Between the end date of my home stay and start of work I had just over 3 weeks of nothingness waiting for me. By nothingness I mean jam packed weeks that I wanted to fill with as much travelling as I possibly could while also being realistic. The reality is though, I have some insanely amazing friends that enabled me to do more than I could have ever done myself. The day after I left my host mom's house and moved into my own place officially, I had two friends that came to Spain from Florida to visit. They planned the trip around the fact that we knew I wouldn't have work or anything for a few weeks.
Kerry and José came to Spain a few days before I finished my home stay and went to Barcelona. They got back on the 8th of September and we headed to Aranjuez. Kate was moving in that day and we accompanied her on the train and then went our separate ways so we could visit the palace. We weren't able to go inside but the outside itself is incredible. I had been but knew Kerry and José would love it. The next morning we got up early and went to Museo del Prado for the morning. I can't remember much about what was in the museum specifically, because after a while everything becomes a blur. I do know I preferred the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza that I had gone to a week before. Afterwards, we headed to the airport for our flight to Paris. Fast forward a few hours and we were at our Airbnb for the evening. My friend from the Netherlands, Lize, met us at the Airbnb. Luckily she was there to greet us, and had snacks (because my friends are the best)! The Airbnb wasn't the best. We had issues getting in to the building, the host was unresponsive, and the place wasn't very clean. Luckily we really didn't spend much time in there!
On the 10th we saw basically everything! Lize had been to Paris before but only for Disneyland Paris so this was a first for all of us seeing all the touristy sights. We started our day going to the Eiffel Tower. We went to the second floor and not the top because those tickets were gone for the day. I am glad we didn't do the top because you get to see everything better from the second floor but also, the elevator goes at an angle and frankly looked like it would be a bit of a freaky ride! After the Tower we walked to the Louve. We saw the Mona Lisa (which is very small, but I knew this information going in so I wasn't upset about it), and one of my favorite statues- Nike. We saw an insane amount of art and I think we only saw 1/6 of the museum. The place was overwhelmingly large. My favorite part of the Louve wasn't the museum but the gardens and area outside. There were statue gardens, a fountain, hedges, and lawns. It was absolutely gorgeous and I could have spent all day laying in the sun there. We did get lunch and sit ourselves down to refuel before we walked to Notre Dame and then to the Arc de Triomphe. We also made a pit stop at the Disney Store, because we are all slightly obsessed.
I could go into a lot of detail about each thing in Paris, but I'm going to summarize and say I loved it. I didn't really have high expectations going in. I know its a huge tourist destination but it never totally appealed to me. I am so glad I went because I loved the streets and the old buildings, I loved the food (probably because it was a change from Madrid and there were a lot more options for me). I loved how I never once had a language barrier problem since everyone we encountered spoke English. There wasn't really anything not to love! Oh wait, I have one thing... We couldn't figure out how to get out of the metro any time we took it. Our tickets never worked. Small price to pay for the day we all had.
The next 2 days in Paris were dedicated to Disneyland! I wish I had kept better notes about Disney, but I didn't make notes of anything. First off, José and Kerry work at Disney and were able to get us all in for free with guest passes or this would NEVER have been my reality. Kerry, José and I all met while working at Disney together and Lize is a total fanatic. Needless to say, we had the best time! Lize was like our local guide since she had been before. She knew which rides were worth the waits and where to go first. It was perfect to have her there. Upon walking into the park for the first time, Kerry cried and I almost did too. It was so special. We were actually standing in Disneyland Paris looking at Sleeping Beauty's Castle on Main Street. It just didn't get better. The rest of the day we spent hopping from land to land, ride to ride. We tried to do as many new things as we could and also do some nostalgic rides that they don't have in Disney World anymore. I can't explain how happy we all were, but trust me, if we were anywhere but Disney we would have made some people uncomfortable. The second day Lize left early while José, Kerry and I went to spend the morning at Disney again. We soaked in as much as we could before heading to the airport for our flight back to Madrid.
The next day I had a mandatory orientation for Madrid and went out with friends from CIEE for lunch to TakoAway. Its as close to Chipotle as you'll find here and I loved it. Then I met up with Kerry and José to give them the tour of my favorite thing in Madrid: Retiro Park. We spent the afternoon walking around and then headed back to the Airbnb. The last real day of the visit we took a day trip to Segovia. It was a very quaint little place. We were able to go to the palace and see one of the inspirations for Cinderella's Castle. We toured the inside and walked around the town a little bit. We saw the aqueduct and ate lunch. It was a gorgeous day outside for lots of walking and sightseeing. The following day José and Kerry had an early flight so we said our goodbyes that evening and I headed home.
I couldn't have been more excited to have some familiar faces come to visit me/meet up with me. It was exciting to show them around what I know of Madrid and to also explore a lot of new things around the area I had yet to see. There aren't a lot of people who would fly across the Atlantic to spend a week here with me so it really meant a lot. I couldn't think of a better way to spend my first week of freedom.