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For The Memories, Babe Finding myself in a rut, I've decided to try something new. Or a few things new actually. I've taken a job as an au pair. And moved to a different country. And don't know anyone else. And am directionally impaired. Here goes nothing...

Madrid- Part One **REVISED**

SPAIN | Monday, 28 April 2008 | Views [1078]

So, since last time I wrote a blog about a weekend excursion, I got bad reviews from critics due to the length of the piece, I’ll split my Madrid trip into a couple different blogs. Stiffeners of my creative process! That’s what you are! ☺

The trip started with a lot of frustration. I got a great rate for tickets, but it was mostly because the flights were super early in the morning. Too early, in fact, for the buses to be running, so I had to ride my bike for an HOUR to the train station with my luggage. Then take the train to Eindhoven, take a bus from the train station to the airport, and finally wait in line to get on the plane. Then, I got on the plane, and found out that Ryan Air is basically like the Playschool version of an airline. The seats don’t recline, the interior is seemingly unfinished, and the entire cabin is painted this alarming shade of bright yellow. Also, my flight happened to be filled with several groups of students on some type of Euro tour program, and at take-off and landing it was deemed necessary to applaud loudly, with exclamations such as, “Yay…we didn’t die!”. Hmmmm….

I eventually of course made it to my couchsurfing host’s house, and he was fantastic! Alex was a super nice guy who was basically a couchsurfing pro! He had maps, detailed directions for what lines to take and such for the public transportations systems, and even gave me itinerary ideas and ways to save a little cash on my excursions! Plus, instead of a couch, I got my own room, so I didn’t feel like I was in the way.

So Day One I hit several tourist attractions and learned some big things about Madrid. For one thing, who knew that Madrid was so green?! There are so many parks and gardens that I really felt like we were outside of the city. The first day I went to Jardines de Sabatini, a garden outside of the Royal Palace (Palacio Real). After a stroll in the sunshine- another big change from the Netherlands- I decided to take the Palacio Real tour. It was really interesting and I got some kind of cool aerial shots of Madrid from the front of the palace. I think my favorite part was the Royal Armory museum, which included various coats of armor from different historical periods of Spain. It even had the protective gear worn by the horses, which I thought was pretty impressive looking.

After the palace, I went to the Catedral Almudena, one of the main cathedrals in Madrid. It was beautiful, of course, as are all of the churches here. Other stops for the day were the Senado (Senate), Gran Via (a shopping district), Plaza de Oriente (a monument garden), Plaza de la Villa (another little statue garden), and Plaza Mayor. The last is kind of the main square in town, with each of the four sides of the square full of shops and cafes with persistent wait staffs. I was pulled into one of these little cafes, and had an interesting fried egg and French fries meal…a little strange, but not too bad.

Tuesday was part one of Museum Days. I visited the two fountains near the center of the city, Fuente de Apolo and Fuente de Neptuno. Unfortunately there wasn’t really a way to get to them without dodging eight lanes of traffic, so I’m not sure there are any pictures. Afterward I went to Museo Thyssen. This is one of the three main museums in Madrid, and features a ton of work organized chronologically on three floors. In fact, just to complete the three sets of three rule, it took me about three hours to get through the place. It had everything from early biblical art to modern stuff like Picasso.
Other sights of the day were Puerto del Sol (a little square), Plaza de Isabel II (a garden), and Teatra Real (the Royal Theater).

So, yes I took notes for this blog and yes, I know there weren’t great descriptions of everything, but the things I saw weren’t nearly as important as the feeling of the city. Everywhere you went, it felt alive. Kind of a romantic idea I suppose, and maybe a bit of an overused cliché, but people were buzzing. There were lots of tourists I guess, so lots of excitement in the air, but even the locals seemed to be happy to be moving through life in their little part of the world. Plus, it was warm and sunny, and that always puts you in a much better mood than the bleak, grey skies I had left the previous morning.

Days Three and Four coming soon, but off to bed for now. But look forward to it. There’s some great news…definitely worth the read ☺

Fin for now,
Katie

***REVISION/ADDITION***

So, after writing my next blog, I realized that I forgot a huge part of my first two days! I went to see the bull fighting arena at Vestas! I'm sure I couldn't stomach seeing an actual bullfight, as they are a to-the-death event, but the arena was really interesting. Our tour guide took us to the most expensive seats in the house and told us about the events. Vestas is the premier place to get a name if you're a bullfighter. You are basically nothing until you win a fight here. We even got to try out our skills with the capes. Which, contrary to popular belief, are not only red, but also yellow and pink! Most people think that bulls can't see red, or something like that, but bulls are color-blind, so it really doesn't matter what color the cape is. Apparently there are two matches per bull, and each fighter has two bulls. During the first match, the fighter uses a saber to stab the bull through the heart to slow it down. The second is more important in terms of points, because he has to stab the bull with these big colorful dart things in a certain way (two on the left, two on the right, two on the back), to have "conquered the bull". Then, of course, after the darts have been attached the saber is used to stab the animal until it dies. Kind of harsh. The King of Vestas (not the same as Spanish royalty, but he is royalty to the arena) has veto power to save the bull if it is particularly impressive, but this has only been done once. It was apparenlty sometime in the '80s and the bull was only saved because it had a good bloodline and they wanted to breed it or something. Either way, the whole point is to apparently cut off two ears, one from each bull or both from one bull. If the bullfighter is able to do this, he then runs around the arena showing everyone his prize. He is then lifted by the crowd and carried as a hero out this certain exit, where his name will be added to a plaque on the wall and he'll be able to fight at new arenas. There are some cool pictures of the place in the gallery. And as morally against the whole concept as I am, I can see how it would be exciting :)

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