Hiking across northern Spain on the Camino del Norte and the Gran Recorrido

Hiking across northern Spain on the Camino del Norte and the Gran Recorrido


I imagine Madrid is like many other large cities, though I wouldn’t know, since the only other big city I have lived in is Boston, which to me just feels like home, and not much of a city at all. When I lived in Madrid from 2007 to 2008, working as a Language and Culture Assistant, I found it alternately fun, stressful, exhilarating, and unforgiving. It also felt especially difficult to be a foreigner there. Even though I tried to fit in, and I had studied and practiced Spanish enough to speak more or less fluently, people were still dismissive of me when I interacted with them in public. But this was far from the case with my coworkers, who often went out of their way to make me feel welcome and to engage in conversation.

The spires of La Catedral de la Almudena

The spires of La Catedral de la Almudena

But I was thinking of none of these things when I arrived in Madrid. I was only looking forward to a week of visiting friends and former students and colleagues before heading north to begin my hike (which you can read about on the About and Itinerary pages). My friends Elisa and Luis had graciously offered to put me up for the week, and I was so grateful to have a place to call home while I visited.

My first order of business was to find a way to get a Spanish carrier for an iphone 3G, which a friend had given me for my trip. That was the last thing I accomplished during the week, and in the process, I had to delete the contents of the phone, including a well-planned music collection for my trip! But I saved myself the 30 euros the electronics stores were trying to charge me to unlock my phone, so it was worth it.

The Cortylandia Christmas display at El Corte Inglés

The Cortylandia Christmas display at El Corte Inglés, near Sol

Between multiple visits to mobile phone shops and internet cafes, I reconnected with many people, and spent much of the week eating at favorite restaurants (like La Montería!), wandering around Retiro (the old neighborhood) and Chueca, and weaving my way through the holiday shopping crowds in and around La Puerta del Sol.

It was amazing to see former students. The same students who seemed so young four years ago are now in the last year of high school, or in university studying to become engineers and doctors and all kinds of impressive professions! I was so thankful that people took the time to come out and see me. I was equally appreciative that I was allowed to give a lesson at the school I had worked at when I lived there. And of course I indoctrinated the students about all the great things in the state of Massachusetts, especially lobsters!

It was a great week of reuniting with people who were an important part of my life in Madrid, but it was also sad to say goodbye again. If there was one feeling that stood out at the end of the week, it was the feeling that I had made an impact on people’s lives, which was both humbling and gratifying. But this visit also made me feel like, at some point during the year I lived in Madrid, I had become a Madrileño. So, after seven days, and despite my reluctance to leave, I rode out on a bus to Pamplona, knowing that I would miss this city, and feeling like I had earned the right to call it mine.

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8 years ago 0 Comments Short URL

Author: Dan

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