This past weekend, I decided to take my first overnight travel experience to Spain’s capital, Madrid. A classmate from Georgetown is studying there, and her host parents were nice enough to let me stay with them! On Friday morning, I took a very early high speed train and arrived within a few hours. After Emily and I went to her house to drop my stuff off, we went on a quick walk around the parts of Madrid close to her neighborhood. We walked by the National Library, some cool parks, and ended up at the Ayuntamiento, which is basically a municipality building. Emily hadn’t been in there, and although neither of us had hopes for the inside being accessible or interesting, we decided to walk in. We were pleasantly surprised that the Ayuntamiento actually contained floors of interesting art exhibits and awesome views of the city! After spending a little more time than expected there, we continued on our walk to view some more landmarks such as the Puerta de Alcalá.
After lunch, we went to the Palacio Real, where the royal family of Spain used to live. Up until this weekend, I had never been in a real palace of that style. It was crazy! I truly believed that decadence like that only existed in the castles depicted in movies. Just when I thought a room couldn’t get any more luxurious, we walked into another that somehow managed to top the previous one. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but here are a few from the internet. P.S.- that’s a Stradivarius. There was a whole quartet.
After the Palacio Real, we quickly wandered through a Cathedral next door (which was nowhere near as large as Sevilla’s) and through some of Madrid’s major plazas such as the Plaza Mayor, the Plaza del Sol, and some other areas of downtown Madrid.
The next morning, we woke up and got a typical Spanish breakfast of churros con chocolate. Although the churros here aren’t covered in sugar like in the US, they come with a small cup of what is basically very thick hot chocolate, which you dip the churros in and then drink whatever is left. Who’s jealous and wants to come visit me? After that, I went with Emily’s study abroad group on a guided tour of the famous Spanish works at the Museo del Prado. The tour lasted two hours, but know I only saw a fraction of the artwork there. Especially because the tour was 90% focused on Spanish artists (such as Velazquez, Goya, and El Greco), I know there is so much of the Prado I have yet to experience. Hopefully I will be able to go back. Pictures weren’t allowed inside the Prado, either, but here are some of my favorite works that I saw there::
After a break for lunch, we decided to explore the Parque de El Buen Retiro, which was huuuuge. And gorgeous. The park was filled with innumerable fountains, a large lake, winding paths, beautiful trees and flowers, and a rose garden. It would have taken hours to explore the entire thing. The atmosphere was also very lively, with just as many Spaniards enjoying the gorgeous weather as tourists. We wanted to rent a rowboat, but the line was incredibly long, so we went home to rest and change for the nighttime.
Saturday night, Emily’s study abroad group and I went to a concert by the Madrid Symphonic Orchestra at the National Music Hall. It was pretty good, and hearing live music is always awesome. After, we went to a discoteca. Not my thing. Drinks are ridiculously expensive and everyone is creepy. That’s the one regret I have of my weekend. Emily wanted to go out both nights, and I would rather have done more…”culturally rewarding” things. But it wasn’t my city, not my decision, and I was getting a free room at her house. The coolest thing that happened that night was being kidnapped by two Spaniards. Don’t freak out, anybody, although I admit it was a little risky. I was sitting by myself waiting for everyone to decide they had had enough expensive liquor and creepiness when two Spaniards grabbed me and told me they were “kidnapping” me (obviously jokingly). A little sketchy, but they were short, so I figured I could take them. The part of the discoteca open to the public was technically 3 floors, but apparently two floors above that is a roof with an EXCELLENT view of Madrid. Who knew? I definitely wouldn’t have if I had stuck with my friend and her group of loudly English-speaking Americans. Anyway, that was the most exciting part of the night, other than saving like 40 Euros by not drinking.
The next morning we went to El Rastro, a weekly flea-market type thing famous in Madrid. Finally, some CHEAP prices in an expensive city. I bought a necklace and shoes, each for just 3 Euros. We also found and went inside an American food store, which both made me miss American food and realize there was no way I could afford to. The boxes of cereal were 9 Euros. A box of Jello was around 3. A jar of icing was around 5. Keep in mind those are prices in Euros, which means in dollars they were even more expensive. However, it was fun seeing what food was considered quintessentially American. What I can remember includes hot sauce, boxed cake mix, icing, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, granola, bagels, jello, and barbecue sauce.
All too soon arrived the part of the weekend I was dreading. Emily asked me if I wanted to go to a corrida de toros, and I told her I didn’t, but she had already purchased the ticket. I figured since I am writing a blog post about toros for Georgetown’s Junior Year Abroad Network (I will link to the post when it goes up!) I really should get all sides of the story. In my post I will talk a little more about the traditions and process of the corrida, but basically, there are six toros that get killed by three different matadors (which literally translates to killers). I managed to make it through two. The actual blood wasn’t too much for me – I think I can safely say that TV has made it very easy for my generation to desensitize ourselves to violence. But as I sat there and realized that I was watching an intelligent being die for absolutely no reason (other than tradition), I just couldn’t let myself continue to participate. I will definitely expound more upon the subject later, but let’s just say it was not my favorite part of the weekend. The rest of the night was spent chatting with Emily’s host parents, (arguably one of my favorite parts of the weekend) and I took an overnight bus back to Sevilla instead of the train to save money.
Overall, my trip to Madrid was pretty fun. I spent way too much money, but I got a taste of big city living. I realize I didn’t experience everything Madrid has to offer, but that just means I will have to go back!