May 22nd: Meeting James Blick and a Hectic Day in Madrid

As with every other day of our trip, we rushed through breakfast at our hotel and made our way down to the lobby to meet up with Fran, our API assistant director. Once the whole group was accounted for, we headed over to meet James Blick. In anticipation of coming to Spain, we were all required to watch 8 of youtuber James’ Blicks videos. As a lover of food and Spain, he creates content about getting the most authentic experience when coming to Spain, particularly in Madrid. At the beginning of our time with James’ Blick, he gave us an overview of his life, including details about his college degree in law, unhappiness with his career, time spent in France, and how he ended up in Spain. It was a lot of information to take in all at once, but I left feeling like I understood Blick much better and feeling refreshed by some of the advice that he gave. My favorite piece of advice was this, “It’s okay that what if what you’re doing at 40 is different than what you’re doing at 20.” Although most of our group was able to describe what they want to do with their lives, life is constantly changing and evolving. Hearing those words was extremely comforting.

After our time with James Blick, our group divided into smaller groups and headed into the city. The group that I was a part of wanted to go and visit the historic city of Toledo, with hopes of seeing where painter El Greco once lived, where the armor and swords were made for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and much more. We headed to the metro stop in Puerta de Sol and headed to line 1 which would take us to the Atocha train station. I brought my book on the metro to hopefully make some progress in it. Although we have all become accustomed to taking the metro after using it for 7 straight days, the chaos of certain lines can be extremely distracting. When we finally arrived at the train station stop, we proceeded to several help desks in search of tickets to Toledo. Once we finally reached the correct desk, we heard the devastating news that there were no open trains for the next four hours. We tried to come up with another plan to make it to Toledo, but ultimately gave up and decided to try and find a place for lunch.

We hopped back on the metro after making our way through the massive train station. Several classmates had been raving about this Italian sandwich place in the Chueca neighborhood called Puccias. Once we all had received our food, we decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and walk to Retiro Park to enjoy our lunch. Although a few wrong turns were taken, we finally got to the park and quickly sat down to devour our sandwiches. While eating, we enjoyed music from an accordion player in the park. All throughout Madrid are many musicians who play their music on the streets. It has been an enjoyable experience to hear them playing every day as we walk around the city. Proceeding our lunch, we walked around Retiro Park, exploring different parts of it and making our way to its end. At this point, some of the group decided to walk back to the hotel without using google maps and simply trusting the knowledge we had gained of the city. Although this most likely lengthened our walk, we felt like natives as we walked through the streets and embraced the city.

After a quick siesta in the hotel, a few students headed to the Matadero, a former slaughterhouse and beloved spot of Ernest Hemingway. We did not get the whole experience of all the art that this complex has to offer, but we were able to enjoy the architecture of the large complex. There was an eerie feeling once you stepped inside the walls as if it were a ghost town. While we explored it, I read a few articles to our group about some of its history of it, including that old women used to come to drink the “nutritious” of the dead cattle. It is currently used as a place of art and culture.

Following our visit to Matadero, we headed to a Japanese pancake place in Las Letras called Sufu Cake. We enjoyed the extremely fluffy and delicious pancakes before we headed to the market to grab some fresh fruit, something that I have greatly enjoyed in Spain. Every corner that you turn, there is a fresh produce stand. It is so convenient to be healthy here! Once we got what we wanted at the market we walked back to our hotel to enjoy the rooftop patio it has, listening to the sounds of the city and enjoying the beautiful sky.

I have tried to approach my days here with a faint structure for each day but trying to simply walk around and enjoy the authentic experience of living here in Madrid.

Emerald Bell 25’