Well, followers..Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been busy and a little lazy! Okay, a lot lazy. Oh well, here is more of Spain!
Don’t get me wrong; I liked Madrid, but it was definitely the least favorite city we visited in Spain. We left San Sebastian bright and early and began our four hour train ride to Madrid. After arriving, we searched forever for our hotel. The directions said it was on San Leonard Street and we could only find San Bernardo Street. We even asked the tourism office (again, our favorite place!) and they didn’t even know. We were freaked that we were going to be staying in some sketch place. Alas, we found it. The “university residence” of Hostel Arti II. I won’t recommend it to any future travelers. First, the man did not understand that we had a reservation and kept saying “no space. No space”. Then, when he finally understood, we got a two bed bedroom when we had three people. It wouldn’t have been a problem except 1) we already paid for three beds, 2) they were twin beds and 3) there wasn’t space for a person on the floor. After spending time figuring out how to say “We have a problem” in Spanish, we just went down there and said “Two for sleep, we are three”. It was interesting. We then were transferred to a nice room (hmmmm yeah…) with two bunk beds and an aisle about the width of my hips. The door, however, was about three times the size of my hips. I am pretty sure our room (I would hardly call it that) used to be a janitor’s closet that was changed into a room.
Since it was late in the afternoon, we decided to go see a few things close to our place. We first had to find an internet café to see if everything was okay with Klara’s bank and to tell my mom I was alive and well. Klara was very disappointed and upset that her wallet was stolen (obviously) so she was trying everything in her power to change our trip to save money. It ended up being more of a hassle but more on that later. Since we bought our tickets in France with SNCF, it was impossible to change our tickets in Spain (or so we were told) but we “found” and SNCF station in Madrid. First, it said it was in this building right by our hotel (awesome!) and it wasn’t. The woman there told us it was at the airport. A thirty minute metro ride later, we arrived at the airport of Madrid. We found an info desk where a funny woman said “I am metro” (which later became the running joke) and told us to go visit the visitor center. When we got there, there was another funny woman who said “No. SNCF is not Spain. We only are Renfe.” So after an hour and a half of searching for SNCF in Madrid we were told that it was possible to change them in Barcelona and decided to forget about it for the night. Kelli and I didn’t really see the importance or purpose of changing our trains and trip because the money wasn’t that big of a difference and there was only a possibility of getting our money back. Klara understood it though so we vowed to try again in Barcelona. In my opinion, we were already on stop 2 of 3 for our trip, we had it all planned so we may as well have continued. Kelli was in agreement but we still said we would try again. Remember this for my entry in Barecelona.
Back to the sightseeing: We stayed directly across from Plaza d’Espagna. It was this nice square with a fountain, statues, and even two statues of Don Quichotte. Kelli was fascinated by that and she spent minutes trying to explain to me why he was so important to her. It was cool, but I still don’t see the wonderful importance of him. Oh well. When we visited the Tourism Office we got all these maps and I discovered there was a Hard Rock Café. I knew immediately that I had to go to get my mom a shirt. The address was 2 Place Caballos. We took the metro to a place close by and saw some of the modern parts of Madrid. We came across the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu..yes, soccer fans, the REAL MADRID stadium! We took some pictures and continued on, noticing that the addresses we were by were 187, 185, 183 and later, 163, 161. After walking for at least thirty minutes, I realized we were never going to make it there by foot. I was hungry and tired at this point and wanted to take a cab. No one cared much for that idea, but I said I wasn’t going to walk two hours to buy a shirt. Thankfully, after seeing the biggest, most inviting mall ever, they agreed to come with me in the cab. We saw the biggest Spanish flag I have ever seen (okay, and maybe the only one, too) and a cool statue. Turns out, Hard Rock Café was the furthest point from anyway any hidden on a street corner. We went inside and got our shirts and decided to have a nice warm dinner. I had ranch for the first time in three months and our drinks had lots of ice and free refills. You learn to appreciate the small things in life when you don’t have them J Just kidding, but it was a really good meal and my shirt/shot glass collection is quickly growing!
Monday we were set for a full day of getting the best of Madrid. We first visited the Temple de Debod, an old Egyptian temple devoted to gods Amus and Isis which the Egyptian government gave to Spain in 1968. It was cool and gave a nice view of Madrid. Of course the museum was closed on Monday so we couldn’t go in. Next we walked and played through the Jardines de Sabatini. They were very pretty! Lots of trees and shrubs that were cut neatly to make designs, more statues, and, who guessed it, fountains! We continued our streak of spelling the places with our bodies and attempted “Madrid”. Not as easy with only three people, but we succeeded. We continued on to the Royal Palace of Madrid where the line to visit was at least 300 people long, the cost was high, and the building was gorgeous. We opted to just walk around it and peek in through the gates. The line would have taken all day. Across the street from it was the Opera House with a garden in front of it that invited us ever so nicely to visit.
We wanted to visit the actual Tourism Office to book a flamenco show. Enter Plaza Mayor: a huge plaza with shops in every hole and people all over. Street entertainers were in abundance: men with no heads, “statues”, a horrible fat, ugly, Spiderman who did the dumbest things, and some weird sparkly dog/camel. The things people come up with! On to our next destination, we ate gelato in Puerta del Sol, saw more smaller plazas with statues, some churches, The Palace, and the Cibelles Fountains. It was this time that the funny tourist man said “How many fountains do you want to see?” that also became quite the joke of our trip. After discovering there was no show about the fountains (it’s in Barcelona) we headed home for dinner.
Tuesday our first stop was the Real Madrid Stadium. Eat your heart out soccer fans! I toured it all, and even kissed Cristano Ronaldo! Okay, not a “real” kiss but still! This stadium was way cool! You start off with a view from one of the highest points of the stadium to get a full view. Very neat! Then, you continue on through the museum. I’ll just say this: The Real Madrid club is not shy about their greatness, history, or any of the accomplishments. I mean, they have a right to be, but I have never seen it so blatantly stated. Every other sentence was “Take a good look at these 9 trophies: It is the only time they will ever be in the same room” or “The best club ever in history”. The museum was really interesting though. It talked about the accomplishments of the club, both in soccer and basketball, the history and the changes of the uniform and crest, the awards, the best players in the history, trophies, pictures, philanthropy things, and lots more. It took us forever to go through it! After the museum part we got to go around the field and visit the “box” seats which were practically recliners. We got to go on the field (somewhat) and sit in the most comfortable bleachers for the players ever; again, like recliners! Then we toured the Visitor locker room (we couldn’t do the Real Madrid one because of “privacy”) and it had a huge shower, hot tub, and all sorts of goodies. We saw the press room and got to sit on the stage being “interviewed”. The store finished off our tour where they have even more Real Madrid things than OU. Hello, Real Madrid luggage. Get on that Sooners! Just kidding, please don’t.
After three hours in the stadium, we went to the Plaza de Toros where they have bullfights. I was excited to visit it, but of course the entrance hours were 1:30-3:30 and it was 4:30. We had a late lunch and decided on what else to see. Madrid has a “Tour d’Espange” which I thought would be really cool! I imagined an Eiffel Tower type thing, but not in that much glory. Well, not any glory is what we got. It was a huge disappointment and, in my opinion, was a satellite tower. Why it was on the map of “things to see” still confuses me. After that letdown, we headed back towards Puerta del Sol to see our flamenco dance, but cut through the Jardines del Buen Retiro. They. Were. Beautiful. A huge semi-circular moment thing that looked across a manmade “lake” was the perfect spot to soak in the park and the sights. We then we to the flamenco show. I pictured just a man and a woman, with all this emotion and big, flow-y dresses, all passionate and cool. Not what I got, but I didn’t walk away disappointed. It was at a theatre and so we got more of a show. It was still wonderful! The dancers’ legs more SO fast and their upper bodies stay completely still. It was a little over an hour of pure entertainment and amazement at how they do some of the stuff. There were flow-y dresses, fans, and the noise clapper things, great dances, and a very good performance!
Overall, Madrid was a very fun city, but, like I said, not my favorite place. It was very commercialized. There was a Starbucks about every corner (surprisingly, I refrained and drank normal coffee from Jamaica Café instead J) a TGI Fridays, McDonald’s and Burger King next to the Starbucks, and just not a pretty city. I mean, it was pretty, but it wasn’t as beautiful as I imagined. Maybe it was that it was a bustly, busy, go, go, go city that I wasn’t fond of. I’m not sure, but I found San Sebastian and Barcelona better. I would visit Madrid again, but for now I have my fill!
I also learned from Madrid that maps are harder to read than you think. Somehow, I (of all people) got stuck navigating and guess who doesn’t know north/south/east/west in Oklahoma, let alone Spain?! Yep, Moi! There’s some French for ya! We survived but sometimes I am sure we took the world’s longest ways. Also, three girls can be as opinionated or as un-opinionated as we want to be, same with decisive and indecisive. No one wanted to say what they wanted to eat for lunch, what to do next, or to walk or take the metro. I was even making decisions (big surprise, huh?!) but I didn’t want to decide everything! I know it was the fatigue, stress of being in a new place and such that made it irritate me, but it would get so frustrating! I didn’t want to be rude and decide everything, but with two almost mutes it was necessary.
Thanks to Klara, who comes from the Czech Republic, I am not only learning French, but Czech as well! Okay, “learning” may be a bit of a strong word, but I am trying and definitely helping Klara get some abs by laughing so much. I can say “I am American”, “hello”, “I love you” “Goodbye”, “He/She is Czech/French/American”, “They are Czech/French/American”, “roller skates”, “thirsty” and some words I probably shouldn’t type J. I later learned to count to five and the different sounds the accents make, but that was Toulouse and I don’t have much practice with those. Don’t ask me to say it because I want to perfect all my skills before presenting them to the world.
As you can see, Madrid was quite the learning experience!