I was on a plane, Air Europa flight 92, during New Year’s Eve. At midnight, the lights were off and most passengers were asleep. This was the first time I didn’t celebrate New Year’s Eve with my family, all because of choosing a flight with a 19-hour layover in Madrid, Spain. I was going to spend the first day of 2018 in another country!
My handbag and backpack were packed to the max. As a vegetarian my family didn’t know how much food I would find so my parents packed snacks and cooking necessities. In addition, the packing process has its own minus points. On the flight, I questioned my decision to choose the flight with a layover.
The flight landed around 11:20 am. The information desk in Madrid gave directions to the baggage storage area (no WiFi to search) which thankfully was in the same terminal. After I gave my handbag, I was off to find the bus to downtown Madrid. The airport ran a 24-hour express bus to and from downtown Madrid for 10 Euros roundtrip. After I said city a few times to the bus driver to confirm, I was on my way to Madrid! I got off near a large intersection which also seemed to be a bus area. Many other tourists came off the bus as well.
It was so festive on New Year’s Day because there were people walking around everywhere. The weather was nice required only a light jacket (compared to the blistering cold back home). Initially, I was going to have a “coffee” day and try a bunch of different cafés around the city. But, I met another student from Chicago, and her and I explored together. First, we walked to Puerto del Sol. We saw Plaza Mayor, a historic square in central Madrid. It was literally a large square with King Phillip III’s statue in the center. In the square, there were many restaurants and cafés. Then we walked around in “Barrio de La Latina”, which were connected, narrow streets with lots of Tapas. We also went inside Basilica de San Miquel with a service in Spanish. Lastly, we went to a market, Mercado de San Miquel, where I tried a mint smoothie. After this, my new friend and I separated, and I went to Starbucks to have a snack and use Wi-Fi.
Weary, I realized I wasn’t going to make it and booked a hotel room near Madrid airport (using a student discount). I traced my steps back to the bus stop. Luckily, when I got on the bus, the driver told me the bus to the airport was on the other side of the intersection which has three major streets and the well known Cibeles Fountain and Palacio de Comunicaciones. As I crossed the intersection, I caught a glimpse of Plaza de Alcalá down the street. Instead of continuing to cross the circle, I walked further on “Paseo del Prado” because the architecture and buildings were so intricate.
I kept walking and went down the street “Calle de Antonia Maura”. From there I saw some green far away, and thought, at least walk until the park. Soon I was in Buen Retiro Park and it was simply beautiful. There were so many people and I kept walking further into the park. Without knowing it, I was in the “green heart” of Madrid. Much further in, is Estanque grande del Retiro, which took my breath away. Suddenly, I was in tourist mode! I sat at the steps of Estanque grande del Retiro near the water. I could see fish in the water, many people sitting on the steps, and pigeons flying nearby. I walked around a bit more and as soon as I exited the park there was Puerta de Alcalá, even more amazing up close.
On the way back, a lot of tourists were waiting for the express bus as well, and soon I was on my way to the airport. I fell asleep quickly in my hotel room. Soon enough, in the morning at 4am, I was on my way to the airport for the connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany. At my boarding gate, there were people sleeping. If I hadn’t been so tired from packing and going to JFK, that totally had been my plan too. All in all, I was happy with this mini-adventure in Madrid before embarking on a study abroad experience in Vallendar, Germany.