Adios Madrid: A Year in the Spanish Capital vs. Spanish Village

One year ago, I said goodbye to the tiny farming village of Fregenal de la Sierra, my first home in Spain. Needless to say, reflecting on this past year in the bustling capital of Madrid is a much, much different story.

I remember saying goodbye to “my pueblo” like it was yesterday: tears, abrazos, goodbye parties in el campo, and RECKLESS amounts of jamón.

spanish village

The good life.

Saying goodbye, or should I say hasta luego, to Madrid was different to say the least.

Now, don’t get me wrong! My year in Madrid was an amazing one. I made lifelong friends from all over the world, discovered some AMAZING hidden gems throughout the city, and even established my own tapas tour business!

Success? I think so!

However, I can’t help but to reflect on the difference between my “goodbyes”.

In Madrid, I said goodbye to the waiters of my favorite tapas bars. The friendly, charismatic crew at Baco y Beto, my go-to neighborhood tapas bar and “kitchen away from my kitchen,” who became some of my closest friends (shout out to Roberto!). And of course, the big, loud, jolly, mustached- Asturian men at Casa Parrondo, who would routinely greet me with a big hug and bigger hunk of Asturian cheese.

Good bye

In Fregenal, I said goodbye to the families who took me in as their own. The families who invited me to their houses my first week in the pueblo, without knowing a single thing about me, nor being able to communicate with me given my NON-EXISTENT level of Spanish (needless to say, I learned fast). The families who force fed me legs upon legs of jamón ’cause “it’s good for me”; who took me to the doctor when I was sick (…probably from too much jamón).

spanish village

In Madrid, I said goodbye to a place. I said goodbye to my street, my favorite coffee shop, and the metro stop I frequented every day.

metro opera

In Fregenal, I said goodbye to a culture. I said goodbye to a way of life, where people take things slow and enjoy every day as it comes. Where people take a mid-day break from any and every obligation they might have, to eat a huge “comida” with friends and family. (Long live the siesta!!)

spanish village

In Madrid, I said goodbye to my international friends in English.

Goodbye friends of the United Nations!

In Fregenal, I said adios to my pueblo friends in Spanish.

spanish village

My point?

Looking back at my two extraordinarily different experiences in Spain, both unique and special in their own way, it made me realize…

My experience in Madrid, while a new, exciting adventure everyday, was a surface one. If you wanna really puncture a culture and immerse yourself in the roots of a country, ya’ gotta ditch the cities.

In Madrid, I got to know a bustling, international, cosmopolitan European metropolis.

madrid bustling

In Fregenal, I got to know a language, a culture, and a community of huge-hearted people.

spanish village

I never thought I’d say this, but looks like this city girl has turned into a full-on country bumpkin’…

So, for all you people looking to move abroad. Here’s some food for thought…

If you are looking for an abroad experience full of non-stop fun, fiestas and English-speaking international friendships, pick a city! Any city. (Well, not any...) If you are looking to truly immerse yourself in a new culture, take the first bus out from the international airport and find your magical lil’ village (preferably, where the jamón flows like water). The heart of a country and the soul of culture reside in those tiny towns you have to squint to see on a map.

spanish village

They’re easy to miss, but impossible to forget.

As for my next year? Drum roll please…

Take GINORMOUS Madrid + tiny Fregenal and divide by two. Find the average mean. What’ya got? A mid-size, magical city, that just so happens to be my favorite city in all of Spain…

Hola Sierra Nevadas,hola Alhambra...hola GRANADA!!

GRANADA!

Well, the math might be a little off. But you guys get what I’m going for… My next Spainventure? A year in hippie-vibin’, flamenco-dancin’, tea-drinkin, tapa-eatin’ Granada!!! I can only imagine what this year’s Spainxperience has in store for me. Adios Madrid, holaaaaa Granada!!!

Which abroad experience do you prefer, city or village? Comment below and let’s chat about it!

11 thoughts on “Adios Madrid: A Year in the Spanish Capital vs. Spanish Village

  1. Great post and I totally understand what you mean. I’m Danish but have lived and currently live Madrid, which is a huge cultural contrast from my hometown in Denmark. But I have also tried to live in very small village on the westcoast of Wales, which was a very different experience and unique in another way. I love both city- and countrylife, but feel as I get older that the quietness and de-stress’ness of smaller places attract me a lot more than it used to!

    1. Thanks for sharing! I can definitely relate to all of that. It’s great to have both experiences, as each will enrich you in a different way! But yes, in the end country life has its own unique, special charm :)

  2. Really enjoyed reading this! I was raised a country bumpkin in NorCal, so it’s funny I find myself digging the international, big cities. Sounds like Granada will be an amazing fit for you :-)

  3. Really interesting to read. My dad is from a pueblo in Galicia and I 100% get you, my little pueblo is my heart!!! I lived in San Sebastián for over a year and I loved that it was a small-city, you still know everyone but it’s not overwhelming. I’ve recently been thinking about moving to Madrid, but it may be different for me, as I have a lot of friends who are actual Madrileños. So excited to see where Granada takes you (although I am a Northern girl at heart!) I go back to Spain in 2 weeks for 16 days and I CANNOT WAIT – being in NYC is draining, stay as long as you can!

    Un beso enorme!

  4. Granada it’s one of the prettiest cities in the entire world, you’ll love it and the people are truly remarcable, but you should try the rest of the country. Take a trip to the mediterranean, we do incredible rice meals and the beaches are awesome.

  5. Granada? Good God, I’m from there. If you need some advice you now have my facebook name! Me and my girlfriend would be very happy if we see you in some tapas bar ;). A big hug from a fan of your blog since one year ago!

  6. You’re heading for Granada? Thank goodness! I was worried you were giving up Spain for North Jersey. I am looking forward to your posts from the south of Spain. John Reid (NJ)

    1. No, no John…I did everything in my power to stay! Just so happens I found a way to stay in my fave southern city :) However, I will be back in NJ for September! With a return ticket back to Spain…fewf! Stay posted!

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