Well I think it’s safe to say that it’s been longer than “a little while” since my last post, but I’ve finally found something I’m excited to write about… TRAVEL (surprise, surprise)! Ever since I returned from Spain in 2013, I’ve struggled to find a good niche to write about. I’ve stated from the beginning that this blog is more of a creative outlet for me, but I’ve started several posts about my life during dental school, and they’ve all fizzled out because I lost interest. While I enjoy learning about and practicing dentistry, I haven’t found a topic that I’m particularly interested in writing about (the good thing is that I still have time because there are plenty more days of dentistry ahead). However, I recently took a trip to Spain (surprise, surprise again!) and as I’ve been reflecting, I’ve thought of a few things I’d like to share. Now those of you who actually know me know that I’ve had a more recent international trip than the one I’m writing about today. Trust me, I will write about my 2017 summer experience, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my trip to Spain earlier this year. I’ve had several ideas for this post floating around in my head ever since I returned, so I would be disappointed if I didn’t at least share the highlights from this experience. I love the life I live in the midwestern United States, but I love the way in which travel expands my viewpoints, pushes me out of my comfort zone, and strengthens my faith in God and humanity. So here’s the first post in what I hope will be a great future of creative juices flowing: Madrileños para una semana.
First of all, a madrileño is a native or local of Madrid, and though my family and I aren’t actual madrileños, I think it is a fun, catchy play on words. During the first week in March, I had the opportunity to travel with mis padres to Spain. If you’ve read my blog before, you know how much I love the Spanish culture, so naturally I’m always looking for a chance to go back. I’ve also had the intention to take my parents with me some day in order to show them a place that means so much to me. We initially planned to take this trip after I graduated from dental school, but a discounted flight offer presented itself last summer and it was just too good to turn down. I wrestled with buying tickets for a while, and exhibited a fair amount of buyer’s remorse after we bought them since we kind of bought them on a whim. However, then I realized that nothing in the future is certain, and we may not find discounted tickets like this in the future. And with that, we were off!
While in Spain, my parents and I made Madrid our home base (hence the madrileños reference). We took two day trips to Segovia and Toledo, but spent the rest of the time wandering the streets of Madrid. To say that Madrid is the city that never sleeps is… a very true statement! Madrid is a beautiful, vibrant city with people everywhere and lots of adventure to be had! I could detail each day of our trip, but I think I might doze off during the process of writing (and you will most certainly doze off while reading). Instead, I want to share my big picture takeaways from the trip.
My experience at El Rastro
Before this year, I had only ever heard of El Rastro. El Rastro is an outdoor market that is held in Madrid every Sunday, and it just so happened that we arrived in Madrid on a Sunday! Even more coincidental? El Rastro was in the same neighborhood as our hotel! So we decided to drop off our luggage and take our jet-lagged bodies down to El Rastro. It was a chilly March afternoon, but that didn’t stop people from going to El Rastro. There were many vendors set up selling everything from sunglasses, to books, to antiques, and there were even more people perusing what El Rastro had to offer. So if you’re ever in Madrid on a Sunday and want to live like a Madrileño, be sure to stop by El Rastro.
Menu del día
The menu del día may be one of my favorite things in Spain. Basically, most restaurants have a daily special called the menu del día. The menu del día typically includes two courses (a dessert often makes it three), along with your choice of bottled water, soda, beer, wine, or coffee. The best part is that you know the cost for your entire meal upfront and that all of this usually costs less than 15 Euros. What a deal! Now of course you can go to a really, really nice restaurant and pay more, but the general idea is the same. The menu del día definitely makes dining in Spain a fun experience!
I first heard of Retiro Park when I was in Spain in 2013. I spent a few weekends in Madrid, but just never took the time to go check out Retiro park. I heard that the park is not only beautiful, but that there’s a crystal palace. Who doesn’t love palaces? And one made of crystal?! This I must see. But first, a little history. The name retiro translates to “retreat” – fitting for a park. This park once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy, but is now a public park very close to the Madrid city center. My parents and I decided to take a break from all of our indoor sightseeing to go check out the park one afternoon. We walked along it’s beautifully manicured lawns, enjoyed the large public lake filled with pedal boats, and found what we (well, really I) wanted to see… the crystal palace!
The Palacio de Cristal is on of the most popular features of the park. The palace was built in 1887 to be used for international exhibitions. The palace is now used as an art gallery. When my parents and I were there, the palace was part of an exhibition sound piece for the Reina Sofia Art Museum. Sounds are first played over a speaker, the sounds then reflect off of the palace walls to create a truly unique work of art. If you are interested in learning more about this work of art, check out this web page for The ship is going under, the ice is breaking through by Lothar Baumgarten.
Home away from home
So there you have it! A few of my takeaway moments from this trip to Spain! Leaving was especially difficult for me this time because I was only in the country for one week and I know that there’s so much more we could have seen. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time sharing this experience with my parents. I learn more each time I visit this incredible country, and yet I always leave wanting to go back and learn even more. There are so many incredible places I want to visit in this big, wide world, and yet I know that when given the opportunity, Spain will always be at the top of my list.
“The ideal is to feel at home anywhere, everywhere”
Photos by Megan Coffroth