We have finally arrived in Madrid! After a 3 hour train ride, which was INCREDILY relaxing, especially since we caught it with three minutes to spare, we easily found our Airbnb with an easy metro ride from the train station. We are located right in the middle of Sol, which is perfect, because nearly everything is in walking distance. We don’t have to take the metro anywhere!
This day of travel was also pretty special as it was my 22ndbirthday, and to make it even more special my friends from home, who are also trekking around Europe changed their plans so that we would all be in Madrid at the same time, I am so lucky!
We spent the afternoon, once we settled in, at the Retiro Parque, which is a huge and gorgeously vegetated park in Madrid, there are series of tree shaded path ways, that make it easy to wander in for hours.
Next we stopped at the Prado Museum, during its open free hours. A line forms off to the side where everyone who is seeking free entry waits until 6:00, if you are going to try this, I recommend getting there atleast half an hour early. We got in just fine, however if it is too crowded they may turn people away. We explored this art museum, that is on the same level of cultural and historical importance as the Louvre. We came across works of Rafael and Goya, with Emily and Katy as well who met us in line.
Afterwards we went to a restaurant suggested by a local, another Emily, in case you are counting there are now three in our group. (oh my!) Emily went to Bonaventure and graduated last year, and quite adventurously moved to Madrid and currently teaches English. This dive bar, El Tigre, so far, has been the highlight of the trip, atleast in terms of food for me. When we arrived we ordered mojitos and nearly instantly they handed us 8 platters of food. We assumed they were taking advantage of the fact that we clearly had no idea what was going on. But these platters of bread with cheeses, ham, and quiche, along with croquettes, which are fried mashed potatoes with ham, were incredibly delicious. We had two rounds of platters and mojitos/sangria for 60 euros total, A STEAL, in my broken college grad opinion. After we trekked in typical Spanish fashion around 10:30 PM to another outdoor bar, we enjoyed Sangria and a beautiful sunset overlooking Madrid. I don’t know many people who get to share their birthdays with all their friends around, and even more so all the way across the world, all I have to say is THANK YOU!
We allowed ourselves a late morning given our late night, and we started the next day with a stop in Mercada San Miguel, where we enjoyed fresh baguettes topped with jamon, Madrid’s specialty of cured ham, not sure what makes it special but it definitely is! This market is smaller than Barcelonas, and each vendor has rank on a specialty making it a little less overwhelming. Next we entered the Cathedral of Barcelona, which had some of the most ornate and unique designs that we have seen thus far. Even with the typical high pillars and tall ceilings of a cathedral, there was a clear Spanish influence in the décor, in that the ceiling had patterns of painted stripes and primary colors.
Next we toured the Royal Palace (here we were able to get a student rate, so always make sure you check-we saved 6 euros!) Although it isn’t really used anymore due to how ginormous it is, with over 3,000 rooms, it is a definitely a site to see. We only toured a total of 30 rooms and it took atleast 1.5 hours if that’s any indication of its size. The audio guide gave great insight into pieces that would have gone overlooked to the naked eye. Most rulers, although they enjoyed its beauty, said that it was far too large to live in because of the cost and creepy fear of too much ground to keep secure, and one even mentioned that every time his soup arrived it would be too cold because it took too long to come, therefore now it is only really used for special occasions, most often welcoming ambassadors and royal ceremonies and dinners.
After viewing a few more landmarks to get out of the heat, we joined a free tour to learn about the history and many myths of the city. My favorite was that of the Peeping Tom, a golden statue which looks over ruins of one of the first churches. If you touch the left of his butt you will receive 7 years good fortune, the right 7 years of happiness and luck, scratch his back? You would have an amazing time in Madrid, and if you gave him a hug, you would return, obviously we did all 4!
We then joined Emily and Katy for dinner at the Big Banh, a restaurant that does Vietnamese twist on bocadellas, which are simply Spanish sandwiches which involve loaves of baguette and a variety of fillings. Of course we had more sangria and gelato for desert.
Madrid thus far has been one of my favorites visits, as the atmosphere is clearly far more relaxed than anywhere I have visited. Everyone really minds their own business and just goes about there day. Emily who lives there mentioned how it is very different from American life in that people take their time to enjoy company, and aren’t very concerned with time. Maybe this would be a great place for me since I am often late?
On Wednesday it was time to travel to Granada, even more south Spain. However, we could not leave without trying the classic breakfast of churros and chocolate, and even better, at the oldest establishment where they are served – San Gines. It was everything you would dream that dessert for breakfast would be. For 4 euros (around $4) you received a cup of ‘hot chocolate’ which was literally a cup of melted chocolate, and 6 churros, again I could get used to this. It was incredibly delicious together and each piece by itself. It is tradition to drink the rest of the chocolate, but even with a sweeth tooth as large as mine, this was a struggle.
This breakfast was absolutely the chaos of making our Granada train with 3 minutes to spare, we said this going to be an adventure right?