One Saturday morning in October, I was lured out of bed with the promise of an "easy" hike ending with a stop at a local winery near Madrid for a tasting. Sounded perfect, except the hike was in no way easy and I was sure I was going to die either of dehydration in the Spanish countryside or be trampled by the herd of sheep we encountered during the hike. I survived, and after walking roughly 28,000 steps that day, we made it to the winery and ended up having much wine-induced fun in the end.
I knew before moving to Madrid that I wanted to eat at Botin, founded in 1725 and considered the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. When a friend from California came to visit Madrid post-Camino, we decided to give it a try and made a dinner reservation for the very Spanish time of 11:30pm.
Stepping into Botin was like going back in time...from the decor to the centuries old wood-burning oven used to cook the roast suckling pig, the house specialty.
One of the things I dislike most about social media is the "fakeness" of it. The "perfection" that we're all supposed to be living. The fact that people that move abroad are always having an amazing time and there are never any problems, which is simply not true. Its still life and you have to deal with work and bills and the same things everyone else around the world has to deal with. The past two weeks here in Madrid have been difficult. Out of frustration, I actually considered leaving and moving back to the U.S., but I realized that's coming from a place of uncertainty and impulsiveness. Not being able to find an apartment and spending extra money on hotels and Airbnb places has been an unexpected development. Look, I get that I'm lucky I can move to Europe. I gave up life in San Francisco with the high cost of living, the long commute and a job I hated. The quality of life here is better overall and I do appreciate the fact that I'm able to do it. But, I'm also human.
The apartment search has been beyond frustrating. Losing out on places before we even see them; the pictures being different than the reality, etc. etc. Dealing with cultural differences and not speaking the language to be able to communicate or accomplish even the most basic things has been hard. All of those things take a toll eventually. I've finally managed to get American football on WatchESPN and it is oddly comforting. Tonight, its the Steelers vs. the Redskins, which I could not care less about (my team will always be the 49ers), but I'm watching because its familiar and after the frustration of the last week of apartment hunting, I need that familiarity. I guess I'm saying its OK to crave things from your home country, yet not want to move back there To want to veg out and watch HGTV or college football or Hawaii 5.0 in English. I never thought it would happen to me and I felt guilty for not wanting to be out and about and constantly exploring Madrid, but it has and I'm letting it happen.
I haven't been posting anything lately because of being in this little funk right now. I need to write about the amazing dinner my friend and I had at Botin, my trips to Menorca, Copenhagen and Sweden, but I'm lacking inspiration right now due to the realities of life. I learned tonight that my friend and I finally got the apartment we were hoping for. Next up is finding a teaching job I enjoy, which was the point of moving here in the first place. I'm hoping once we move into this new place, I can get into a rhythm of everyday life. I've met some amazing, supportive friends here in these first three months (shout out to Ann!) that have gotten me through this rough patch. Looking forward to moving into the new apartment, finding the places I love in my new neighborhood, connecting with the locals and having a normal routine for the first time in awhile.
I'm not usually someone that likes to wander around museums or parks, especially when its 100 degrees outside, but when I found myself near one of the entrances to Retiro Park, I decided to check it off my to-do list.
The park originally belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, after which it became a public park. In addition to numerous sculptures and gardens, there's also a lake where you can rent rowboats, and the Palacio de Cristal, a glass building which houses temporary exhibitions.
Alfonso XII Monument.
The park is a popular place on the weekends, where people go to stroll through the park among the street performers, read a book in the shade, or have a drink at one of the outdoor cafes. Its also fairly close to the Prado Museum, if you want to check that off of your to-do list as well.
Palacio de Cristal.
With the TEFL course behind me (yay!), it was time to settle in and start enjoying life in Madrid without the stress of homework and teaching practices. I swore I wouldn’t be that person always trying to find the same things you’d find in the U.S., but sometimes you need a Bloody Mary (or three) and an American-style brunch. Luckily, Toast Café delivered on both. It was an excellent find by Chelsea and Trey (check them out over at www.oursteppinstones.com). They’re a fun couple from Charleston and are currently on a mission to visit the numerous rooftop terraces of Madrid…a mission I totally support!
Another day was spent admiring the Temple Debod, an Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC, which is a place that has amazing sunsets if you time it right. I missed the sunset that day, but still enjoyed wandering around the park. It’s so hot here during the summer and most people wait until dusk to leave their apartments and brave the heat, which means the parks are full of people socializing and just enjoying life. It’s one of the things I really love about Madrid…how friendly and social everyone is and seemingly less addicted to their phones (unlike other places, ahem, San Francisco).
Next, it was off to Jordi Roca’s ice cream spot at the Gourmet Experience located in El Corte Ingles on Serrano in the Salamanca neighborhood. I knew before I moved here that I wanted to try it and it was predictably delicious. I’m on my own personal mission to get reservations at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, which is owned by Jordi and his two brothers. Probably wishful thinking since I hear there’s a year waitlist, but I’m going to try. The first half of July has been full of more wine tasting (duh!), lots of Galician-style octopus and tinto de veranos, and lazy days, which I plan to continue throughout August before I have to get an actual job come September.
Tomorrow, I’m heading to a teeny tiny village in northern Spain to attend a four-day cooking school retreat with Esme Tours. I first read about it last year and have wanted to go ever since. I’m really looking forward to leaving the heat of Madrid behind and having the chance to unplug for a few days.
I'm Becki...a part-time traveler and recovering expat back in the U.S. after two amazing years spent living in Spain.