Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Madrid, Spain: Una Segunda Vez

Synopsis: Making my second trip to Madrid. The Spanish Air Force is hosting an air show this weekend, in celebration of Spain's National Day. We call it Columbus Day in the US, and the two holidays have the same origin and have changed over the years. I will meet up with some friends down there and celebrate the holidays.

Trip Overview:
Day 1:  Early ride from a friend to the metro, then to the bus station, then to the airport. Hop on the plane and someone next to me is farting on the flight. Not like 10 or 15 times, but the whole two hours! Still would take that over cigarette smoke, anyday. 

Metro to city center and I walk to Cat's hostel, which was recommended by Aga, who I met in the hostel in Riga. Cat's hostel is much bigger than the one I stayed at in Riga. Weather is decent and once I step into the hostel, a torrential rain ensues. I have a bit of a headache, so I hang out for a bit and relax.

Once the rain calms to a slow drizzle, I walk down to the Prado Museum for a visit. It is pretty impressive, yet smaller than the Louvre. I get an audio guide which has lots of interesting info but at times is a bit long winded. I walk both of the main floors. The paintings are quite interesting, from noble dwarfs to hermaphrodite statues to obese children to only two painting with black people in them (outside the wise men paintings) to only 10% of the paintings with women who aren't naked. Most interesting artist I see is Hieronymous Bosch and his "Garden of Desires" painting. I, a non-art lover, spend over three hours in the museum. 

Meet Aga at Cat's hostel and we go out for dinner and discuss how she got a teaching job in Spain. Afterward, she walks me back to the hostel. I decide to go grab some snacks for tomorrow and walk over to a nearby Carrefour Express. I walk back to the hostel and join the 10 other people in the Moroccan themed courtyard, and surf the web. Not long after, my headache from earlier starts to kick back in and I decide to call it a night. Of course, staying in a hostel, people come into the large rooms throughout the night, making as much noise as humanly possible; but it doesn't bother me much. I sleep in a 19-person room, and it's in the attic, so despite the incessant rain, it is hot. 

Thoughts: Airplane taxied for at least 15 minutes once we landed in Madrid. Almost spent as much time taxing as we did flying. Walking through the Prado museum, thoughts on art that we "regard" from back in the day:

  • art dudes (and probably all dudes in that time period) were marrying girls up to 6 years under 18, and it was acceptable. 
  • they painted so many naked women, but our culture is now overly sexual?
  • everyone painted Christ. So clearly the painters were trying to make some money, in addition to artistic expression. 
  • painting naked children was clearly not an issue in that time.
  • "art" is pretty much whatever people are willing to pay for, like music and antiques.

The Moroccan-themed courtyard in Cat's Hostel
So few people come out to play in the rain
Wish I was a student again, so I didn't have to pay full price for everything
Sorry America, you are not the first to have fat children
Really? I could totally do something like this! But it's art, so I have to admire it
This was the coolest sculpture I've ever seen. I thought that was a real veil, but it is actually the stone carved to look like that. This, I can't help but admire in pure awe.
El gato's meow

Day 2: The loudest group of the night comes into our hostel room, around 830am. I'm getting up to go to breakfast, so it doesn't bother me. At breakfast I sit with three guys from Malaysia and we have a pretty good conversation before the walking tour starts.

Free walking tour with Colombian tour guide, Viviana. She is pretty good and gives me info I did not get last time I was here when I took the hop on/off tour bus. After the tour, I hang out with Jurate, a Lithuanian girl who lives in Denmark and is in town on business, and three American girls, students in Spain, and eat at a self service tapas place called Lizzaran. Food is delicious and in addition to walking up to the counter and grabbing the food you want, they bring it by your table when it's hot and offer you some.

After lunch, we say goodbye to the American girls and Jurate and I walk around Madrid. Since, I've been here before, I play tour guide for awhile, "There is a Spanish building that was built in Spain by the Spanish during the Spanish era." We walk back to Puerta del Sol and get churros with melted chocolate. It isn't as delicious as I hoped, but still good.

I am planning to hook up with some other friends, Virginia and Leo, and their family, later, but they are stuck in traffic, so Jurate and I head toward Retiro Park. As soon as we arrive, Virginia tells me to meet them at the Apple Store at Puerta del Sol. I walk back and meet them there. Then we head to their car.

We walk to the square near where they parked and stop for dinner. I try the jamon iberico bellota, which was recommended by Viviana, earlier. We eat croquettes and frittatas also, plus a nice red wine that Leo recommends. After hanging out and catching up a bit, we head to the Hotel Auditorium Madrid, near the airport. 

Thoughts: At breakfast is where I saw how many people there really are in this hostel, and it was at least 30 people at breakfast. It's definitely more culturally diverse and there are more older guests. Free walking tours are the best. 

Virginia and Leo have very much a typical family and are very friendly. Artuur is the oldest and well behaved and calm. Rodrigo is the middle child, very curious and explorative. Gonzalo is the youngest and can entertain himself, as well as others. All the boys speak english well.

Cat's Hostel breakfast selection
Walking tour selfie
The ground was wet so I had to do it on a bench
Tapas from Lizzaran that were delicious
Jurate and I eating churros and melted chocolate

Day 3: Wake up and breakfast is really nice at the hotel and we meet Virginia's parents before heading to the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Air Force air show. There is lots of traffic so it takes well over an hour to go a couple kilometers to the show. 

We get to the air show and it's pretty cool. Planes are grounded so you can walk near them and talk to the pilots and get pictures. Of course, smokers are everywhere making the experience that much better. The Italian aerial team is amazing. There has to be at least 5,000 people at this air show. I go to the port-o-potty, and walk straight into an open one, because I thought no one was using it, but when I come out, I realize that I cut about 75 people standing in line. 

Friends of their family meet us there and I speak way more Spanish than I thought I could. Of course there are plenty of times that I struggle too. After eating a snack and seeing great performances by the French and Spanish teams, it's starts raining really hard. 

We head back to the hotel and Leo, the boys, and I go swimming. Virginia and Gonzalo join us later. After we swim and I take a shower we head to the mall to get dinner. Spain officially has the most crowded, unorganized and terrible parking garage I've ever seen in my life. We drove around for over 15 minutes just looking for a spot. It was very crowded and tempers were flaring and I'm sure all the Spanish curse words I don't recognize, were being yelled.
We decide on Italian food and I have a delightful chicken with a white wine.  Rodrigo doesn't want the ice cream that comes with his meal and he offers it to me. So thoughtful. I get strawberry. We leave the mall, which is also a long ordeal, but not like finding parking. We get back to the hotel and pretty much just crash. 

Thoughts: I've been to many air shows in the US and I never even thought about other countries having air shows. I was speaking to Virginia's mom and I said "usted" and she told me to use the "tu" form with her. Every language learning guide I've read enforces the formal tense, but everywhere I've visited, I'm immediately corrected and told not to use it. First in Germany, I can't use the "sie", then in France and Belgium I can't use the "vous", and now Spain. Maybe someone should update the language guides.

Spanish pilots at the air show
75th anniversary of the Spanish Air Force

Me at the airshow

Several clips of the planes in action

Give the kids the historically accurate guns for a photo shoot, lol

Artuur and I brushing our teeth so we can talk to the ladies at the mall

Day 4: Wake up and head down to another tasty breakfast, and talk a bit, before taking a short swim. Then we head downtown, but because of the Spanish national day parade, they drop me off at Plaza de Toros, where we say our goodbyes. 

I take the metro to Retiro Park and chill out there and enjoy the weather. There are so many more people than when I came last November. From there, I head back to Cat's hostel. When I get there, the girl that helps me is french and sees I have a belgian ID card, so she speaks to me in french. I must have done ok because i got a room and arranged a shuttle pickup for 4:20am.

I go out and look for something to eat. I stop at the Apple Store and play with the new iPhones a bit. I prefer the iPhone 6 to the plus version. An apple guy, or hombre manzana, comes up to me and we quickly need to switch to english to make our conversation happen. From there I wander around Madrid for a couple of hours. Since I'm in Spain, I go with the natural selection and I end up eating Asian food. I eat on a fountain at Puerta del Sol and people watch for about an hour. Then I wander around near the hostel, but less stores are open, so I head back to the hostel.

I chill for awhile in the main area before heading to the room. I meet some Mexican guys and a girl from Portugal and I'm complimented on my awful spanish before we switch to english.

Thoughts: I'm not sure if every Sunday is like this or if it's because of National Day, but all the cafes are open and people are out enjoying the beautiful weather. This one dude across from me at the hostel was snoring so loud all night! The hostel provides a shuttle (share-a-cab) service for 9€, which is way cheaper than the 30€ taxi ride. 

The most famous bull-fighting ring in Spain
Retiro Park on a beautiful afternoon
Writing my story on the steps of the Monument to Alfonso XII

Final Thoughts: Even if the weather in Spain is forecasted 90% rain during your entire stay, take sunglasses because the sun is going to come out! Since there is no garbage strike this time, the city is much cleaner. Obviously I picked the two worst days to stay in the hostel as far as activities go; nothing offered Thursday's or Sunday's. I still met some pretty interesting people and I definitely enjoyed my time with Leo, Virginia, and the boys. It's nice coming back to a city you've seen because you are not pressured to see everything, you can just relax and enjoy the days. 

Location: Madrid, Madrid, Spain


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