After months and months of applying to programs, working, obtaining my visa etc., arriving in Madrid didn’t seem real. CIEE accepted me to be a language assistant for the year in Collado Villalba, Madrid at a bilingual primary school. This is my second full year in Spain, my first being in Sevilla for my senior year of college (also with CIEE).
Upon our arrival, CIEE met us at the airport and whisked us off to the city where we would have a few days worth of orientation meetings and activities. Despite being dead tired, we were all excited to meet one another and I finally reunited with my friend, Martine, whom I met in Sevilla when we studied abroad! Amongst orientation, we were able to explore a bit of the city. One of my favorite places already is Parque del Buen Retiro, or Retiro Park. I had briefly visited before with Javi, but that was in the middle of winter. All of the trees and flowers look beautiful this time of year, I can only imagine how glorious the park is during the spring.
Perhaps Retiro’s main attraction is the estanque or lake. Here, you can rent a small rowboat and admire other visitors, turtles, and ducks. The massive structure and focal point of the lake is a monument dedicated to Alfonso XII.
Another popular attraction is the Palacio de Cristal or Crystal Palace. The structure looks as if it came straight out of a fairy tale. Originally in 1887, the palace housed a winter garden with exotic flowers. Nowadays, the Centro de Arte Reina Sophia uses it for temporary art exhibitions.
Since 1868, madrileños and people from all over the world have enjoyed this oasis of a park in the middle of a bustling city. It is a must-see for any visitor to Spain!