It’s hard to believe that it’s been a little over one year since I began my semester abroad in Spain. The memories, the people, the food, the adventures… I could go on and on about how amazing my time in Madrid was the best of my life, but I’m sure you get the picture. I’ll make this post short and sweet, but just wanted to give a huge shout out to all of those who made the time abroad so special! Besos!
We may or may not be slightly dysfunctional – going delusional on the last day in Granada
“Vivo en Sol.” The words slip from my slightly chapped lips as I explain to the cab driver how to get home on my last day in Madrid. It’s a natural phrase, uttered without hesitation, reflecting my years of practice and months of living in this city. A recited and practiced line, I guess you could say, but more or less a string of words smushed together haphazardly, indicating that I call this place my home. I live in Sol.
“Derecho en Calle Mayor y para antes la iglesia.” Sentences begin to flow effortlessly, a sudden click between brain and tongue, a feeling of near fluency. A sense of accomplishment washes over me, but then the sudden realization that I will be on a plane a mere twenty-four hours later brings me down from cloud nine.The ping of my inbox, alerting me to check in to my flight, brings with it a flood of emotions, regrets, memories, question; an almost self-loathing and pity all combined into one.
I watch the minutes tick away, yet I cannot bring myself to terms with leaving this place which had just provided me with a treasure chest full of experiences. Laying in my tiny twin bed for the last time, I set the alarm for 9 AM, early by our Madrid standards. Insomnia strikes again, surely a result of the conflicting emotions pitted in the depths of my stomach, thought I’m sure the cup of green tea an hour earlier wasn’t helping either. I shoot my family a quick “24 hours” text, send a Snapchat to my favorites and browse through the photos on my iPhone one last time before slipping into a light sleep. I wake no less than seven hours later to the blaring of my alarm, but instead of getting up, I silence it and enjoy the fleeting moments in my bed for the last time in our tiny Calle de la Villa apartment.
I rub the sleepies from my eyes, and look up from my bed towards the charcoal painting above my bed for the last time. The portrait of an old man, arms crossed, with a disappointing look strewn across his slightly wrinkled face, almost resembling my gather, looks down upon me and my questionable decisions for the last time. I look to my right and see three bags filled with a semesters’ worth of clothes and souvenirs, sitting neatly ready for their next adventure.I muster all my of my strength and plop myself up and quickly throw on my clothes and hastily pack away the last of my belongings. It plays back in my head; a surreal moment, frozen forever in time.
I creep down the hall into Erin’s room and see her struggling with her overpacked suitcases. I proceed to zip them shut in a “sitting and pulling” fashion, learned from my reign as Packing Princess of the Patten household. The clock hits 9:27 and we wake up our other two roommates to say our final goodbyes. The routine is all too familiar, from weeks of traveling together, yet the baggage, both physical and emotional, is much more to bear. A final group hug, a huddle, if you may, and we drag our belongings up the stairs from Bajo Izquerida for the last time and hail a taxi down.
After squishing into a cab, we wind our way through Sol and head eastward to the airport, past Puerta del sol, through Plaza de la Cibeles, by the Prado, and turn left at the Atocha railway. The cab driver asks us if we’re Americans and he reacts eagerly to ask more about our stay once we’re from Chicago and California. He asks if we mind if he smokes a drag, and though it’d normally bother the hell out of me, the smell and smoke in my face is almost welcome, a subtle reminder of my time in Europe. We continue on, past Plaza de las Ventas and my normally subdued emotions take form as a singular teardrop out of the corner of my left eye. It was beginning to hit me. The only thing holding the flood of tears back was the conversation with the cab driver about the Copa del Rey final the night before.
We struggle through the airport, it feels as if our feet our chained together, the city unwilling to let us out of her grip. Erin and I part ways, and promise to meet up after security, and sure enough, we do. My luck of running into people still proving to be as relentless as ever. What seems like an hour later, we are saying goodbye for real this time. She goes through yet another security check point and disappears into the growing crowd beyond the fence. I find my place among the remaining empty seats at gate U60, and find myself thinking of the number of people who have sat in that exact seat after a semester abroad.
I flash back to reality when fellow NYU students sit next to me, all hungover, clearly already missing our new city, regretting getting drunk the night before an 11 hour flight. I guess they really did grow accustomed to this Madrileño lifestyle. Twenty minutes later, I’m sitting in seat 27H, next to one of my teammate’s freshman year roommates – as a matter of fact, the same one who comforted my sobbing self when I missed my flight home on my official visit, three years prior. This world really is getting smaller. We break into conversation, reminiscing of our days abroad, her adventures in Italy, and mine in Spain. The familiar pang of nervousness washes over me as the captain announces we are delayed because we cannot take off in tail winds.
My basic flight training flashes before my eyes, and I reason it is because our 767 is way too heavy to do so. My intuition is rewarded when thirty minutes later, the captain explains that cargo is going to be taken off to lighten the load. An hour and a half late, we’re finally in the air – my true home away from home. I double-check my ticket from DFW to SAN and realize my original two-hour layover is compromised. Instead of my normally fretting and stressing, I repeat my favorite spanish phrase, “De perdido al río,” over and over in my head (translated meaning, “from lost to the river”). I accept the fact that I might not make it home tonight. I figure, a typical megventure is not complete without a missed flight, so I just go with it. That’s what the phrase essentially means, so…
Saying goodbye leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth, that I usually only reserve it for funerals. In my half-glass-full, eternally optimistic world, it’s always “see you later,” or as the Spaniards say, hasta luego. When I told my typical Tuesday/Thursday lunch spot that it was my last time eating there, upon walking out the door, they waved and said, “hasta luego, otra vez” – indicating that I would surely be back to their tiny vegetarian nook nestled on the edge of El Viso. There was no hesitation, no question that I would be back, if not tomorrow, the following day, for another piece of their most scrumptious, not too cream-cheesy, carrot cake. She was the closest thing I had to a señora while abroad and always greeted me with a warm smile. We often got lost in translation, and resorted to pointing and hand motions when all else failed. Instead of getting frustrated with me, she would treat me with an extra large piece of torta. She asked about school, helped me with on more than one occasion with my grammar, and even kept the doors open past normal closing time so I could finish an essay, but perhaps what I’ll look forward to seeing again most is being a regular again in a place that isn’t my home. So until then, hasta luego.
Our street remind me of our existence. There is a tiny Calle de la Villa in Madrid, home to a single apartment building in Sol, and a larger, longer Calle de la Villa outside Madrid known by all the locals and taxi drivers. We are like our tiny street, tucked behind a church in the far corner of Sol, nestled between La Latina, Opera and Sol. A mere blip on the map in Madrid, but outside of the city, back home, we feel so much bigger.
As most of you probably know, I really enjoy photography, but in terms of getting all 10,000 pictures to the masses, it’s a little harder. That’s why I decided to make some youtube videos chronicling our travels. So far I have three which you can check out below from our trip to Lisbon, Toledo and Brussels.
In Spain, it is not uncommon for most restaurants to offer un menú del
día for lunch – sort of a prix-fixe- but for only about 10-12 €. It’s
about the hottest deal in town and usually includes 2 courses, a
beverage, bread and your choice of coffee or dessert. I’ve definitely
taken advantage of this amazing deal, as to try as many Spanish foods
A few Saturdays ago, I went to this restaurant off of Calle called
Cervcería. Though it wasn’t my favorite menú thus far, I’m glad I
tried it because I got to taste new dishes including. This past weekend in Barcelona, I somehow ended up with baby octopuses in my soup – trying food has definitely become an adventure.
Potaje de vigilia – soup filled with garbanzo beans and grape leaves;
it sort of tastes like miso soup but with a lot more filling
Brucheta de solomillo – This dish was a kebab with French fries and
fancy mustard on the side. The meat was a pork chop – very tasty
naturally but super fatty as well (not exactly my fav).
At the end of my meal I enjoyed a cappuccino – nothing beats frothed
milk and steaming hot coffee in Europe.
That’s all for now. I’ve included pictures from my other menú del día
adventures below with restaurant names as well, so if any one is in
the area they can indulge themselves as well.
What do you do when your roommate is alone in Barca for the day and you have nothing else going on? Well, I hopped on a train – that’s what. After my last visit to Barcelona, I vowed to return to cross off some more “to see/do” items on my list, including Park Güell, Camp Nou, and las playas (the beaches). Friday morning I got up, bought a ticket and met Erin at her hotel on the beach. I arrived around three and was pretty hungry, so the first thing we did was head into the city center and grabbed some food. First stop was a beautiful market – La Boquería on las ramblas. Although the tapas place we intended to go to was closed, we were able to walk around the market and Erin was able to grab this delicious Strawberry juice, before venturing to Mercat Santa Catarina. Here we ate at one of the restaurants on the patio and indulged in some tapas which included: pan con tomate (tomato spread over toasted bread with olive oil), alcachofas fritas (fried artichoke, and burrata con tomate y ajo (burrata with tomato and garlic). After lunch we walked around the gothic quarter, saw the Barcelona Cathedral, and strolled on the boardwalk till we reached her hotel. Following a quick ice cream break, we headed towards the lobby to check our phones (free WiFi is a precious commodity, ya know?) and ended up staying down there sipping away on some of the best café con leche I’ve had and delicious chocolate pop rocks. After our hour of free wifi was up, we attempted to make reservations for 9:30 at this amazing restaurant, Paco Meralgo, however, they were booked and told us to just try and get a table there. Erin really wanted to go back and I really wanted to try this place, so we went in, dropped the boss’ name (at the recommendation of the concierge) and were seated within 15 minutes. Eight plates of tapas, a glass of champagne and rosé, and two satisfied palettes later, we were finished. I didn’t think I could fall in love with Spanish food anymore, but the cuisine was truly divine. We ate tuna al carpaccio, salmon on a biscuit, brie and bread, assorted grilled vegetables, fried artichokes (again), pan con tomate, and extra spicy patatas bravas. Paco Meralgo (who’s means “to eat something in Spanish – PAra Comer Algo) is definitely atop my list of favorite restaurants in Spain. If you ever catch yourself in Barcelona, I highly recommend you go!
All that food resulted in a mini food baby, so the two of us decided to walk a little before hopping into a cab back to the hotel. Though we had originally planned on going out, especially with 4 of the hottest clubs situated at the base of the hotel, Erin and I ended up watching Spanish TV and passing out. She had an early flight (even earlier if you count the DST that just began in Spain) to Prague and it just didn’t make sense to go out for 3 hours if she had to be on a plane in 4 hours.
Menu del día
Dear Mom and Dad,
Send more money.
Brie and Bread
Tuna al Carpaccio
Tuna al Carpaccio
Fried Artichoke and Pan con Tomate
“i” love Barcelona
Café Con Leche and Chocolate Pop Rocks
Vamos a la Playa
In front of the Cathedral
Catedral de Barcelona
This morning I woke up at 9:30, got ready and walked around Barcelona’s harbor and beaches, before making my way to the Barcelona-Sants train station. Unaware of how late I wanted to stay, I didn’t make train reservations for my return trip to Madrid and ended up taking the last “free” train back to Madrid, four hours after I planned. In my long wait, I walked around the area near the station and found a restaurant with a menu del día, which was an adventure in itself. Let’s just say I should brush up on my catalan before ordering next time (see tweet below).
Though I didn’t get to see Park Güell or Camp Nou, I had so much fun on this gastronomy trip. Like my Mom always says, leave something to come back to.
I have to get up tomorrow, so I’m off to bed! Happy Easter
Living abroad has taught me my fair share of lessons, like don’t try and take out your rent money all at once, and milk isn’t refrigerated at the supermarket (yikes!), but below are a list of the five most important things I’ve learned from Europeans since being here:
Coffee making is an art form – Trust me, the coffee here is ten times better than anything I’ve had anywhere else (and I don’t even really like coffee)
Don’t take yourself too seriously – Life is short, so enjoy the view while you’ve got it.
You can never know enough languages – the other day I was speaking with this one girl who switched between Spanish, English, French, and German, how amazing is that?
Train travel is severely underrated -It’s cheaper than planes, there are no security lines, you have cell phone service the whole time, and there are no bag fees.
Enjoy your meals – This extends so much further than the food on your plate. Take the time to enjoy those around you, as well as savor each and every bite you take.
One of the few difficulties of being abroad is staying in contact with potential employers and scheduling interviews with them for the summer. Luckily enough, Skype has come to the rescue and has allowed me to conduct interview via the internet. Last week, I had one of my first skype interviews and felt pretty confident going in – I had done my research on the interviewer, reviewed my resume, and knew the “ins and outs” of the company. I felt very prepared, however in the middle of asking me about myself, one question threw me for a complete loop and had me thinking for the rest of the day:
“What’s your dream job?”
It’s a question that has been repeatedly asked since we were practically able to talk; we’ve always been expected to have an answer. In elementary school, my response was usually along the lines of professional athlete or President of the United States. Typical, right? In middle school I thought I would make a remarkable lawyer and studied extra hard in my history classes. By the time high school rolled around, I once again changed my mind and applied to most colleges as Pre-Med. Since coming to NYU, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I contemplated switching majors even after an inter-school transfer – there is just so much that interests me!
“What’s your dream job?”
My first response to the interviewer’s question was, “Quite honestly, any paying job after graduation.” Though my answer elicited some laughter and was wholeheartedly true, I followed up with a more practical response, ” …working in sports, especially media because it is something I am extremely passionate about, so I definitely want to focus in that field.” A nod of the interviewer’s head indicated my response would suffice and we proceeded with some more questions. I, however, was not satisfied with my own answer. I thought to myself, I should have more of a plan. I should know my dreams, but can I be honest with myself? At one point during the interview, the five-year old Meg lingering in the back of my mind wanted to belt out, “I want to be a professional soccer player.” That’s when it became obvious that I needed to get a grip on my dreams – to find out what I truly wanted in life.
At what part in your life is it acceptable to say that you should give up on your dream? Do you reach a certain age when it become too ridiculous to say that you still want to climb Mt. Everest? Or that you want to change professions in the middle of your career? This question regarding the death of our dreams has been bothering me as of late, and although I feel there are some points in our lives where we may not be capable of some of our original objectives, I do feel it is necessary to acknowledge our BIG-HAIRY-AUDACIOUS-GOALS and try to set out to accomplish them.
If anything, I’ve learned that by setting unattainable and unrealistic goals for myself, I’ll never be successful or happy. All I can do is strive to be better, try to find work that makes me want to get out of bed every morning. I need a dream job where I do something great, produce something new, or even kindle new relationships on a daily basis. For me a dream job is no longer one that makes me tons of money or famous, but is one that makes me happy and fulfilled – like my five year old self would want.
In an attempt to try to “find” my dream job, I wrote out a list of professions that I am interested in pursuing as to help focus my thoughts. From this brainstorm, I can tell you that I want to work in sports (duh) and need a somewhat active job. If anybody is hiring (starting May of 2015), let this girl know!
– Professional Soccer Player (a girl can dream right?), College Soccer Coach/Athletic Director, Sports Broadcaster, Sports Agent, USOC/IOC Representative, College Professor (though this may have to wait until I’m actually a professional), International Sports Businesswoman (I’m not entirely sure what this encompasses), NFL Director of Operations/Communications, espnW President
“What’s your dream job?”
That question still is swirling around in my head. Next time should I say something that relates to the company I am interviewing for? How do I convey to potential employers that even though my dream may not be with them, I would still work hard and value the experience I would get working with them if I was hired? From what I’ve experienced, I’m just going to stick with “one that pays the bills”.