I can confidently say that studying Spanish in Madrid was the best decision of my life! There was so much to experience in this miraculous city that I found it difficult to decide what my after-class activities would be every afternoon! Thankfully, though, everything (including the school) was easily accessible by the very efficient Metro system in Madrid.
One of the first few days that I was in Madrid I decided to enjoy the beautiful weather outside by exploring the park that is just minutes from the school… El Parque del Buen Retiro (Park of the Pleasant Retreat).
This park was magnificent – I spent so much time there! It had everything imaginable to enjoy a sunny afternoon…from beautiful gardens and peaceful little café’s to artistic, amusing street performers and a pond filled with people paddling rowboats. It was the perfect retreat for me because I would go jogging there in the cool of the early morning. In the afternoons I could chill out there and sip on a refreshing drink under the café terraces. One day I even had my fortune told in the park (which left me feeling quite optimistic afterward).
Another place I loved to hang out was in the very heart of the city – La Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun). It is only a short, leisurely walk to culturally rich venues such as the Prado Museum, the Queen Sofia Museum, the Royal Palace, or to one of many bars or restaurants in the surrounding area. It is also a fantastic place to meet up with friends in front of Madrid’s emblem, El Oso y El Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree), a beautifully sculpted bronze statue in the center of the square.
I was even able to experience the excitement of New Year’s Eve here on December 31st, 2007…the square became lively with neon lights, noisemakers, and the loud cheers of thousands of people packed together anxiously awaiting the New Year.
I was used to the traditional “Ball Drop” from Times Square in New York City. I had no idea what to expect, but my Spanish friends guaranteed a unique experience on New Year’s Eve in La Puerta del Sol. With just a few minutes before the New Year, my friend handed me 12 grapes. He told me to eat one for each of the 12 rings of the bell from the Puerta del Sol clock tower. It was no easy task… and I unfortunately couldn’t muster the speedy chewing necessary to succeed. Thanks to my fortune teller in El Parque del Buen Retiro, though, I foresaw a prosperous New Year
The celebration of the New Year was a great way for my unforgettable experience to end. For me, studying at the Madrid school was the perfect way to practice (and improve) my Spanish, meet people from all over the world, and enjoy a “pleasant retreat” to a remarkable city.