Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Current Favorite City: Madrid, Spain

Our school planned an "excursion" to Madrid this past Friday so my friends and I decided to stay the weekend. We left early Friday morning and arrived in Madrid around 10:30 (about an hour busride). First we toured El Palacio Real, which is where the royal families lived in the past, apparently they now live in mansions outside the city. Outside of el Palacio is a huge plaza, and directly facing it is the cathedral. Inside el Palacio, we toured several rooms; they all had beautiful statues, chandeliers, and paintings, but unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures. After el Palacio, our big group went had a brief bus tour and ate lunch at Museo del Jamón (Ham Museum). It isn't actually a museum, its a restaurant...and we ate chicken. They love ham in Spain so its all over the place; they especially like to hang large chucks of pigs from ceilings in a lot of restaurants and grocery stores. Its disgusting. After lunch my friends and I wanted to find our hostel so we could put our backpacks down and explore the city. It turned out we didn't research it enough before hand because there wasn't a sign - we happened to look so much like a stereotypical group of lost American girls that the owner of the hostel asked us if we were looking for Bulls Hostel. It was located inside of an apartment building and the only indication of the place was a sign about 1in. x 1/2in. next to the buzzer at the front door. We stayed in a room with 12 (very hard) beds and it ended up being a very nice place. For the next few hours we walked around the main plazas and streets of Madrid, took pictures, and shopped. It is a very lively city and VERY beautiful. It really is the best city I've ever visited.

We then decided it was time to get ready to go out for the night. We went back to the hostel to get ready, then went to a tapas restaurant (appetizers) for dinner. Pub crawls are a very popular tourist activity - we found one that looked fun and met up with the group. I guess this is a slow time of year because there were only about 10 of us in the group. We each paid 10 euro and went to 3 bars and 1 salsa club. There were free drinks and a lot of dancing. We had a great time. Our pub crawl guides were Alina from Germany and Beethoven from Brazil...made for a very interesting night.

In the morning we had the "breakfast" provided by the hostel (not that great, Spaniards are not known for having anything besides coffee for breakfast). Then my friends and I headed out for a day of sight seeing. We went through all the plazas we missed the day before, walked past El Museo del Prado, and went in La Reina Sofia to see Guernica by Picasso (an amazing work of art, yet very disturbing and sad). Google "Guernica" for more info. At this time we decided to head back to the hostel to get ready for our night. One of my friends has a love for California Rolls just like me so we stopped at the sushi restaurant near our hostel...delicious. We all got ready and went to the Metro stop about 4 meters from our hostel. The Madrid Metro system is excellent - we had no problems getting where we needed to was clean and very efficient. I wish we had something similar in Minneapolis. A couple of my friends had met an Italian man through their host families - he lives in Madrid so we met him for tapas (appetizers). After that we were going to go to the famous Teatro Kapital - its a 7 story club with different themes and music on each floor. The Italian man has a cousin that works there so he was going to get us in free...but he wasn't working that night. The cover charge was 26 euro so we decided it would be a better idea to find a different club...a free club preferably. We ended up finding one a few blocks away and it was still a fun time. Getting back to the hostel was difficult both nights but we eventually made it back. Sunday morning we got up and had breakfast, then figured out how to get to the bus station so we could go back to Toledo. Again, it took a while, but we eventually made it back to Toledo safely. We can't wait to return to Madrid!

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