One Year Ago Today: My Life in Spain
This month marks one year of “pandemic life.” This time last year I was living in Spain on a study abroad program and thriving. I had no idea what the next week had in store for me, but I was about to find out.
One year ago today, I was living on Calle Santa Catalina with two friends from the US, along with two other roommates from Italy and France. We all became very close and developed a mutual love for cooking our home country’s foods for each other.
This was my street. It was adjacent to the congress building, the Mexican embassy, The General Directorate of Assets and Treasury, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Our street would often be closed off by armed guards where there was an important vote in congress or diplomats visiting the embassy. I would often need to test my Spanish skills and explain to the quards en español that I lived here. Por favor déjame pasar! Please let me through! In the picture above, our apartment was on the left side and the Ministry of Economy is straight ahead.
One year ago today I was finally feeling familiar with my neighborhood. I had found my routine places to grocery shop, to get my coffee, and I knew which streets had the prettiest buildings.
One year ago today I was eating tapas pretty much 24/7: Patatas Bravas, Gazpacho, Spanish Tortilla, Vegetarian Croquets, Churros from San Gines and lots of Tinto Verano.
One year ago today I was a frequent visitor of Plaza del Sol. Plaza del Sol is a touristy place t and is home to the oldest bakery in Madrid, La Mallorquina, where I would often stop for a bite to eat before school. Plaza del Sol is a central thoroughfare to Plaza Mayor, the Palace, and Calle Gran Via so it gets a lot of traffic. It was also where my metro underground train (metro) stop was located.
One year ago today I was studying at Universidad Carlos III. I was taking Spanish law courses, a few history classes, and an economics course. The campus is about 40 minutes from downtown Madrid and provides a nice break from the pace of city life. I made lots of friends: some from the US, some from the UK and many from Spain. I am still connected via social media with Spanish friends.
One year ago today, I would go shopping on Calle de Leon and spend my Sunday looking for vintage pieces at El Rastro. I made a habit of buying fresh bread, flowers, and orange juice on Sunday before spending the rest of the afternoon exploring the market.
One year ago today I was hanging out in Retiro to watch the sunset. I lived less than a 10-minute walk from El Parque Retiro (Madrid’s Central Park) and on my second to last night in Spain, I met up with students from my program. We drank plenty of Spanish beer—Mahou, ate chips and fruit, talked for hours, and watched the sunset in the park. It felt magical.
One year ago today I made my rounds and said goodbye to Madrid. After the US closed the borders and required all students to return to the US because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had 48 hours. 48 hours to see the city, pack up my apartment and say goodbye to my friends. It was the hardest, scariest, most emotionally draining two days of my life.
Upon returning to the US, I had to drive immediately to my cabin in Northern Minnesota to quarantine for two weeks. I was in shock for most of that time and trying to find a way to process everything that had happened. I was supposed to be living in Madrid for another 3 months, but instead, ended up alone in small-town Minnesota. Madrid had felt like home. I missed my roommates, our neighborhood, the food, and the community.
Eventually, I found a way to harness all of my emotions into art. I had saved all of the brochures and magazines I collected abroad and spent a few days making this collage that is now hanging on my walls. My time in Madrid was so special and I cannot wait to return!
If you liked this post on life in Spain, check out these other posts on travel:
The Best Views in Italy
Mastering the Art of the Staycation
5 Hidden Gems of European Travel
Our Favorite Books to Inspire Wanderlust
Six Movies to Feed Your Travel Bug
Packing Tips for Travel
Pro Tips for Flying