Our Gap Year in Madrid, Spain: October

It’s been one month since our big decision to move our family to Madrid, Spain! After arriving with just a few days left in September, we wanted to let a full month pass before making our next update on life here. As we closed the chapter of our first week living in an Airbnb in Manzanres el Real, we settled into our new home in Valdebebas.

We had found this rental community online while still living in the US. It seemed to offer just what we were looking for and with no one else really responding to inquiries/a heavy language gap, we booked a rental at Skypark. This apartment here is tiny – 900 sq feet or so – and it’s a bit of a squeeze, but we’re glad that we found a place to call home and settle for now. Calling Madrid home is exactly what has begun to happen our first month here. The first few weeks were difficult, especially on Logan and Griffin, while the reality set in that we no longer had immediate access to greenery and grass. The urban type living arrangement was something that Landon and I immediately took a liking to, but Logan and Griffin weren’t as sure. Now that it has been a full month, all four of us feel settled and have peace with the urban lifestyle for now. We keep reminding our boys, and each other, that this is our temporary home. We are so grateful to have made the decision to keep our home base back in the US as a safe haven to fall back on when the time is right to return.

We spent a lot of days in October heading to IKEA to fill our tiny apartment which surprisingly cost a lot for outfitting such a little space! Ha! We began over the month to find comfy bedding, cozy accents like candles and the boys got creative freedom for their room, which included neon lights galore. Slowly but surely, this little place began to feel homey. We discovered some local parks (the second biggest in Madrid!) walking distance to us and the boys secured their favorite purchases yet, electronic scooters which here they call patinettes electronico, and the boys couldn’t more smitten to have these.

The biggest blessing to our family living in Madrid has been our ACSI school. We didn’t fully know what to expect when we joined LIFE International School, but we truly love it immediately like family. The small class size, loving teachers and staff and intercultural environment have been the best thing for our family. Every day, our kids tell us something they loved about school and they are full of so much joy. We are so grateful to have not only found this school but also that we get to serve there this year. There are some amazing staff that we work with that make us smile. After not working out of the house for eleven year, it sure was an adjustment to get up and be dressed in the mornings, but I’m so grateful we said yes to this gap year. We absolutely love serving at their school! Landon especially is making fast friends and frequently hangs out with Victor in his class.

We started to take many car day trips around Madrid. To help escape the hustle and bustle, we decided to start by exploring some of the nearby cities that Spain is known for including Segovia. This beautiful historic city was our first visit and we loved seeing the history, the aqueducts and the cathedral. While here we also found a home church, Hillsong Madrid, which is less than ten minutes from Valdebebas. The church is modern and similar to NewSpring and their translation services through audio help us follow along. We get to attend with a few ladies who work at our school.

We switched this month from the beloved manual car to an automatic which meant I got to drive again! We fell into a good routine of spending Friday nights dining out at a new restaurant in Valdebebas that we could talk to from our apartment. I also started to see the major joy in having an Aldi supermarket directly under our apartment, especially with an unexpected cold front coming in with lots of rain. Having access to a grocery store without ever going outside has been one of my favorite parts of living here!

Griffin and I got a solo day adventuring together with Landon feeling under the weather. As Landon fought off an illness, we decided to make the best of the day and we headed to see the beautiful Plaza de Cibeles in downtown Madrid. This was our first time attempting to take the Renfe train from Valdebebas to downtown and it was a success! We got to enjoy the Transhumance Festival, an annual festival where local Spanish sheep are herded from the north of Spain down through Madrid into the south for winter. It was such a cool event.

We snuck in a few slow Saturday mornings, fell into a good routine and took off for another local adventure. This time we chose Rascafria, a mountain village about one hour away from Madrid. This charming mountain town gave us all the feels! We saw springs of fresh water, waterfalls, quaint restaurants and views of the mountains. We loved it so much. One other weekend in October we enjoyed a slower pace with choosing to order several items off of the menu at a local pastelaria (bakery). Santa Gloria did not disappoint!

One of the most fun benefits of expat life has been meeting others in our similar situation. We connected in-person this month with the sweetest family who moved to Madrid from Texas. They included us on their fall baseball league, which was unheard of in Spain before then. Thinking that the bros would only be able to play football in Spain, we were so excited to get them into baseball to help them transition during the move. Weeknight practices were a great way for them to feel a sense of normalcy and routine.

One challenge of expat life is paperwork in a different language. We had so many setbacks with our bank here in Spain as well as delays in setting up phone numbers, etc. We were thankful to have great help at our school to help bridge the language barrier, as completing legal paperwork to rent a home or lease a car was overwhelming in Spanish.

We ended October with an unexpected Halloween celebration for Griffin while Landon was at his friend’s house for the evening. We noticed many trick-or-treaters visiting the local shoppes of Valdebebas, so Griffin threw on his baseball uniform and went out, too. He had the best time doing another activity that felt like home to him.

One month in and we are loving Spain. Logan and I have fallen into a great routine now of working together, working out together and making it work in a small apartment together! We’re getting the hang of it all. I was told once by someone that Madrid is a slow-burn – that it takes a while for you to warm up to it, but when you do you love it. And that is exactly how we feel. Madrid is really growing on us!

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