KATIE WOLFE- As I write this post I can hear the hustle and bustle of the city streets. I live pretty much smack dab in the center of Madrid in a barrio (neighborhood) named La Latina. Each morning I wake up to the sounds of people opening their shops, children chatting on their walk to school and of course my host mom getting ready for work. I have always been comfortable spending time and moving about cities but have never actually lived in one. I grew up in Long Island and have spent many of my adolescent years traveling to and through Manhattan to visit friends or to simply spend a day in the Big Apple. From my time spent wandering those streets I had formed an idealized image of what it would be like to live in a city. Now that I have been afforded the opportunity to live in Madrid there are a few things that I hadn’t considered would be apart of day-to-day city life.
The World at my Fingertips
Madrid, being the largest city and capital of Spain, is full of every type of store you can imagine. Just within a 5-minute walk from my apartment I can pretty much buy anything from a whole leg of jamón to a new shower curtain. I’m also lucky enough to live in an area that has a lot of restaurants specialized in cuisines from all over the world. Just the other day I went to get Indian food with my host mom and on the way there we passed a sushi restaurant and a kebab place. The accessibility to anything I could ever need has definitely been one of the factors that have made my transition to living in Madrid very comfortable. There is even a store that exclusively sells products form the States pretty close to me for those days that I just need some peanut butter.
Along the lines of accessibility, the public transportation in Madrid is absolutely incredible (seriously I don’t know what we’re doing in NYC)… It’s extremely well priced, efficient and clean! Yes that’s right … no rats running over the tracks here. Every day I take at least one form of Madrid’s public transport. At first the everyday commute was hard to get used to. At Skidmore my maximum commute time to class was about 10 minutes walking as opposed to the 40-minute train ride I take to get to the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. At first I didn’t’ really like commuting. I felt like most of my day was either spent underground or simply not being productive, but I’m learning how to adjust. On the longer rides I’ve been able to knock some chapters out in the book I’m reading or even start on some homework.
Each day my nose encounters over 100 different aromas. Walking down the street I can smell the cologne of five different men, fresh coffee brewing as the door to a café opens, and of course, the perpetual lingering smell of cigarettes. The metro could be compared to the perfume section of Macy’s, especially during rush hour, just add in a spritz of body odor (Eau de Parfume). On the day-to-day I don’t really notice the general smell of the city but when I went to Casa de Campo (a large nature park just outside of the city center) I could feel the freshness in the air.
One reason why I love cities is because you are bound to encounter incredibly eccentric and interesting people. Cities are also places where culture, talent, and expression thrive and Madrid is no exception. Today I spent part of my afternoon hanging out in Retiro Park with some friends just people-watching and shooting the breeze. We saw just about every type of person from one of our classmates jamming out to music rollerblading by (yes, I’m talking about you, Jacob) to an old man letting the chickadees eat right out of his hand. On my walks home I pass street performers that can literally defy gravity and hear local buskers singing their hearts out with the most incredible voices.
All in all I love living in Madrid, but I don’t think I’m actually a city girl at heart. While I’m here I’m making the most of my time, exploring new barrios and trying to visit all the beautiful monuments in the city. Each day is honestly a new adventure and poco a poco I’m starting to feel more like a local. But one thing I truly miss is the peace of mind of knowing that the woods are only a short walk away. Nevertheless, Madrid has been treating me well.