January 31, 2010


So we began our journey in the amazing city of Madrid. The first night, we went on a panoramic bus tour of the city with our directors. We learned a lot about the history of Madrid and got to see most of the important buildings. It was super informative and made me realize how old everything is here compared to the US. They have building built in the 16th century. America was barely even discovered and Europe had entire civilizations.

Afterwards, a group of us went to a legit Spanish house party in the suburbs of Madrid. A couple of guys in our group had been to Spain before and had met a bunch of Spanish kids. They’ve kept in touch since then and invited us all to their apartment. We stopped at El Corte Ingles for food and drinks before taking the metro to the bus station and a bus station out to his town. Their Spanish friend, Antonio, met us there and greeted us with 2 besos – one on each cheek. So European! It was already 10 PM by the time we got to his place but that is considered early by Spanish standards. More people showed up as the night went on and it was really fun trying to communicate with them all. There were a lot of different levels of language at the party – some of the Spanish people had studied abroad in America, others had taken language classes, and others spoke very little. We were able to get by most of the night by leaning towards the Spanish side of Spanglish. After the party, we went to a barre to dance and continue the party. We took a taxi back to our hotel around 3 AM, which was still early for the Spaniards so they continued to a discoteca. But we were running on 3 hours of sleep so they gave us a break.

The next morning we ate breakfast and headed to El Prado where we got a guided tour by a guía de turismo. There basically specially trained tour guides that know basically EVERYTHING about tourist attractions in the city. Our guide was super knowledgeable and spoke a combination of Spanish and English. At El Prado, we saw some great works of art by Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. Our guía showed us all of the important pictures, like The Holy Trinity, Charles IV of Spain and his Family, and Las Meninas. They had these cool headsets that we wore so that we could hear the guía without her having to yell over the crowd.

After El Prado, we had free time so a few of us headed to El Parque del Buen Retiro right behind the museum. It was a gorgeous day to enjoy the Bosque de Recuerdos (Forrest of Memories) and el Palacio Cryital (Crystal Palace). After that, we headed all the way across town to el Palacio Real (Royal Palace). We walked through la Plaza Mayor on the way. We saw some interesting people dressed up in Mickey Mouse costumes. Mickey was a long way from home.

We only saw a small portion of the 2000 rooms in the Palacio Real but what we did see was absolutely beautiful. We saw gorgeous chandeliers, incredible marble floors, tapestries galore, at least a million clocks, and even a room with wall panels made entirely of porcelain. What could you possibly do in a room like that? The throne room was really cool too!

After that tour of the Palacio, I had been on my feet for over 7 hours. So after we walked back to the hotel, I passed out for a good 3 hours. I ran over to El Corte Ingles for some dinner and went back to my room to continue to sleep. I’m the life of the party, let me tell you…

Overall, my impression of Madrid was that it was a beautiful place with monumental buildings. But the natives weren’t particularly welcoming to a group of 30 American tourists. Not that I would expect them to be, but it was weird being in that position. Usually I’m the native making fun of the tourists behind their backs.

I was also very peeved about the whole not having internet thing. I didn’t realize what a luxury it is in parts of the civilized world. I was just hoping and praying the next hotel in Toledo would have wi-fi – and it did! Kinda…

A statue of Velazquez outside of el Museo del Prado

The symbol of Madrid - a bear climbing a strawberry tree

La Plaza Mayor

El Palacio Cristal

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