Project Gaylord

Chronicles of a year in Spain without a plan.

Madrid: Cast of Characters (Laura)

Mike's 30th at Paddy's

Mike’s 30th at Paddy’s

The purpose of this post is to record the cast of characters that fill our life here in Madrid. We have been tremendously lucky, and have made some great friends, but we still wonder why they put up with us and our horrible Spanish blunders (e.g. “Can I have a dick sandwich?”).

Jimmy, Maria Jose, Jimmy and Sarah: These guys have come up before, as they are our family in Madrid with whom we stayed over the summer until we got our own place. This is the same family featured in the video spoof we made to tease the kids that we were taking over their rooms and their parents while they were away this summer. This is also the aunt that basically held Spanish class for Mike each night this summer, selflessly helping him with his grammar and vocabulary. Words cannot express how awesome they are or how much fun it has been to live a few minutes away from them for a year.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

John, Mari Luz, Stefi, Johnny, and Ana: This is our family that lives on the outskirts of Madrid and are also insanely fun to be around. Our times with them always include exquisite food (see below), lots of laughing, and ridiculous dancing. They also love showing off Spain to people so we enjoy doing day trips with them. My cousin Stefi is closest to my age and is incredibly crafty and always making cool jewelry, pins, etc.


Dani, Lucia, Miriam, and Cristian: these four are our close family friends, as our parents grew up next to each other in Madrid. My uncle continues to live next to their parents, so we quickly established friendships with them over the summer as we met up for football games, sushi, and shenanigans. Dani and Lucia got married in July and we were lucky enough to get to go to their wedding!! We continue to see them all regularly, including a trip to their beach house in Benidorm last month, and are convinced these four are the nicest people in the world. They are so patient with us and our sometimes ridiculous Spanish.


Dani and Lucia in Benidorm

Miriam and Cristian (far right)

Miriam and Cristian (far right)

Karlos, Ruth, and Fatima: these are the friends we made our first week in Madrid at an intercambio bar night. Super sweet people and very interesting. Unfortunately, Karlos just moved to England for work last month, but I know we will keep in touch. Fatima teaches meditation clases, and Ruth is a music teacher- right up our alley.


Karlos and Fatima


Karlos and Ruth


















Rogelio and Isabel: family friends who used to live next to my parents. They have two adorable kids, and they recently took us to their grandparents’ village Burgo de Osma, quaint and beautiful.

Rafa: the first person we met at Spanish school, an awesome dude from Liverpool who speaks amazing Spanish. We had a great month of hanging out before he had to go back to England, but we still keep in touch. He says very British things which we love, like, “how ’bout we go for a cheeky nightcap?”

Elian: “El” is from New Jersey and, like us, is living in Madrid on a year sabbatical from her job as a teacher. Her story also parallels ours in that her father is from Spain so she is here to perfect her Spanish. We met her at school but continue to meet up to enjoy food, drinks, and trade tips on expos and restaurants. She introduced us to our favorite tapas bar right down the street from our flat.


El in the middle and Rafa on the right

Jane: another Brit, was also in Mike’s class, and is fortunately living in Madrid permanently now as an English teacher so we didn’t have to say goodbye. She is one of those people that has such diverse life experiences for being so young… has worked in big business, as a police officer, plays cornet, Bodegas Castañeda
Calle de Almireceros, 1, Granada, dances salsa, and has lived all over the place.
Through Jane we met Olvido, a girl from Andalucia, who is an insanely smart PhD who keeps a jazz blog. The four of us now make up our group of jazz buddies, and we have been going to several shows a month together, ranging from free shows at the Populart Cafe to big ticket shows like Lee Konitz. She also planned our thanksgiving party despite being 100% Spanish :o)


Jane and Olvido on left

Blanca: my professor here for six weeks, and the most charmingly kooky person I’ve ever met. She is incredibly knowledgeable about all things Spain, ranging from ancient music and art to the lineage of the royal family to pop culture and comedy. She’s also obsessed with cats and, after starting a chat group with me and a few other students, we now have at least two cat photos a day popping up on our cell phone (see below). She also invited us out to her small little town in the Sierra, Manzanares de Real, where we had a beautiful (and delicious) day.






Christina and Dani: C is my classmate from the Ukraine who speaks perfect Spanish, English, Russian, and of course Ukrainian. She also is an amazing painter and cook, and cooked up a delicious Ukrainian dinner at her house. Her partner Dani is from Madrid and in addition to being an architect is also the sweetest guy ever– we all went together to visit Blanca in the Sierra and had a blast.


Dani and Christina on the left

Gabriela: my other classmate, an adorable girl from southern Italy who is here writing her thesis on the Movida, the name given to the artistic and cultural liberalization that occurred in Spain following Franco’s death, defined by icons like Almodovar. Talk about interesting.
Miguel Angel: my chef buddy from my volunteer program, who I devoted several paragraphs to in my last post (see La Vida Madrileña).

Like I said, we’ve been incredibly lucky and have met really, REALLY nice people. I think we both feel that these relationships and what you learn from each new person is what really enriches the experience of travel. I find myself questioning everything I know each time I interact with someone new, asking myself why I assume that I have to keep the same career my whole life, why I can’t be a police officer for a year, why I shouldn’t get a PhD in jazz, why I shouldn’t live in ten different countries over the course of my life, why I shouldn’t volunteer more of my time in my community…. I love having my eyes opened to other ways of being and other trajectories in life. So if next time you see me I’m playing the coronet in my volunteer police squadron, don’t be surprised.


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One thought on “Madrid: Cast of Characters (Laura)

  1. Laura & Mike, Truly awesome fun you guys are having, you set the gold standard on how to live an entertaining, interesting, and creative adventure! And the pictures are amazing…what camera are you using?…I am jealous, ours didn’t turn out nearly as well, but that had a lot to do with the pilot being on a steep learning curve. And, I have no idea how you can keep up with the posts…inspiring.

    We loved Austria also, but unfortunately missed Salzburg in favor of more time in Vienna where we had friends and had a truly remarkable experience there. The food was ok in Germany and Austria, but truly remarkable in Italy and France, as you probably know; I am sure it is also in Spain.

    Not sure how you are every going to top that level of happiness but you certainly demonstrate how to live to the fullest…I think you should sign up for a happiness research experiment so we can find out!

    All the best, Tom

    On Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 3:01 PM, Project Gaylord wrote:

    > livelycal posted: “The purpose of this post is to record the cast of > characters that fill our life here in Madrid. We have been tremendously > lucky, and have made some great friends, but we still wonder why they put > up with us and our horrible Spanish blunders (e.g. “Can I ” >


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