August, 2012 Madrid, Spain. Age 38

I went to Madrid in what most say is the worst month to go- August. It had been a few years since I had been in Spain’s capital and it had truly evolved since I last lived there. It was no longer the ghost city I once youthfully roamed in late August of 1994. In the initial stages of planning my 2012 trip, I was concerned that many travel sites warn you not to go in August. There aren’t many places with central air, many Spaniards take month long vacations so nothing is really open, the very few restaurants open have tourists swarming them like red ants on a mound, and you’ll literally melt liked the wicked witch of the west whenever you go out doors so don’t bother. I didn’t have the luxury of picking any week out of the year or even a random week out of the summer. I had a small window of opportunity. So it was early August or stay back in Los Angeles, California while my husband plays golf in Scotland for a week. So in deciding not to allow myself to get bitter and more than likely divorced by staying back, I chose Madrid.
The unbearable lightness of Atocha Train Station
I chose Madrid about eighteen years ago as well. I was a 20 year old girl wanting to be in Europe the same time my boyfriend would be after his graduation. I was already a Spanish Literature major at the University of California, San Diego so choosing Spain was obvious but Madrid was a little random. The U.C Education Abroad program offered Alcala de Henares as an excellent option to study Spanish Literature as a foreign student. So while I chose Alcala, I was dead set on living in Madrid. I wanted to live in a European city.

This last return to Madrid was as 38 year old married mother of two. The country was facing one of its worse financial crises and I was in desperate need of a change in scenery. I left my children in the care of my family – a Mexican village of grandparents, nieces and a sister  and nervously boarded a plane at LAX. It was a solid day of traveling from the west coast to Madrid.

I was alone as my husband was finishing his trip of golf in Scotland and he was to meet me in Madrid in 24 hours. The week I arrived was perhaps the most beautiful weather I ever encountered. It was apparently painful the following week as the Saharan hot winds arrived but I simultaneously experienced a similar heat on my return to Los Angeles. The sunny skies powerfully illuminated the vibrant and regal city but there was a soft gust of wind that was both calming and refreshing after being on a plane for hours. I was emotionally wounded for many reasons and physically tired as the last month of my life had been full of highs and very painful lows. Exiting the cab at the Palace Hotel in Madrid (now a Westin) it was inconceivable to me that I was a continent and ocean away from my kids. But in my hesitancy and trepidation I also felt like I was fulfilling an impossible dream. Just a few years ago, I was holding my first newborn watching TV Espanola and wondering if I’d ever get back to the place that altered my naive albeit youthful beliefs. As I entered the 100 year old hotel and was greeted by the staff I began to realize that this was all meant to be.