Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Week 3: Six Things I Learned This Week in Spain

Now that I've been in Spain for three weeks, a bit of the novelty has worn off. While I'm still just as amazed by all the beautiful architecture, sunsets over the mountains and Madrid skyline, and deep history behind so much of what I've seen and done, I'm starting to get tired of the routine I've made for myself. I spend about three hours commuting to the city center and back every day, and even though I try to do three new things each day, I still end up in the same parts of the city. I've done nearly everything on Trip Advisor, and this coming week, I'm going to make a bigger effort to go beyond the tourist attractions and see more of what makes Madrid amazing. Here's what I learned this week:

1. Sunburn is real. For about two weeks, my skin has been unusually dry. I tried drinking more water and applying lotion more regularly but nothing worked. It took the skin on my arm to begin peeling for me to finally realize that my skin isn't just dry, it's sunburnt. While most people are used to this, since I'd never had sunburn before (ever), I didn't recognize what the hell my skin was doing. In the three weeks I've been here, I've definitely gotten a shade or two darker but it's hilarious to see that after years of spending summers at the beach or in India, all it took was wandering in Madrid to make my skin burn.
{Templo de Debod}
2. I need to stop spending so much money on food. Inspired by Chelsea Fagan's TFD, I've been keeping track of all I've been spending in the Notes app on my phone and one day, I decided to log it all into a spreadsheet (it's amazing what you can do when school and internships don't take up all your time). I included columns for item purchased, where it was bought, the cost, and what category it falls into: food, clothing, or travel. When I finished logging everything in, I noticed that while I've spent more money overall on travel, most items I purchased were food. It's one thing to grab a sandwich for lunch, but logging in my purchases made me realize how much I could cut back on unnecessary purchases like bubble tea, coffee, and pastries. (I say this now, but I know that when I walk into Sol tomorrow I'll be telling myself that life is too short to not splurge on a napolitano de chocolate.)
{Plaza de España}
3. Speaking of which, you can get Tex-Mex in Spain. I went to Toledo on Sunday with some friends and we stopped at a Tako-Away for lunch. The restaurant is a chain that I've seen elsewhere in Madrid so it's not anywhere close to authentic, but it's definitely a healthier alternative to Taco Bell. I absolutely love Tex-Mex and was surprised to see it available outside of the US.
4. I also need to stop traveling every weekend. Last weekend I went to León, Oviedo, and Gijón, and this weekend I went to Segovia and Toledo. Five cities in two weekends is not cheap you guys. The money spent on bus fares, food, water, and souvenirs add up and unless you're on a day trip, you have to factor in hostels as well. I'm going to spend this next weekend in Madrid and finally explore el Rastro.
{view of Cathedral de la Almudena from el Palacio Real}
5. The Royal Palace is amazing. My friend Carly and I went inside el Palacio Real this week and it did not disappoint. My visit to Versailles last summer was a bit overwhelming; I was tired after a commute out of Paris, stressed about fitting everything into our last day in France, it was rainy outside, and every room was crowded with visitors. In comparison, going inside el Palacio Real was amazing. There were fewer people, but everything was just as beautiful. The only downside was that we weren't allowed to take pictures for the majority of the tour. If you're in Madrid, I definitely recommend a visit to the Palace.
{Carly and me outside el Palacio Real}
6. Being an au pair allows you to meet the coolest people. Madrid has so many au pairs, especially over the summer, and it is so incredibly easy to make new friends. Before coming here, I was unnecessarily worried about meeting people and having friends to travel and explore with, but after three short weeks I have friends who I see fairly regularly and yet I still meet new people all the time. Just this week, I met a fellow American from Chicago and we had a great conversation about American politics, the endless differences between here and home, and more. Likewise, the people I've met from all around the world are great as well; it's amazing to be reminded how easy it is to connect with people whose lives and backgrounds are different from yours, and I know that if it weren't for this au pair experience, I never would have met them.
Since I'll be in Madrid next weekend I'd love some recommendations! Is there anything you think I should do or see? Let me know in the comments below.
~ V
Read also: Week 1, Week 2


  1. Hey Virali loving your posts and obsessed with your photo! I thought (and you may have thought this already) you should go to a Real Madrid fútbol game. That would be an experience. Can't wait to read more! :)

    1. Thanks so much Danielle! That's a great idea, I'll look into going to a game soon :)