times we have spent numerous hours riding it going various places. It's incredibly easy to use. It's so easy that I've seen two blind people using it. If they can do it, anyone can.
On our first Saturday in Spain and the last night we were still living in a hotel, we went out walking and found a great area that had a lot of people shopping and walking around.
After Peter, Brenda, and I lugged our bags up and down stairs through the Metro and the other girls taking the quick route via taxi (probably wiser) we moved into our fully-furnished five bedroom, 2.5 bath, two balcony, 10th story, soon-to-be wi-fi equipped apartment on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately all the stores were closed so grocery shopping was not possible. We managed to find pasta, spaghetti sauce and bread at a convenience store. Peter whipped it up and we had our first meal in our new home.
Our new place is in a great location. We have a four story mall within a four or five minute walk. On the bottom two floors is a Meijer-like store called Alcampo. They sell everything from shaving cream to fresh meat to sheet sets to produce. It's overwhelming going to a new store that uses a different language on all the packages. Not only do I not have any brands to remain loyal to, but finding food I can make and trying to figure out what everything is presents a challenge. On top of all that, there is no logical flow to the traffic. Want to go all the way down to the other end of the store on the left side? Sure. Want to cut across everyone? By all means.
Peter, Tess, Audrey, and Brenda walking to the Metro. || Our nearest station is Herrera Oria. It's a quick four or five minute walk from our building. The Metro can take us nearly anywhere in the city. It's fantastic. Our neighborhood is full old people but also families with young children. In the evenings, there are dozens of people taking strolls to the many small parks that surround us.
The view of the mountains from my bedroom window. || We don't live in the city per se. We technically still live in Madrid, but we're the second to last stop on the purple Metro line. One of the perks of that is that housing is much cheaper, things are quiet, and we can see the mountains from 10th story flat. Sunsets here are beautiful.
This is a panorama of what I see outside my bedroom window. The mountains from shot above are between the buildings just left of center of the frame. There are countless high-rise apartment buildings in the neighborhood. We live in a complex of around 8 or 10 buildings that share a pool and tennis and basketball courts. I'm really looking forward to when the weather gets a little warmer. Sure we've had average highs of 57F and lows around 32F, but I'm excited for 65 and 70F.
I’ve lived in Madrid for a week, and this is what I’ve been doing and seeing. I’ve gone through both the main campus downtown and my campus in Cantoblanco. I’ve survived a week of intensive Spanish classes. I’ve met people from all around the world like Ethiopia, Iran, Italy, Greece, France, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and more. Talking with people from so many different backgrounds and lifestyles is incredible. This is already a fantastic experience. I get to be here for five more months? Awesome!
I’ll have more photos and stories to share in the days and weeks to come. My apologies for this post’s length. I want to get y’all caught up about Madrid things.