After spending nearly ten hours in the air, we finally landed at our first stop: Madrid. It was quite strange to be thrown into a mix of people who we had never met, so we really didn’t know what to expect. But there seemed to be a sort of unsaid closeness that held us together (probably because we were all questioning our decisions at this point).
We were bussed from the airport to the center of Madrid, where we spent the next two days exploring. Although we were only in this bustling city for less than 48 hours, we certainly covered a lot of ground!
Due to travel time, we only spent the second half of the day in Madrid. We began by settling into our hotel and quickly escaping to wander the nearby area. It felt as though we had been dropped into a film set, and it took a while to realize that we were actually there (though sometimes I still don’t believe it). The maze of cobblestone streets seemed endless, and the brilliant colours of the buildings mixed with the nonstop movement of feet on the sidewalks brought the city to life. We spent hours marveling at the visible history of the city, as it was a very stark contrast to our home (which is a relatively new nation). Exhausted from hours of travel, we spent the night in a bit of a daze, not quite coming to the realization that we had truly arrived.
By the second day, we hit the ground running. At sunrise we were in the heart of the city on the steps of the Palacio Real de Madrid, ready to begin a tour of Madrid. We stopped at places like the Mercado de San Miguel (an indoor market featuring the region’s most typical foods), Plaza Mayor (the central plaza in Madrid), Puerta del Sol (a second major plaza), and the Museo Nacional de Prado (the main Spanish national art museum). After our visit to the museum, we were set free to explore. My soon-to-be housemate Camilla and I then set our sights on the beautiful gardens of the Real Jardín Botánico. Soon after entering the gardens we realized that we were lost. It took us nearly two hours to find our way out, but we did find our way to a playground where we entertained ourselves (and received some very strange looks from the locals).
The first 48 hours of our trip were stressful, exciting, terrifying, breathtaking, and everything in between. Although we did experience quite a bit in such a short time, easily my favorite moment was during the first hour of our second day. Upon arriving at our meeting point, a man sitting at the fountain in the town center unintentionally greeted us with John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Funny how such a strong message translates no matter where in the world you are.
The world awaits…discover it.