Good news about Madrid from our guest writer, Lauren Linzer. We are happy to have her as another expert on The Spain Scoop.
By Lauren Linzer
If you are an American, chances are you are familiar with the popular morning program, The Today Show on NBC. Anchor Matt Lauer has been gallivanting around the world, visiting a different mystery location each day. Each exotic locale is highlighted throughout the morning, giving the day’s show a flavor of the location. Tuesday was one of those rare mornings when I happened to pop on the television bright and early, in time for the big reveal of the day. I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes when suddenly my interest was sparked. Matt appeared to be leaning up again a very familiar lamp post and I could hear the tunes of a nearby street performer’s accordion and Spanish chatter in the background.
Could it be? My absolute favorite city that I have called home for much of the past year? The cameras panned out, and before the name was even uttered I knew this lamp post was in the Plaza Mayor, the centerpiece of the Old Town, in Madrid, Spain. After being back in the United States for nearly two months, I was absolutely delighted, immediately hitting the record button on the DVR to soak up as much Madrid as I could from my North Carolina living room.
Much of the show was cleverly held in the airy Plaza Mayor, a spot used for centuries by Spain for everything from bullfights and public executions, to markets and weddings. For me, this plaza was the highlight of my late day strolls between my full schedule of classes, grabbing a table on the terrace to sip a café con leche (coffee with milk) or casually people-watch.
Flashes of warm memories came flooding in as I watched the footage, including an instant flashback to one specific moment this summer when I enjoyed a late night amble with some of my closest friends. After pausing for a few beats to look at the full moon and enjoy the ambiance, my lovely Portuguese amiga (friend) turned to me and asked, “Aren’t we the luckiest people on earth to get to live here and walk through this very plaza whenever we want?”
Yes we really were, but it doesn’t take a historical plaza to remind me of that fact. Heck, even catching a glimpse on television of the red diamond Metro sign sent a warm fuzzy feeling surging through my body. With that said, I would have never foreseen the good fortune of discovering this hidden gem of Europe if not for a logistical coincidence two years ago. Maybe I am biased toward Madrid because of all the great moments this city has blessed me with, but even a Today Show viewer learning about the city in a few short vignettes cannot deny the unique charm and essence of the Spanish capital.
It has always been a wonder to me that Madrid has managed to fly under the radar as a vacation destination, as it is Europe’s third largest city (behind London and Paris) with over three million people. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that it is perfectly nestled in the center of Spain. Unlike Barcelona, it has no seaside and is often considered a distant second to Spain’s other large city. It also lacks iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Big Ben of London, or the Coliseum in Rome.
But what I discovered through my first brief visit two years ago and then again during the time I spent making a home for myself here, is that the true draw and beauty of Madrid is experiential. A visit to other notable European cities includes a list of sites to be checked off a list; but despite the abundance of its own extraordinary architecture, plazas, palaces, museums and parks, where this city really shines is living like a local.
All it takes is walking through the always bustling Puerta del Sol and getting lost in the tangle of tiny side streets, barhopping around the various barrios (neighborhoods) like La Latina or Malasaña to sample tapas and sip Spanish wine, or sunbathing for hours in the once royal, and now urban oasis that is Retiro Park. The experiences I recall are endless and etched into my memory, constantly reminding me how important it is to stop stressing and enjoy living.
This wonderful city does more than highlight its impressive sites; it infuses itself deep within its visitors and residents, leaving them feeling more relaxed, more carefree, and truly in a Spanish state of mind. Americans were afforded a brief glimpse into the city landscape, learning a few fun facts, and wetting their appetite for Serrano ham or giant stuffed olives. But this barely skims the surface of all this city has to offer. I feel that after all Madrid has done for me in such a short time, I am compelled to share each precious detail of my experience with readers of The Spain Scoop. Besides, there aren’t too many American Madrilenians, so I better spread the word.
Lauren Linzer, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up the day to day grind of corporate sales to embrace life in Spain as an English teacher and travel writer in Madrid. She is the author of Eleven Eleven, a travel blog sharing personal accounts of life on the road and living abroad. Read more about her experiences at: