A day and a half in the beautiful, sunny, scorching Madrid.
26.06.2015 - 27.06.2015 106 °F
Jane arrived first at 2:30, and then Stefanie at 4:22. Jane's luggage was lost- and as I write this on July 1st- it has yet to be delivered. We split a taxi from Madrid-Barajas airport to our room at Hostal Lisboa, which had a fantastic location within walking distance to the Parliament building, the best museums in the country, the large city park, and several plazas. Our room had three twin beds, an AC unit which we made ample use of, and boudoir (is that spelled right?) which none of us were brave enough to try out.
Our rest period didn't last long, because at long last we were in Madrid, and pure adrenaline compelled us to go out- hunger played a role as well. We wandered (in a controlled manner) trying to find cheap Tapas (Spanish appetizers, common before the late dinner hour) but to no avail. We finally settled for sampling the Spanish sandwiches. Jane, a vegetarian, ordered cheese, I ordered chorizo (safely), and Stefanie got the Iberian ham. To my surprise and slight disgust, a pig leg hung suspended from the hoof, and the waiter began carving the Iberian ham straight off the leg and onto the sandwich. A whole dead pig hung in the window. I appreciate the freshness, but being the squeamish animal lover that I am, I lost my appetite entirely. The people in that bar were fairly rude to us- not a place for travelers, evidently.
We had better luck in the Plaza de Santa Ana, where we each ordered a Sangria and to share, a Tortilla (Spanish pastry of cheese, potatoes, eggs, and onions) and Patatas Bravas (sautéed potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce). We were enthralled by the Plaza lit up at night, and a jazz clarinetist made his way through the aisles of tables serenading the diners. For long periods of time we sat in awe, commenting occasionally about how the experience felt like it was out of a movie. The tall buildings, all lit up for night, the laid back, social, central culture- was all incredible.
During our wait for a table in the Plaza we had been given club bracelets for free admission and a drink on a nearby street. After our Sangria and Patatas we decided to check it out, with little intentions of staying. During less than five minutes on that street no less than four Spanish men tried to pull us into bars and dance with us and buy us drinks- one even physically. We quickly left the area, bought cold water, and went to bed.
The next day, Sunday, held a slow start. It wasn't until 11:30 that we woke and 1:30 until we left our room. One of our two directors and professors, Joan Hoffman, pointed us to a nearby restaurant that served a traditional Spanish lunch for 14,75 euros. We met up with two other girls from our program there, Kristin and D'Arcy (think D-R-C) who had just flown in. After Spain I'll be traveling to France with Kristin and D'Arcy. The traditional lunch consists of bread (Pan), wine (Vino) or water, an appetizer plate (Primer Plato), a main protein dish (Segundo Plato), and a dessert (Postre). I ordered a Castilian soup (paprika, garlic, ham), the only chicken item on the main menu (to my dismay it was fried- I had been hoping for a nice Vino sauté) and strawberries with cream (Fresas con Nata) for dessert.
The five of us then began slowly creeping our tired, full bodies downtown, skipping the afternoon siesta, where the Museo Nacional del Prado had a free admission for Sunday program. We waited in the scorching 4pm sun for a half hour. It was the height of the heat, at 106 degrees. We took turns standing in line, and during my wandering turn I found a fountain, a botanical garden- and the real win- Spanish garden cats. They're like nice house cats except public. Public. Cats.
The Museo was about the Spanish equivalent of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Their stars artists included Goya and Picasso- they had 10 Picassos. That's like, a lot of Picassos. I took a picture of one before being told that photos were not allowed. It's easy to not even notice signs when they're not in your native language, I suppose. Exploring an upscale art museum sure makes you feel fancy and sophisticated- even as we were rushed out for the 7pm closing.
More tired than ever, we trudged up a new street trying to find a place to eat and drink. At 7pm most places were open but empty, as the Spanish dinner doesn't start until 9. We eventually settled at a Mexican restaurant that had 3 euro mojitos and an affordable dinner menu. I've never really considered myself a lightweight, but that mojito had my legs feeling heavy. We all noticed that our drinks, both last night and that day, were stronger than in the US or Canada. They really don't mess around with their mixed drinks here!
By 9pm we were back at Hostal Lisboa. Feeling fairly sick I kept myself in while the other four went back to the Plaza for Sangria and a few shared plates. By 6:30 the next morning, we were lined up in the lobby with our suitcases, ready to board a bus to pick up the other 24 travelers.