Published: April 3rd 2012March 26th 2012
Friday we left for a weekend in Madrid. We met at the bus station at 8:30 Friday morning and started the five hour journey. I'm getting pretty good at sleeping on a bus, now that I've spent more than 35 hours on them this semester. We made a stop in Toledo to have a short tour of the city. We spent a grand total of three hours in the city, and basically the only thing I remember was that our tour guide was the most beautiful man I've ever seen. He was the quintessential Spanish male. All the girls were staring and giggling at him the whole time. Toledo was a very pretty city, and I'll have to come back to see more of it.
We had such a tight schedule that we couldn't even stop to buy some postcards or souvenirs. I was extremely disappointed by this because I have been searching all semester for damasquino, a special kind of product which inlays gold into another metal, usually black in color. Each piece of gold is hand laid into the metal in an intricate design, and Toledo is famous for this. We passed so many stores for damasquino it
was torture not to go in and buy some. I'm very frustrated because now I have to make my own trip back to Toledo just to buy the stuff, and I really don't want to. That's time and money I don't really have. I asked a bunch of people, but no one is interested, so I'd have to go by myself, and I wouldn't want to stay there alone, so it would most likely be a day trip, meaning 11 hours on the bus. Now that I've actually typed that out, I think I'll have to stay the night there.
But we left Toledo in a rush and arrived in Madrid an hour later. The bus dropped us off and we walked the rest of the way to our hotel. It was right in the center of Madrid, next to the famous Puerta de Sol. This is a plaza that contains the exact center of Spain. We had the rest of the night as free time, so we explored. Some of us were hungry so we stopped at a Burger King for a shake. I was very excited about this because it was the first real, thick shake I've
had in Spain. Most places make it more like really cold chocolate milk. This was to be a very American weekend, and you'll soon see why.
After our ice cream, we found a plaza in front of a huge building we would later learn was the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). We had some laughs because there were two couples making out on benches in this very public place. We may have snuck some photos. More walking, and Amber ran into every single souvenir shop looking for a futbol jersey that was not outrageously priced. The cheapest she found was 38 euros. After a few hours, we made it back to the hotel. Others were hungry, but Becca, Amber, and I were still fine from our shakes so we took naps in our room. (The three of us were roommates in Madrid). A lot of people were planning on going out that night, but as we were tired and didn't feel like spending a lot of money, we ordered pizza and had a girl's night in our room.
The next day, we met for our tour of the Palacio Real. (I was very happy that our daily itinerary didn't
start until at least 10:00 every morning). Oh, and a plug for the Hotel Moderno, their breakfast was amazing! They had toast, cereal, yogurt, doughnuts, fruit, bagels, and assorted cold meats. I know most American hotels have waffles and eggs, but I was so happy to have even these simple American breakfast items because I'm used to just toast. Every single day. So if you ever come to Madrid, I recommend Hotel Moderno. At the Palacio Real, we split into two tour groups. Veronica warned us that people at the palace were extremely uptight, and she was right. Our tour guide was kind of a bitch. And it was a real bummer because taking pictures is absolutely forbidden. The palace was beautiful; not quite as ornate as Versailles. At least, I don't think it was, but I'll never be able to remember because we couldn't take pictures! One interesting thing is that they have one of the best collections of clocks in the world. Clocks have been given as gifts for the royal family, and there was at least one clock in every room. And these were impressive clocks. I can't really describe them either since I don't have pictures
to show you, so you'll just have to go see for yourself.
After the tour was over, Becca, Amber, and I checked out the Armory which held the old suits of armor and riding gear of soldiers and knights. This was really cool because I got to see the elaborate cloaks, saddles, and armor that the horses wore. These horses were sometimes just as covered in metal as their riders. I can't imagine how much that all weighed. After the armory, we went back to the hotel to drop off our jackets because it was a gorgeously warm day and headed to Hard Rock Cafe. Now this wasn't my idea, but I wasn't going to turn down this great franchise's burgers. And Amber wanted one of the cups with Madrid on it for her collection. The meal was absolutely delicious, and we were so stuffed by the end of the meal. Half way through the meal, really. After that, we walked down Calle Gran Via, the main shopping road, and looked at all the cool stores.
After our walk, we met the group to go to a play. It was called "El Manual de la Buena Esposa" and
it was hilarious! I missed some parts of it because they talked so darn fast, but it's a comedy that talks about the Spanish woman and the times between 1934 and 1977. Three women acted several parts portraying the changing roles and attitudes of women as the years progressed. A little side note, I saw two of the women in this play on the popular TV game show Pasapalabra this week. I was pretty excited about that. After the play, we didn't really know what we wanted to eat. We weren't very hungry from our big lunch, so we stopped at KFC because I just wanted a couple strips of chicken. Then Amber wanted a BK Fusion from Burger King. Then Becca wanted a McFlurry from McDonalds. (I got one too). So we split our dinner between three of the biggest American fast food chains right there in Madrid. So you see how this was a very American weekend.
The next day we went to the Prado Museum. Earlier, Jose had given a presentation showing three famous Spanish artists: Goya, Velazquez, and el Greco, all of whose works we would see at the Prado. We split up in our
own little groups to explore the museum. The Prado is very big, but nothing compared to the Louvre. The building also wasn't as cool as the Louvre. I'm not a huge fan of the type of artwork found in either place (I like Impressionist more), but at least the Louvre had the beautiful ceilings and architecture. We saw the paintings of the three Spanish artists, then left for our last few hours of free time in Madrid. Next to the Prado is a huge park, so we walked around there for a while. We came to a little lake in the middle of the park and had lunch at an outdoor bar looking over the water. After this weekend full of walking, it was nice to just sit for an hour.
We finally got up and headed back to our hotel area to meet up with the group to leave. We had some extra time when we got back, so we wandered up the street. There were several street artists painting scenes on tiles and glass plates, so we bought a few for gifts. Then a few guys started doing tricks with soccer balls that were pretty amazing so
we stopped and watched them until it was time to go.
I haven't commented on the actual city much, but Madrid is awesome! The buildings are beautiful, and the roads are wide enough for two lanes plus wide sidewalks. Well, in some places. Overall, I'm impressed. I saw a lot more than what I've seen riding from the airport to the bus station, and I liked it.
There are more photos below