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Published: September 10th 2009
After more or less settling in Andorra it was time for a little trip outside the country to Madrid, my old stomping grounds! Invited by the Spanish Fulbright commission, we had in store for us a number of talks geared for all the TA and research grantees throughout the country. Obviously we'd also be meeting said grantees and spending a fair amount of time with them. At 3pm on Monday afternoon we walked down the street where our bus to Lleida, one of the larger cities in Catalunya (Spain), picked us up. From Lleida, a bit less than 2 hours away, we then caught the Ave, Spain's high speed train line to Madrid. Sometime between 9 and 10 that evening we were settling into one of the Madrid's University dorms. Dinner was only provided until 10:30, so we quickly headed downstairs to scarf down fried chicken wings and a vegetable soup.
Next it was time for some exploration. I had a vague idea of where we were from my semester here in 2006, and after walking around and stumbling upon the bar 'Cats', where I had been a number of times, I was certain. How fun! There wasn't too much
going on on this Monday evening so we settled on a nice table outside and had a round of drinks before heading back to the residencia.
The next morning we were up bright and early for a not-so-delicious breakfast before our first round of talks. They pertained entirely to Spain, more specifically Madrid, but it was at least nice to hear about the teaching situation here and compare it with what we were to be doing back in Andorra. Once we'd had our fill it was time for some tourism, and I assumed the role of quasi-tour guide since I knew the city the best. Thankfully most things came back to me to a decent enough degree where I didn't look like a fool.
We started out in the city center at Sol, which was totally torn up and under construction. There is this new ugly modern thing leading down to a new commuter rail system that totally clashes with the historic city center. From there we headed up to Plaza Mayor and then to the Royal Cathedral and Palace. We got to see a really fun procession of all the priests coming in for mass, perhaps it
was an ordination, but before I could even snap a picture we were kicked out. Oops! Next it was time for lunch near Moncloa. I was really hoping to find the Taberna Moncloa where I used to shove things like smoked salmon and sobressada on big hunks of bread down my throat but unfortunately I couldn't find it. Instead we had the 8.50€ three course lunch menu. I started with Pastela, another name for Bastilla, the North African savory sweet spiced chicken dish baked in phyllo. Course two was cod with an orange sauce, then dessert was this mint lemon ice cream smoothie type thing. Delicious! Considering how hot it was it was quite refreshing at the end.
Eventually we split up and the girls and I went on the hunt for an H&M. This was quite successful - for under 100 I got 4 sweaters, two shirts, and a bag. Given that we don't have H&M in Andorra this was necessary. Afterwards we split up for a bit and I went and had a drink with my friend Flora, a French girl I had met in Portuguese class when I studied here. It was so strange to hang
out again after a 3 year gap but it was great to have kept up our friendship. Reunited with the girls, we then took a stroll down the Paseo del Prado and also through Retiro Park. Exhausted from the heat and traversing the city all day we headed back to the residencia for a shower and relaxation. Eventually we headed back out for dinner, settling on a place nearby and having some squid and fried potatoes. Perhaps the best part was the plate of mussels that came free with our round of beers. Madrid's tapas policy is hands down amazing. Back at the residencia we headed to bed before another long day in glorious Madrid.
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