Thursday 7/25 – We safely arrived at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport. We took the familiar metro from Barajas towards Nuevos Ministerios, switched to Line 10 towards Tribunal, and then were supposed to switch to Line 1 towards Atocha but were surprised to find out that Line 1 was partially closed due to construction. At this point we were short on time to meet Félix, so we grabbed a cab to take us the rest of the way to his dad’s apartment, which is really close to the Atocha train station.
We pulled up to the apartment right on time, and minutes later Bri spotted Félix; he looked just like I had remembered him from two summers ago and Skype dates months ago. We dos beso’ed and I introduced him to Bri and Cass. He led us up to the third floor apartment and we dropped off our bags in the guest bedroom in the back. From the moment I walked into that apartment, it was so surreal to be back there.
After briefly settling in, the four of us walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch – Cass and Bri forgot that the menu option is usually three or more courses so that was interesting to watch their faces as the food kept coming out. Lunch went really well; it was great to catch up with Fél in person after so much time and he was great with Bri and Cass. He was running late to get back to work from his lunch break, so we paid and then went grocery shopping down the street from the apartment. While the girls took a siesta, I walked over to the Reina Sofia area and stopped in that Starbucks for Wi-Fi gratuita and a needed iced latte.
It was only after updating my best friends about how well things were going in Madrid that I checked my Facebook and happened to read a message from Félix that nonchalantly stated: “I now have a gf. Don’t want to annoy her too much. Hope you understand.” I wish I could say I was kidding about the delivery but alas that was the reality people. So after feeling like I got violently punched in the stomach, I proceeded to vehemently fight back the intruding tears and sent a few “spoke to soon” texts to my girls. As we were staying in his dad’s apartment for the entire weekend, I didn’t really feel it appropriate to say anything back besides: “I understand and I’m happy for you.” ….After a good cry back at the apartment, I worked out with the girls, and we ended up trolling for Wi-Fi at BK later since we couldn’t even watch TV at the apartment (Fél didn’t know the Wi-Fi information).
Friday 7/26 – Basking in legitimate AC, we slept in on Friday morning and then metro’ed to meet up with Jackie at her hotel en Los Preciados. Jackie was my second roommate while studying in Barcelona in 2011; she recently graduated from Stanford and was doing some traveling around Europe so we had planned to play around in Madrid together! While in her hotel room, Cass and I ended up Skyping with Kim (the gal whose apartment we had been interested in via Idealista). Having satiated our curiosity with multiple photos, videos, emails, texts, and Skype conversations – we said yes to the apt! The convenience couldn’t be beat, as we planned on moving in the very afternoon that we’d return to BCN. Woo hoo!
The four of us walked around Madrid – Bri had never been there before, and Jackie and Cass had only been in Madrid for a couple days previously with ISA back in 2011. We explored some key sights in the Spanish capital: Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel, La Latina, and back to Puerta del Sol. I had never been to el Mercado de San Miguel antes, so that was cool – it’s a great indoor market; my favorite part was the 1-Euro goat cheese tapas from La Fromagerie. Then on a side street of Sol, we stopped in an Irish pub for some happy hour sangria and then split with Jackie till later that night. From there, Bri, Cass, and I went to El Museo Naciónal de la Reina Sofía for their daily free hours from 7-9 pm. Highlights were Guernica (shocker) and the temporary Dalí exhibit had some good stuff too. I was missing Nina a lot as we strolled those marble hallways.
Back at the apartment, we got ready for all that Madrid nightlife has to offer. We took the metro back towards Jackie’s hotel and shared some beverages up in her room, where we also had the pleasure of meeting her friend from school, Mike. Feeling on top of the world, the five of us walked over to Commo, my old stomping grounds – a bar/dance club on a side street of Puerta del Sol. There, much to my astonishment, the familiar front bartender, Antonio, indeed did a double take as I made my way up to the bar, the recognition immediate on his face. I couldn’t believe that after two years (more like three really) he still remembered me. Ninz, we sure did leave our mark! So all at Commo had fun, then we headed to Joy, which is a famous discoteca on the other side of Puerta del Sol. The club itself now resides in what used to be an old theatre. Hours later, our dance cards were exhausted so I somehow managed to perfectly remember the way to walk back to the apartment.
Sat 7/27 – A lazy start to our Saturday, we eventually made our way to Starbucks for Wi-Fi. On our way back home, we finally went up to the hostel upstairs in hopes of copping their Wi-Fi password, as we could see that their network worked well in the apartment. Minutes later, it ended up being like stealing candy from a baby – I snapped a picture of the LONG Wi-Fi password and away we went! Wi-Fi worked perfectly in apartment then – cue happy dances all around. Later I Skyped with Hayley and Beth while getting ready earlier than usual – thinking that Fél was coming over for drinks around 8 pm; of course, he changed his plans so we had dinner and then left to meet at Jackie’s hotel again. The five of us went to El Tigre on c/ de Las Infantas right off Gran Vía – it was a cool place – definitely a local spot. El Tigre’s thing is when you order a caña, or any drink really, you get a plate of tapas free! A whole plate. So we were loving that. Fél ended up bailing completely, as he had said he’d meet me at El Tigre. How I could still be surprised is beyond me. Later we got suckered into going to Moondance. That club was a quick flop so we went back to Commo! Bless his soul, a random guy from Texas paid for our cover, all five of our covers. Commo was fun as always, and we celebrated Bri’s two-month anniversary of being in Europe. Antonio confided to me that he is now married, lol. Also, he almost kicked a girl out after she threw salt in his face. Thanks to Texas guy buying our cover, we were able to splurge and take a taxi home!
Sunday 7/28 – Yes, we slept in again… Once fully awake, I did dishes, laundry, and picked up the apartment. Later in the afternoon, the three of us walked over to el Parque de Gran Retiro (or more commonly just Retiro), and hung out at the lake for a bit. We came back and made dinner at home, then packed up our backpacks as we would leave for Portugal the next morning. Fél came over and the four of us played card games, which happened to involve copious amounts of wine (first our euro cartons of cooking wine, then his dad’s bottles). Wondering where this story is going? Well if you guessed, “I think it’s going to end in tears…” You would be spot on. Fél said his goodbyes to the girls and then I attempted to wish him well and out the door but folded like a cheap tent as tears gushed from my eyes. I was so mad at myself for crying as we said goodbye… It was the unexpected but wholly necessary closure of that chapter. Also, I am very thankful to have been surrounded by friends like Cass and Bri that night.
Monday 7/29 – 5:20 am came around much sooner than any of us had been prepared for, neither mentally nor physically. But nevertheless, the alarms sounded and I awoke with quite the swollen pair of eyelids. We hurriedly picked up the apartment and got ourselves out the door flying by the seat of our pants towards Portugal!
Relevant quote for this post: “To be able to part from something, he thought as the train started moving, you had to confront it in a way that created internal distance. You had to turn the unspoken, diffuse self-understanding it had wrapped around you into a clarity that showed what it meant to you. And that meant it had to congeal into something with distinct contours.” – from Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier