We arrived late afternoon and noticed how different it was from the UK before even getting off the plane.  It had been a while since we’d last seen the sun still shining after 5 p.m. The ride over to the hotel had us gawking at the marvelous city.  Seeing Madrid made me realize that love at first sight exists.

We went out almost immediately to get a feel of the real Madrid, shying away from the busy, tourist-filled streets and venturing down alleyways and back streets.

The city was peaceful and warm even at night, giving a strange sense of security. The shadows emphasized every accent of the buildings, revealing European-styled architecture, yet standing out with their covering of white paint.  Had it been a bright day, we would have been blinded.

After having dined in a typical Spanish restaurant, in order to get the full feel of the country, the first night ended on a lovely note.  I had never awaited the next morning with such anticipation. 

We had an early start, wanting to see as much of the city as possible.  Our first destination was the Retire Park, a wonder of its own.  Even on a cold winter morning it drew us, leaving us wishing to return to see it in full bloom.

Near the centre of the park we found the Crystal Palace.  Constructed with glass walls and a shocking white floor, it was both relaxing and mentally exhausting.  Sitting on chairs, hearing the sound installations and then opening our eyes, was an experience I cannot put into words. 

Our next stop was Plaza Mayor.  It had a typical central European plan.  For a second, I thought I was back home in Italy, yet everything was so Spanish.  The shops, cafes, even the way people interacted.  Having lived in the UK for the past couple of years I’d forgotten the greetings I used in my own country, which were apparently used in Spain as well. 

The Scholars’ Dinner was very pleasant and enjoyable, and a chance to interact with students from the other schools in the King’s Group, and to compare the differences.

Just as I expected, the next day felt gloomy, not only because of the weather.  The trip was too short, but memorable nonetheless.  And it was raining, as if to say Madrid would miss us too.