Once Upon a Time in Madrid (Seen through my Instagram)
After 6 months living in Madrid I’ve now been back in London for 4 months and I’m throwing myself back into life here. It’s so easy to get swept up in all the changes: moving in with my friend Sarah, changing teams at work, catching up with friends, family, colleagues and even getting ready for Christmas and planning yet more travels for next year (it never stops!). But before I totally move on from Madrid and close that chapter, it’s good to do some reflection. And what better way to reflect and remember than to peruse through the memories held in my Instagram. On Instagram (you can follow me at @VStuartTaylor) I post the highlights of everything I get upto, and it is true that a picture tells a thousand words. So here’s a visual story of the six months I spent living in Madrid…
Once upon a time…
Once upon a time… it all began on the 31st January 2014 with the big ‘Move-to-Madrid’. I wrote an emotional blog post on the flight over from London, full of expectations and anticipation, and I moved into my first ever 1-person flat feeling ever so grown-up! However after a month or so the novelty started to wear off and I began to crave the company of flatmates.
Spanish cuisine: Spanish cuisine, Spanish wine and Spanish tapas are renowned worldwide and you can’t live in Madrid without assimilating it’s food culture. Everything revolves around food. One Saturday I went on an excellent walking tour with Lauren, founder of Madrid Food Tour, to learn more about the history behind such a fundamental part of my experience in Madrid, and you can find more scrumptious photos in this blog post. My diet for those six months in Madrid can be basically summarised as consisting solely of jamón, tortilla (potato omelette) and tinto de verano (red wine with lemon).
Winter in Retiro Park: I spent a fair number of my weekends outside of Madrid on various travels, but when I was there, many a Sunday was spent strolling through Retiro Park, picnicking on the lawns and generally wondering how they keep it looking so pristine.
Architecture by Night: I soon discovered that Spanish working hours are long. I’d routinely work from 9am until 7 or 8pm so would emerge from the office in darkness. So my afterwork adventures into the city centre showed me Madrid’s architecture splendidly lit up.
El Rastro flea market: Another Sunday staple for locals and tourists alike is El Rastro street market. I know those stalls like the back of my hand and it was here that I picked up souvenirs, such as these fantastic coasters and of course my lovely elephants.
Toledo: To escape the metropolis my boyfriend and I headed 30-mins south to Toledo for a daytrip. It’s medieval heritage gives it it’s character, but the very best views can be found at the top of various churches. Climbing the bell tower is definitely worth it by the way.
Segovia: Another daytrip was had to Segovia, 30-minutes north of Madrid, with a Venezuelan friend, where I gazed timidly up at the ancient aqueduct, not trusting it’s sturdiness after 2,000 years. It was a photogenic town to explore and even more so is the nearby Granja de San Ildefonso, Spain’s more modest version of Versailles. A slice of French Baroque in the middle of the Iberian peninsula.
The King’s Abdication & the Royal Palace: To much surprise, King Juan Carlos I abdicated on the 19th June 2014 after 39 years of reign and his son King Felipe VI succeeded to the throne. The ceremony took place on one of Spain’s many public holidays so the madrileños took to the streets to celebrate and catch a glimpse of their new king. Swept up with the crowds, my aunt and I ended up outside the Royal Palace and saw the royal family waving from the balcony! What an atmosphere it was and a great historic moment to witness.
Retiro Park in Summer: My love of Retiro Park only grew as spring turned into summer. As my flat didn’t have a garden per se, when I wasn’t relaxing by one of my friends’ pools, I was in El Retiro, discovering the Crystal Palace and the nearby Botanical Gardens.
The Office: One place I did spend a lot of time was the office. The reason I went to Madrid in the first place was work, as my company’s headquarters is in Madrid, and it’s an impressive 12,000-employee-strong shiny new campus. The lake and lawns inside the complex made for some brilliant picnics in the sun during weekdays. It’s a great place to work but I would have also liked to work in our smaller office which happens to be one of Madrid’s architectural landmarks, on the famous Gran Vía, which I did visit 4 or so times for meetings (it has incredible views over the city).
Performances: Night-time entertainment was a choice of two extremes. The first option was to catch a cultured performance. Either a classic play such as García Lorca’s La Casa de Bernarda Alba, a Flamenco performance or even a visit to Micro Teatro Por Dinero (brief 15-min performances in tiny secret rooms – a great experience).
Nights out: The second (less sophisticated) option was to head out for copas and while away the night dancing into the early hours, before catching the metro home after sunrise. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t do this with anywhere near as much intensity as when I was a student living in Córdoba when 7am bedtimes were a regular occurrence!
Art: I was spoiled for Art Museums. Everywhere I looked Madrid was oozing masterpieces and I adored perusing the Prado, the Thyssen, the Reina Sofia, the Sorolla, the Lázaro Galdiano…
The Mediterranean: I did also head out of Madrid to see the sea. In April my friend Sarah and I headed east to Valencia to the Mediterranean for a welcome sea breeze and to explore a new city we’d both heard lots about.
The Atlantic: In contrast to the calm, almost lazy Mediterranean Sea, my next visit to the Spanish coastline was to San Sebastián in the Basque Country, on the Atlantic Ocean, for my 25th birthday in mid-July. It’s an aesthetically more beautiful coastline, resembling something in the south of France in my opinion. My boyfriend and I spent a fantastic weekend indulging in pintxos, excellent wine and lovely long strolls along the curved shell-shape beach of the Bahía de Concha. Bliss.
Moments I didn’t capture on Instagram
Moments I didn’t capture on Instagram: I had 6 guests come to stay in my flat during the 6 months (one of them visited a total of 4 times!), I met up with three other friends by chance in Madrid (an Italian, an Argentinean and a Brit), made new friends with people from all over the world (Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, the US, Portugal) and I spent a lot of time commuting on the metro although I don’t regret not taking photos of that. I also spent at least a month outside of Spain, divided up between shorter trips to England, France, Wales, Italy, Hong Kong, Bali & Portugal.
Farewell: And then in a puff of smoke six months had passed and the moment had arrived to return to reality in England. I packed up my things, said far too many goodbyes to colleagues & friends, and headed for the airport… The end. (Well, it was the end of this particular adventure anyway. In actual fact a whole new adventure was just beginning).