Sooooo… I just experienced one of the best solo travel adventures of my life. Even though I spent six incredible months in Tokyo and this one was only 5 days, it could easily compete with it. Like I always say, the main thing about solo travel is not the time you spend in a country but the encounters you make there.
I went to Madrid to live a full cultural immersion with Apple Languages.
A welcoming host family + Spanish courses in the center of the city + enough free time to visit it = the perfect recipe to learn Spanish under the best circumstances.
This trip was one of the few times I hesitated to take my flight to come back to France… and it was only after 2 days. This is classic when you paid your round trip flight 30 euros and you know you can easily find another one.
Only taking my backpack (’cause I’m a clothes folder ya know), after a Toulouse to Madrid flight and a bus ride, I managed to find my host’s house. My host was the cutest abuelita I’ve ever met (just after my own abuelita ofc). My first interaction with her was through the intercom when I rang to open the main door. She said something in Spanish that I didn’t understand, so I just answer ‘Hola, soy Raida’ (I’m Raida) and quickly got inside the building.
cue: elevator music.
She opened the door, and this was the first time we saw how each other looked! Half my size, wearing an apron and glasses, with a very neat haircut, she welcomed me with a coffee and butter toast. She showed me my private room: a desk, a closet, a cute window with a view of the courtyard – #winning!
It was lovely. We had our first long conversation in the kitchen, then in the living room, then in the kitchen again… hours and hours of conversations are the best.
You can’t be more lucky to have a very talkative host, it’s the best way to progress supa fast. Ugh, but I was so exhausted from my 5 am flight, and I wanted to go to sleep. But, I didn’t want to be rude, so I ended up falling asleep on a chair.
She left me there, like an exhausted shipwrecked whale.
I gave up on sleep to take 5 am cheap flights.
I woke up in time for dinner.
Abuelita was aware of the fact that I only eat fish – not meat – so she cooked me a hake fillet with potatoes. We spent the whole evening talking, and it was delightful. This abuelita was serving me culture, gossip, slangs… everything I needed to know in Spanish! I was already practicing, learning loads of vocabulary, and plugging my brain to the Spanish channel before next day’s classes.
The first day of school. I woke up quite early to be sure not to be late (as usual). My abuelita was already awake, had turned on the heater in the bathroom, and prepared a coffee for me. Spanish coffee is next-level strong. I was a little bit embarrassed but I was like, okay, this is the cutest thing, and I could only thank her!
The school was only a 20-min walk from my host’s house. Even though I paid for a weekly unlimited pass for public transport (35 euros, which is 13 euros more expensive than Paris, so you know), it was good to have my first impression of the city using my legs.
I arrived at the Estudio Sampere school, and I had an interview with one of the teachers to evaluate my level of Spanish. After this, I was assigned to B1-level classes and they introduced me to a few students and the first-period teacher. Those courses are basically made up of a lot of talking, with a lot of vocabulary, grammar, videos and audio comprehension, and… homework! But fun ones, trust me, I had to make up my horoscope to practice future conjugation – how cool is that?
Spanish lessons were only in the morning, so I had my entire afternoon to enjoy the city. I spent the first two days visiting it and eating bocadillos de calamares (squid sandwiches) by myself. As a French guy (and like a lot of people around the world, I think), I usually eat around 12:30 pm. In Spain, lunchtime is around 2 pm, which, for me, is a good and an annoying thing at the same time. It’s good because when I’m already hungry, open restaurants are usually not crowded and I’m the first to take a seat. But it can be annoying because a lot of them open up very late as well, which means that when you really want to try a specific one, you’ll have to starve first.
I met this hilarious girl from London, UK, and it was one of those encounters I’m specifically traveling for. I was planning to speak exclusively in Spanish during this trip, but you knoooow: fate. Actually, English is not my mother tongue, so, technically, I’m still practicing something as soon as I’m not talking French. We visited the Malasaña district (and not Lasagna district like my autocorrect was trying to make me say), went to a few second-hand shops and finished the day by eating the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.
As you might have guessed, I’m a huge fan of food. So, it was non-negotiable to come back to France without learning how to cook a few traditional dishes. I asked my host to teach me how to make tortillas and paellas. That’s how we added cooking lessons to our daily 3-hour conversations. Someone not-that-famous once said: ‘Become a Spanish abuelita, and Spain will have no secrets for you.”
I totally agree, especially since I’m the one who said it.
My formation was complete. After 4 days, I was already feeling comfortable with speaking basic Spanish, I was able to cook Spanish dinner, I visited the more famous, as well as the lesser known places in Madrid. The only thing missing was experiencing the nightlife. I spent my second-to-last night with my British gal friend. We started in a bar where we joined an international meeting (another place where you’ll be speaking more English than Spanish, but that’s totally fine). We met cool people, with different backgrounds, ages, countries… basically, the best way to travel without moving.
After a few pints, the lightweight that I am was already a little borracho (drunk) and ready for the club. We spend the whole night in La Kama, a bar for reggaeton fans, in La Chueca district. We were about to do the classic bar + club but the 20 euros entrance made us head to a bakery with 2.90 euros tuna sandwiches, playing all of Beyonce’s albums, and it was everything I could’ve asked for.
I came back home at 5 am with a 7 euro Uber, slept 2 hours and enjoyed my last day of school.
It was very hard to say goodbye. I had only been there for only 5 days, but it was such an intense experience in the best way! I experienced so many encounters and memories that I had the feeling that I stayed there for one month. I was tired from my last night there, but I tried to capture every last moment with people from all around the world that I might never see again, or at least in a very very long time.
The more I travel, the more I think the world is small. Cheap planes, people opening their house to other people, video calls, access to language courses on the Internet or through agencies like Apple Languages. Earth is still the same size, but time and space have changed so much.
You can travel further or faster, and communicate with people from all over the world even though your mother tongues are different. It has never been so easy to be close to people who are far away, physically or spiritually.
This is why I left all those wonderful people with an “Hasta la próxima” rather than an “Adiós” and took my flight back to France.
If you’re trying to have some cool experiences abroad, use the discount code “APPLEGO” for Apple Language courses. <3
We’re getting closer to each other.