Madrid, Spain

 

It’s those unexpected life adventures that you will never forget. Soaking in everything around you, taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that this is real.

 

“Not until we are lost do we being to understand ourselves.” 

Henry David Thoreau 

 

Day One

Another early morning plane ride to a dream destination. All three alarms went off at four in the morning where we then stumbled out of bed and proceeded to grab our bags and head downstairs, looking similar to zombies. Our fifteen minute Uber ride to the airport was not long enough as we all attempted to take a quick power nap before the long day began. To be honest, it’s hard to remember what exactly happened between getting to the Brussels airport and then entering our Airbnb in Spain, most likely due to sleep depravation and exhaustion, plus, you know the drill. Get to the airport, go through security, find our gate, wait, get on the plane, power nap again, land, get off the plane, and then struggle to figure out public transportation to the Airbnb, the usual.

Continuing on with our day, we finally made it to our new home for the week. Penthouse? I think so! Faeln and Sarah always do an incredible job at finding cute and affordable Airbnbs. Just take a look for yourself! We had the most adorable blue door which opened up to a small room where you could put your shoes and coats. Continuing in, you turn left to a long hallway which the owner made into two living room spaces with white furniture accented with yellow and orange pillows while the rugs were vibrant with all different colors. Walking to the back of the apartment, you’d find the kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms. We wandered around the unfamiliar space where something caught my eye. I lifted the screen covering a window to see an ocean of red roof houses and a view that I could look at for hours. The view plus the sunsets here are jaw dropping, but I’ll get to that later.

We laid our heads down, closed our eyes, and didn’t wake up for three hours. The nap was well worth it though. Having more energy now, we unpacked, grabbed our purses and set out to explore Madrid for the first time. I find it incredible how everything seemed so unfamiliar, the fact that we had to use maps at first, and felt so lost. But within a matter of days, we were Madrid pro’s.

The city was more gorgeous than I imaged. We walked down roads surrounded by tall, colorful buildings, people walking everywhere, the sound of music bursting from second floor apartments, the smell of warm Spain food in the air, and this overwhelming feeling that we belonged. It was at this moment that I knew the week to come would be one of the best I’d ever experience.

 

It then hit all three of us that we hadn’t eaten since last nights dinner. As it was img_9357-e1510665715145.jpgapproaching six, we decided to find somewhere to sit down and eat. We wandered around for quite a while, having Sarah translate menus for us and attempting to scout some places with vegan food. We entered the town square where there were small, outdoor restaurants on every corner. We soon noticed that every restaurant had the same food, so we picked the one with the cutest waiter and enjoyed the night. Since we were in Spain, it only felt right to get Paella (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections).

Now in a food coma, we decided to grab some groceries for breakfast and head back to our apartment for a good nights rest.

 

Day Two

What’s better than a walk in the park? A walk in the famous El Retiro Park! A twenty-minute walk from our apartment to this gorgeous garden was needed after days in London’s chilly city. The sun was out, people were walking their dogs, eating ice cream, tanning, carrying their babies, and seizing this beautiful day. The city felt so friendly and happy. It’s hard to describe this feeling, but life seemed to be perfect for this moment, as if there wasn’t a care in the world by us, or anyone around us.

We continued our walk through the park where we turned a corner to what seemed like a Disney movie as Fae put it. There was a small pond ahead, people rowing boats, and live music. The trees were a golden orange as the light hit them. We all stood there basking in the sun, taking in everything at this moment, and attempting to grasp the concept that this was real life.

El Retiro Park

We raced to through the park and to the docks to purchase an hour in a boat. We all took turns rowing, and of course, taking lots of photos. There were so many people on the pond, grandparents, adults, teenagers, babies, with wide smiles and happy hearts. This is a day, a moment, that I will keep with me forever. If you’re ever in the area, I highly suggest going to the Estanque Grande del Retiro, renting a boat, and rowing the day away.

Our view of “Monumento a Alfonso XII”

After our time at the park, we walked back towards the Prado where we stopped to grab a bite at “Cafeteria Los Jeronimos” (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). At lunch, we listened to all the different languages and ascents. I’m getting used to this, hearing all these different forms of communication that I had never experienced before in California. There’s something special about this. About realizing how many different languages, types of people, other cultures there are out in the world. I long to learn about all of them, even if this means traveling more, which is absolutely no problem for me.

 

Airbnb Sunset View

Remember that sunset with the view I was talking about earlier? Well there it is right above you. When I first laid eyes on it, I was speechless. If you don’t already know, I have a fascinations with sunsets. There’s no way to describe this obsession I have, however, Alicia Cook in her book Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately states what I can’t say.

 

“I find comfort

in the colors of a sunset.

 

I find a special magic

in the fact

it never photographs

as beautifully as my eyes

can witness it firsthand.

I find a certain peace

in the conclusion of

another day lived.

 

And I find hope

in the precarious promise

of tomorrow.”

 

Enough of that emotional stuff and onto the rest of the Madrid stories! We searched for some vegan restaurants for dinner and found the perfect one. A short walk away, we sat down at La Encomidena (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). Side note, something that I learned very quickly was that the Spanish eat meals a lot later than I’m used to. So, we ate around six and found there to only be a couple other people eating as well, mostly Americans.

After, we rushed to watch some flamenco at one of Madrid’s best live flamenco shows. It was incredible to see and hear so many talented people from singers, to dancers, to a combination of the two. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them and felt a little sad after the hour and the performance ended. This was something I could watch for hours and hours and probably one of my favorite memories from Spain.

The website can be found here https://cardamomo.com/en/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8NTvztrA1wIVIgvTCh1d-wx8EAAYASAAEgJDhfD_BwE

 

Day Three

Shopping day! We walked from our apartment to a part of Madrid that we had never been to before. All three of us expected a giant mall, but soon found out there was a street filled with small boutiques instead. This was fine with me, I actually prefer smaller boutiques as I become easily overwhelmed by large stores.

I spotted a sign that said “Donuts” and had to run over to see if vegan options were available. To my surprise, there were! This small little donut and coffee shop was called “The Urban Bites” (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). Fueled by two small vegan donuts, I was ready to take on the rest of the day.

 

The Streets of Madrid

 

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We walked up and down the street, buying things like shoes and red leather jackets. It was another warm day filled with bustling streets and happy faces.

 

A long day of walking called for a delicious lunch. A small outdoor restaurant called “GramaBar” was where we ended up eating (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). The black bean arepa was warm and satisfying, perfect for when the day began getting chillier.

 

Our walk home was absolutely stunning. The cotton candy sky, pink and purple streams across the blue backdrop lit up the night and then slowly faded into darkness, indicating that it was time to eat dinner.

Wanting something not too expensive but also yummy, we found and headed to “Walk to Wok” (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). We ate, laughed, and shared memories from the past twenty-four hours, the perfecting ending to day three in Madrid.

 

Day Four

Tourist day as I called it. As seen on Snapchat, today was filled with tourist activities, the “To See” places when searching Madrid on Google, and more good food.

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Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree

Our first stop included seeing the “Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree”. This sculpture represents the coat of arms of Madrid and can be found in the east side of Puerta Del Sol. The statue’s artist was Antonio Navarro Santafe. The piece was inaugurated in 1967, making this year its fifty year reunion! Want to know what’s funny about this, well we had passed the statue probably ten times already and had no idea that it was significant let alone a “To See” thing in Madrid. But we finally saw it and had to take a photo for proof!

 

Number two on our tourist spot was the Royal Palace of Madrid. We stared at the building for a few minutes, took a selfie, and continued on. We found a beautiful lookout point (as seen in the far right photo below) that included the palace and the green garden next to it. All three of us ran around the garden like children, admiring the statues and the detail that went into this area.

Campo del Moro Gardens

And we’re off again! We stumbled upon what we learned was Monumento A Cervantes in the Plaza de Espana as seen below. A little bit of history on this includes: the monument was built between 1925 and 1930 but not finished until 1957, sculptor was Lorenzo Coullaut Valera and the two architects include Rafaela Martinez Zapartero and Pedro Muguruza, the tower includes Cervantes overlooking Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. 1 Although we didn’t know this information at the time, we still took in the art before us, captured a selfie, and then headed on our way.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_de_España_(Madrid)

Monumento A Cervantes

For lunch we ended up back in the same plaza that we pass everyday. Here we found a chain restaurant called Cafe & Tapas (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). Warning! We were charged an extra 20% for eating in the outdoor patio that technically looked like it was inside. All three of us quickly realized that this was probably happening at every restaurant we went to and didn’t even notice! So when eating in Spain, be aware that eating outside will cost you extra.

Museo Nacional del Prado

Stop three included the famous Prado Museum or Museo Nacional del Prado as they call it. The museum is free for students with a valid ID and student ID so take advantage of this! When inside, we saw pieces from Car Guo-Qiang in a special exhibit. Three stories of rooms filled with paintings, sculptures, and more. It was overwhelming, actually. You would turn a corner and have three different directions you could go.

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Las Meninas

One well known piece that you have probably heard of it Velazquez’s Las Meninas. A couple fun facts include: the King and Queen are included, Velazquez makes a cameo of his own, only one person in the painting remains unidentified, there is a mystery behind this painting, Las Meninas gives its audience access to the king’s point of view, it’s enormous, it’s name was changed at some point, and more. More information on this famous piece can be found here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/68209/14-things-know-about-velazquezs-las-meninas

 

 

Post museum called for some SORBET! We felt like little kids, ordering our ice cream in a cone, eyes lighting up with glee and then licking it all, and of course, spilling on ourselves. I’m thankful for friends who I can act like a child around, who love me for myself and all my imperfections, and take silly photos eating sorbet with. Thank you Fae and Sarah for your friendship.

 

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Sarah, left // Fae, right

Tonight we met up with my friend, Miguel, who was a foreign exchange student at my high school in California. I hadn’t seen him since either my freshman year or sophomore year of high school! Although we were never that close, we met up and could not stop talking about the good old days, our current lives, and our futures. Miguel suggested we meet at Azotea Del Circulo which had amazing views of the city. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the glistening lights and the view of Madrid. After hanging out for an hour, Miguel guided us to grab a quick bite where we continued to catch up on life and talk until the cafe closed. Thank you Miguel for being our guide and coming all the way into the city to meet up and hangout! I appreciate you!

 

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High School Friends Reuniting After Six Years!

 

If you’re ever in the Madrid area, but sure to check out Azotea!

The website for the rooftop bar can be found here: http://www.azoteadelcirculo.com

 

Day Five

A day filled with walking, vegan food and new friends. We began our morning, or afternoon since we slept in, by journeying to a vegan restaurant. On the way, we got sidetracked by a cute garden with a hidden shop inside. Here I bought my dad one of the best souvenirs yet, although I can’t put what it exactly was on here because I know my dad is probably reading this right now, but trust me, it’s a good one!

lil garden with a shop inside

 

We continued on, following side streets and tripping over our own feet because our eyes were glued to the architecture, the appealing colors, and the sights of the city. In a few short minutes, we arrived at our destination, Viva Chapata (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). The three vegan burgers and fries fueled us and set us on our walk back.

 

 

This city is filled with beauty. As you can see from the photos above taken on Faeln’s camera, the apartments are covered in yellow and pink paint, making a statement to the world as if they were saying, “Here I am!” My whole camera roll is now filled with photos of buildings, the sky, and food. But hey, I have no problem with that!

 

Plaza Mayor

Our next mission of the day was finding Sarah the best chocolate churros in all of Madrid. We found the world renown “Chocolateria San Gines” located near Plaza Mayor. (For more information on this meal, check out the blog post “Madrid, Spain” in the TRAVELS -> STUDY ABROAD -> FOREIGN EATS sections). Although they weren’t vegan, we still supported Sarah and made her eat all six churros!

That night, we met up with Miguel at his house where he had invited other friends from his university over. We got to meet so many that night that I hope to stay in contact with. Among this group were a few American boys. We bonded over talking about the differences between America and Spain. It was the perfect way to end our last day in Spain.

Day Six

Goodbye Madrid. With little sleep, we headed out to the airport and back to London. I’m going to miss this city, the architecture, the warm weather, and the friendly people. I will be back soon though no doubt!

 

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Words From a Wander

On the plane I began reading the book Words from a Wanderer. This chapter stood out to me and I would like to share it with you. It reads, “Love yourself first. Buy yourself flowers. Tell yourself how beautiful you are. Don’t expect anyone to love you more than you do. When you meet a partner, you shouldn’t have expectations of flattery. The beautiful words and things will be microscopic when you’re already showering yourself with them. Expectations can taint love when you’re seeking to fill a void.”

These words are so true. It is so important to love yourself before you try finding love. This experience of traveling the world and finding out who I truly am is well needed right now. I am glad to learn these lessons so young and work on myself. I encourage you to learn to love yourself first and discover the true you.

 

Madrid will always have a piece of my heart. In honor of visiting this beautiful city, I wrote a short poem expressing my gratitude for the hospitality that it showed to me. You can find this under the SELF-LOVE section of my blog or at the link https://exploringtheworld.me/2017/10/27/dear-madrid/

 

Until next time Madrid…

Dear Madrid

Dear Madrid,

Thank you for inviting me into this beautiful culture.

 

Your vibrant buildings filled with balconies dressed in plants

The smell of tapas on every corner

Your gorgeous, pastel sunsets

The way people seem to drink wine and eat meals together

as if there was endless time in the world.

 

Boat rides in the park

Surrounded by the sound of many languages.

 

Your flamenco dancing, red dresses flying,

Loud music filling my ears,

And a smile I will never be able to wipe off my face.

 

Your nightlife full of youngsters dancing to music at Kapital

And your Sangrias, rich with wine and juice reminding me of childhood.

 

Rooftop bars where you can see the whole city twinkle

As if she’s saying goodnight and good morning.

 

Streets filled with tourists,

Souvenir shops,

Magicians and musicians.

 

The fact that wine is cheaper than water,

Museums are free for students,

The satisfying sound of ascents,

And dogs shuffling around every corner

 

Is the reason I’ll be back.

Shakespeare’s Globe

October 13th // The Globe, London

A trip to Shakespeare’s Globe with friends was the perfect day. We stood and watched Much Ado About Nothing which was powering and beautiful. Standing in this beautiful, historical theatre felt like a dream. If you’re ever in London, I HIGHLY suggest going and seeing a show here!

Website: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com

Wales

 

October 6th // Cardiff, Wales 

Another day, another adventure. Check Wales off the bucket list! My total country count is now at eight: Mexico, Canada, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, London, and now Wales.

 

We started our adventure by taking a three and a half hour bus ride into Cardiff where we dropped off our bags at our beautiful Airbnb as seen above.

 

We then took an Uber into the city where I couldn’t help but take a photo of my first time in a car on the opposite side of the road. It felt weird that the driver sat on the right side of the car and that we were driving on the left side of the street. The Uber dropped us off by the docks where there was lots of shops and restaurants.

 

We wandered around the area for a little, stopping at a cute coffee shop and talking before we ended up seeing the most beautiful sunset I have laid my eyes on.

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After we admired God’s beauty for over half an hour, we began to notice that our bodies were freezing and that we should head inside soon. This is when we stumbled upon a comedy club called The Glee Club where we laughed our heads off and enjoyed the night.

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October 7th // Cardiff Wales

Morning coffee and a cute cafe was the perfect start to the morning (Check out my posts “Stag Coffee” and “Bill’s Restaurant” under the Travel –> Study Abroad –> Foreign Eats section of my blog for more details).

 

Next, we headed to the Cardiff Castle to check it out, however, it ended up being ten pounds to go inside, and being poor college students, we just had to look from afar. IMG_8698

For a free event, we went to the National Museum Cardiff where they had all different forms of art including photography, sculptures, paintings, etc. Check out some of my favorite pieces from this gallery below!

 

We continued to walk around the small city and take in it’s beauty before departing back to London. Thank you for letting us visit you Wales, you will be missed.

 

 

 

Serengetee (Part II)

August 16

I have already gone into detail in my other post “Serengetee” about this brand’s mission and history as well as my story of joining the company as a brand ambassador so I just wanted to give you a little update on what I am doing now.

My term as a campus brand ambassador has sadly ended. I was going to apply to be a leader for this next semester but I felt that studying abroad might make this job more difficult and when I begin something, I want to give it my all. However, I might apply to be a leader in the spring semester so we’ll see! So when you’re a campus ambassador, you are given challenges to complete and by completing these tasks, you are rewarding with points that you can redeem at the end of the semester. I had a good amount of points added up so I decided to get some stickers and a random pack of two shirts.

I text Emily asking if she wanted to meet up and shoot one of the shirts along with the blue plane hat I have had hanging in my closet. We meet up at Woodward park and took a few photos that turned out great! The fact that I get to partner with such an amazing brand makes modeling for them easy and fun. Be sure to check out their website and get yourself some Serengetee apparel! https://www.serengetee.com

 

Make sure to use the code “KDavis15” at checkout for 15% off your order!

(Pictured above is the “Plane Cap” – https://www.serengetee.com/plane-cap/)

(Pictured above is the “Atalaya Pocket” in white (size small) where proceeds go to supporting Pencils Of Promise, which builds schools and fosters education around the world through a sustainable development method that maximizes impact –  https://www.serengetee.com/pockets/atalaya-pocket/#!/crews )

Photographer: Emily Hinch

Another Five Hour Flight

August 15

Another Day. Another Adventure.

Spontaneous trips are what I live for. My girl Cait texted me saying that we’re going to Washington D.C. and whatever Cait says, go’s. I packed a bag and headed to Las Vegas where we would then board a plane the next day and take off for a five- hour flight. I made sure to download lots and lots of podcasts (This American Life being my go to as well as Ted Talks and On She Goes). Since Cait and I are avid travelers, we know exactly what to pack: ear phones, portable charger, snacks (and lots of them), sweater, a good book, notebook and pen, wallet, mints, toothbrush, tooth paste, and face wash. Also, for you spontaneous people, download the app “Hotels Tonight” for great prices on nice hotel rooms. This has saved us many times! I’ll stop boring you with travel tips and make a separate post about that in the future if you’re interested.

We arrived and then took an Uber to our hotel. After checking in, we ate some snacks for dinner and watched whatever movies we could find on our hotel television. The next morning we woke up, got ready, and headed into the city for a long and eventful day. We Ubered to the White House where we started our long walk and five minutes in, it started to rain. We ended up buying some cheap umbrellas and running to find some shelter and food. To be honest, we had no clue where we were going or what to see, so we grabbed a map and headed to where the most people where and the places with large stars next to them. We ended up in front of the Washington Memorial where I had flash backs to the recent Spider-Man movie and replayed the scene in my head. After asking random people to take photos of us jumping around in the rain, we picked up our heavy and tired feet and made our way to Lincoln. I have been dreaming of seeing his memorial and standing under the feet of this historical leader. I made sure to move everyone away from me and take a solo picture with Abe.

Cait and I began walking to the next place with a large star where we decided it was time to get an Uber back to our hotel and grab some dinner before seeing a National’s game. We ate dinner, put on our red-and-white gear, and began our five minute walk to the stadium. I have a new found addiction of going to baseball games. The lights, the loud crowd, the games in-between innings, and the vegan hot dogs.

I am always sad to leave. I love adventuring in new cities and there is always more I wish I could’ve done and more people I wish I met. But this trip was spontaneous and thrilling. Being in such a different city, a historical city, is something I suggest everyone do. We packed our bags, got on our very early flight, and headed back to Vegas. See you soon Washington. I’ll be back soon!