Thursday, 29 January 2015

My Trip to Madrid

On Saturday 10th January, myself and two other girls from my school year, Sarah and Deirbhile, travelled to Madrid in order to carry out a week of work experience. We were spending the week in a primary school, observing the teacher, helping the children with their English and getting involved in the general classroom activities. I had been in Madrid once before during an exchange programme in June 2013 and I was so excited to return!
2013 Exchange
When we landed we were bombarded with hugs and kisses on both cheeks, which immediately made us feel so welcome. My partner this time was called Bea. I had known her before because she had taken part in the same exchange programme as the partner of one of my close friends. (For anyone wondering, I didn't stay with the same partner as before because she moved to Tenerife last November and I wasn't allowed to carry out my work experience there). It was so good to be reunited! Bea introduced me to her parents and younger brother. I have to admit I had been feeling pretty nervous but Bea and her family made me feel right at ease.

After arriving at Bea's house and getting unpacked and settled in, we went out for dinner. We went with Sarah and her partner, María (whom I also knew from the exchange), and their two families to a really nice restaurant. The chips were absolutely amazing! It was a really good night but the only thing was that Sarah and I were so tired from travelling. Sarah even fell asleep at the table for a few minutes!

Fortunately we got a lie-in on Sunday morning! In the afternoon, María had homework to do so Bea and her family took both Sarah and I on a mini tour of Madrid. We saw the Palacio Real, Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor before going into a few shops.
Palacio Real
Building housing the offices of the Community of Madrid in la Puerta del Sol
Sarah, me and Bea in la Puerta del Sol
At about 3pm, we went home and had a lovely lunch of a sort of tomato sauce with tuna and rice, whilst watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (in English with Spanish subtitles). After that, we met up with Sarah and María to do some serious shopping in the amazing Gran Vía Avenue. The sales were on and there were so many great bargains. I wish I hadn't had a weight allowance for my suitcase because I would have bought so much! (Maybe it's a good thing I had a weight allowance because I wouldn't have been able to control myself...)

On Monday, we started our work experience in the school and it was great! I was really nervous at the beginning but all of the pupils and teachers were so welcoming! When classes finished at 5pm, Bea brought Sarah and I back to her house for 'la merienda,' which is an afternoon snack. An hour or two later, María came round to Bea's house and the four of us went for a walk alongside the Madrid River. It was so still and peaceful.

Both Bea and María had a language exam on Thursday so on Tuesday after school, María's mum collected Sarah and I and took us to the beautiful Campo del Moro. It is situated in front of the Palacio Real and the views of the palace are absolutely breath-taking!
 
On our way to a shopping centre, we saw one of the many monuments ('puertas') of Madrid. This one was la Puerta de San Vicente, a great monument in the middle of a roundabout opposite el Príncipe Pío, which is both a shopping centre and a metro station. It contains well-known stores like Zara, H&M, Stradivarius and Mango and also smaller boutiques. A turquoise notebook caught my eye in a shop called Natura because it said 'Hoy va a ser tu día' (meaning 'today is going to be your day'). I'm a total sucker for cute quotes and sayings so I decided to buy it.
After school on Wednesday, Bea brought Sarah and I back to her house for la merienda. At about 6pm, María's mum arrived and both her and Bea's mum took Sarah and I to el Museo Nacional del Prado, which was amazing. It's a huge state of the art building with so many paintings inside by various artists such as Goya, Tintoretto and Velázquez, to name but a few. I found it so interesting seeing so many of the paintings and finding out about the context behind them. It was just unforunate that it closed at 8 so we only actually got about an hour and a half in it. I'll definitely be going back if I get the chance to return to Madrid! Afterwards, we went to the huge Atocha station. Our little train stations in Ireland don't even begin compare with that one! It's massive!!!
El Museo del Prado
On Thursday after school, María and Bea took Sarah and I to the Parque del Retiro, a huge park in Madrid. Considering it was winter, it still looked really nice. As I was walking, though, I could imagine just how beautiful it must look in the summer with flowers on the trees and the sun shining.

In the park
Inside a little exhibition in the park
After walking around the park for about 2 hours, we went to a three-floor Abercrombie and Fitch store. It had so many nice things but was just a bit too far out of my budget, unfortunately! On the walk home we saw the incredible and I mean incredible city hall of Madrid. I couldn't get over how huge it was! It was all lit up and looked so beautiful!
Madrid City Hall (Sorry for the awful quality - I had to take this on my phone)



On Friday afternoon, Bea and María had planned for us to go to la Puerta del Sur, where they said was a huge shopping centre. However, their plan didn't exactly go to plan as after we had travelled about 7 stops in the metro, Bea realised we were on the wrong line and were travelling in the complete opposite direction! We laughed for ages when she told us! Both she and María told Sarah and I that to go back to la Puerta del Sur would take over an hour, so instead we decided to go to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid. We didn't actually go inside it, instead we just took pictures together outside it. It's so big! (I know I've said that so many times in this post, but everything in Madrid is just so big compared to Ireland, haha).
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Again, sorry for the awful quality)
 After stopping in a humongous Corte Inglés store to have a look, we walked back to el Principe Pío, the shopping centre we were at on Tuesday. We did a bit more shopping and I bought an adorable set of six pairs of earrings from a shop called Six. Then for our last supper we had a very traditional Spanish meal of Burger King! We spent a good two hours in the restaurant chatting and laughing (a LOT!). I couldn't remember the last time I'd laughed that hard.
Earrings I bought

On Saturday morning, we left Madrid. Our flight was early so we had to be at the airport for half 8. This didn't fare well with Bea and I as we had stayed up until 2:45 that morning, Skype'ing my partner from the last exchange (her and Bea are best friends). But we soldiered on. After checking in, it was time to say goodbye to our friends and their families, which was so sad. I even started crying!
Ew @ my face - I'm such an ugly crier, hahah
I had such an amazing week. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life, living in Madrid for a week and even working in a Spanish primary school! If you ever get the chance to take part in an exchange programme or something similar, no matter where it is, I urge you to take it! You will make some of the best memories through it, because I know I have.

I have completely fallen in love with Madrid all over again and have made friends there that I know I will have for life. I can't wait to go back!

- Caoimhe x

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