In Valencia I met my friend María José from the Tandem app where I practice Spanish with online strangers. I have used this app prior to coming to Spain, continuing throughout the semester.
Right at the end of my time here, I made a new friend in the app, Víctor from Madrid. We made plans to hang out at a park towards the edge of the city (that conveniently was on my curated list of things to see).
- planned to meet at El Capricho
- moved to Juan Carlos I park to escape mosquitos
- drove to a lookout over the airport
- got up close to the four big skyscrapers in the city
- got a bit lost in tunnels before dropping me off at my place
Barajas airport and the city skyline
Víctor is practicing English so he can get a job as an air traffic controller. He works at a company that makes chat bots. He has traveled a lot, highlights being Finland and Costa Rica. I was flattered that he was impressed with my meager Spanish ability, but we soon digressed into mostly English conversations.
While riding along with him, I learned that Madrid has pretty strict limitations on where drivers can do in the city, and you can be fined just for entering certain parts of the city depending on the time and where you reside.
Quedemos otra vez
- met for kebab dinner after my last final
- learned about Víctor’s English classes
- talked about Spanish elections
Notes on how English speakers pronounce things quickly
Víctor also mentioned that the following day he was planning to drive to Santander where he was visited many times before, and I could tag along. It would last from that Thursday evening until Sunday. I had nothing going on after finals, so I gladly accepted this offer. I quickly packed a few days worth of clothes into my backpack and prepared for the afternoon departure. We left from his house, where I met his other family members.
On the northern coast
I got into the car to Santander with nowhere to stay. Víctor’s friend has a flat there, but he was taking finals and there was no guarantee that I’d be able to crash his studies.
- during the drive I booked one night at a cheap AirBnb
- Víctor kindly escorted me to the room
- big friendly dog named Floki
- took a night walk by the water upon arrival
- enjoyed a delicious tortilla bocadillo that Víctor’s mother prepared for us
The room was located right above a Dia supermarket where I grabbed some fruit and pastry in the morning.
Friday morning walk
- Víctor provided me a number of markers on my map for recommended sights
- took my breakfast on a walk towards the palace
- i was told there would be a “zoo” on the premises
- the animals there would be a surprise…
In addition to sea lions, the mini zoo had penguins. There were crowds of little kids there, presumably on a field trip.
the little kids chanted incessantly at the penguins standing on a rock in the water.
Palace on the peninsula
Change of accomodations
- Víctor’s friend in Santander is Edu[ardo]
- Edu is studying to be a maxillofacial surgeon
- carbonara and sangria lunch at Edu’s flat
- Edu invited me to crash at the flat instead of getting another AirBnb
- Victor taught me some bad Spanish jokes to have fun with Edu
Big fan of the Star Wars pillow I was provided
- Edu was busy sleeping/studying
- Víctor had his car with him
- he knows all the best spots in Santander
- we drove around to get a taste of everything
Food of Cantábria
Rabas, cocido montañés, pulpo, and more
- sleeping late
- visit to recreation of old cave paintings nearby
- brief stop by a cozy old town
- hearty Cantábrian lunch at a cider joint
- walking and talking along the rocky coast
- late wakeup again
- flaky sugar and chocolate palmeras at the park
- Víctor gave me some sao bao to bring back to Madrid
- walk near the lighthouse
- pizza and ice cream with Edu
Back to Madrid
- fun conversations with Víctor’s BlaBlaCar passengers
- couple of days to prepare for my return to the US
- shopping for last minute items/souvenirs
- got some good supermarket items and a book on Spanish food
- soaking up my dwindling time in Spain
Starting off my last full day in Madrid at the churreria
One last thing
Víctor and I got together for dinner on my last night in Madrid. He had been recommending this place for a while so we finally got to check it out.
Chic place with tasty food, the chicken had an almost caramely sauce
Surprise gift from Víctor
Edu, Víctor, and me
He left me with a photo to remember the trip. Written on the back:
“El mejor souvenir son los recuerdos”
(The best souvenir is the memories)
The night ended with an exhilarating drive through the illuminated city on the back of Víctor’s motorbike, and goodbye hugs.
Adios, querida Madrid