May 22: Going With the Flow

Nearing the final days of our time in Madrid, Professor Z planned for us to meet YouTuber James Blick who runs the channel Madrid Revealed. We had watched some of his videos when prepping for our time in the city and Professor Z is a huge fan. Our time with James Blick was entertaining and insightful. 

James Blick has a very fun channel and is not only good for providing entertainment but is very informative if you are planning a trip to Spain! James shared with us his journey to becoming a YouTuber and some valuable life lessons he thought would help us. I enjoyed listening to our New Zealander friend share words of wisdom many can so easily forget in regard to how we should approach life. I will share a few of them with you. To start off, James encouraged us to pursue our passions and what interests us. Our excitement and desire to continue learning and growing in that area creates motivation and you will enjoy what you do more. With that, knowing that those can change is okay! Evaluating your life and moving in a direction of growth is healthy and good. A few other things that stuck out to me were in regard to community and intentionality. With community, James Blick talked about how having people in your life is not just good but needed. When collaborating with others at work or living life in a neighborhood, having people to connect with is how your community is built. We all need to have people in our corner, can’t journey in life solo no matter who you are. In relation to intentionality, prioritize the things that matter most in life. Take time to evaluate your life and consider what you currently have on your plate to see if you have taken on too much. Very easy to live in a cycle of busyness and isolate ourselves from those who matter to us and miss out on experiences in life. James Blick was very popular in our conversations because of all he taught us through his videos, it was cool to meet him and our professor was ecstatic to spend more time hanging out with him.

Professor Z introducing James Blick

A group of us decided to go to Toledo and spend the rest of the day exploring the sites in this medieval history-rich city. In true college student fashion, we went to the train station with the intent to catch the next train out with no pre-purchased tickets. The spontaneity of the trip was not in our favor and could not get on the train, it was 1:30pm and we wanted to catch the 1:45 train, the next one out was leaving at 5. Instead, we decided to grab lunch together at an Italian sandwich shop in the neighborhood of Chueca. We took our sandwiches to Retiro Park and had a little picnic in my favorite park ever. I took the opportunity to ask if anyone else wanted to walk further into the park, and that park does not disappoint. It is 350 acres of pure enjoyment to me. People bike, run, workout, and rent boats in a pond, there are places to stop and grab a bite or a drink, pretty monuments, fountains, and sights to see. I do not think you can get bored there, definitely lost, but nature is just so relaxing, a great place to go for a walk with a friend or after a meal.

To end our last free night in this city I have grown to love, a few students and I went to the rooftop of our hotel building after eating some soufflé pancakes from a Japanese dessert shop called Sufu Cake. These pancakes were so fluffy, nothing I have ever eaten before but I have seen them online which made me curious to try them. The type I got was almond butter and chocolate drizzled on top and it was delicious. I found this place when researching the neighborhood of Las Letras in one of Professor Z’s assignments. Our rooftop is so relaxing, a great place to lay on a reclining chair and bask in the sun or enjoy the music playing by a chamber on the streets. For us, it was the latter and we also enjoyed some snacks we picked up from the local market. 

Rooftop of our hotel

The day had a lot of hiccups and uncertainties, however, each day is an experience and can be a good day despite plans not going the way intended. I enjoyed today and getting to explore and experience the city with different people.

-Stephanie Ceballos

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’