Just over two years ago, I visited Madrid for the first time and was quick to declare it one of my favorite cities in Europe.
Not only did I thereafter see myself one day living in Spain’s lively capital city, I also came to find I liked it even better than Barcelona, much to my surprise. To be fair, I can’t say I spent enough time in either city to the point where I could navigate on my own and feel consistently safe and confident (like I managed to do in Granada and Sevilla, for example). But needless to say, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to stay in Madrid for a longer period of time.
Meet la Biblioteca Nacional de España (the National Library of Spain, or BNE), my home for the next week. It is here, in these hallowed halls, that I’ll be undertaking the preliminary stages of research for my Master’s thesis in Hispanic Studies through the University of British Columbia.
I’ll admit, I was fairly anxious approaching these majestic steps this morning. Although my thesis supervisor had given me all the instructions I needed to get into the building, get myself a temporary ID, and access the various wings I’d need, I still found myself a little apprehensive. After all, this is what I based my entire trip on: getting a leg up on my thesis research, and doing it in the city where there would be so many resources available to me under one roof.
After all, as I’ve told myself again and again, if I couldn’t find the motivation to research in Madrid, how could I possibly hope to do so back in BC?
Thankfully, everything went as smoothly as it possibly could have. After checking my passport, driver’s license, and the letter my thesis supervisor had written me back in Vancouver requesting that the BNE grant me access to all wings of the library (especially the Sala Cervantina, or the Cervantes wing, home to a huge archive of resources on the author of Spain’s first modern novel, which coincidentally is the focus of my thesis), they issued me a rather official-looking ID, which will provide me access to the BNE and its resources for the entirety of my time here in Madrid.
And maybe it’s just me, but there was something so motivating about studying silently in a GIANT hall with dozens of other students and researchers of all ages, with names like Garcilaso and Lope and Fernando de Rojas plastered in gold on the high walls; it was as if the greats of Spanish literature were cheering me on, just like I’d so naïvely hoped they might 😉
After a decent number of hours in the BNE, getting myself oriented with the help of a colleague of my thesis supervisor, and starting up a list of all the sources I hope to consult in the upcoming days, it seemed only fair to appease my growling stomach with one of Spain’s most iconic plates: churros con chocolate.
It was just as good (if not better) than I remembered, even on a sweltering 32 C/90 F afternoon in Madrid’s bustling centro.
A stroll through Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and probably one of my top favorite spots in Madrid, the Mercado de San Miguel, rounded out my first full day here in Spain. It’s crazy how much you can do in just one day in a city like this; a great deal of the major sites are within walking distance (the Museo del Prado and the Parque del Retiro for example, are only fifteen minutes away from the room I’m renting through Airbnb).
And I’m stoked to report that I feel just as comfortable here in Madrid as I felt last time, if not more so, and full of unbridled excitement for what this next week has in store!