Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spain Part 2: Where I Re-Discovered Warm Weather, Caught Up With Someone I Thought I'd Never See Again, and Ate Baby Sandwiches

Warning: this post has no flow, it's just sort of a compilation of  random feelings and anecdotes and thing I noticed in Madrid in a more or less chronological order. If you just care about the pretty things we saw just skip ahead to the pictures. Okay, enough warning for you, story time. 

Overall: Madrid was a great city: It has a cool, laid-back vibe, the weather was perfect and sunny, and it has lots of parks and green spaces (basically the less a city feels like a city, the more I like it). And I got to meet up with Lucia, a friend from Montpellier (my home away from home when I studied abroad).

Things I Noticed: First thing we noticed: the metro kept swearing at us. I heard it once, but ignored it. Then I heard it again, and Ewelina and I looked at each other... did the metro just call us kurwa? (which means whore in Polish). A few moments later: "Spanish words Spanish words kurwa." We Googled it later and found out that in Spanish, "curva" means turn. Turns out the metro wasn't questioning our sexual integrity, it was warning us so we didn't fall over. But even knowing that... we're still 12 on the inside and every time the metro made a turn we cracked up a little bit.    

Another thing I noticed: hills. Grenoble is the flattest city in France. It's been so long since I've seen a hill in a city that I was actually taken aback by it. Man, it's going to be weird going back to Seattle. 

And one more thing: the dog poop. Or the lack of it. They actually pick up their dog's business in Marid, oh it's been so long since I've seen this act of basic human decency. Take note France! If you've ever been to France you know what I'm talking about: for some reason people here don't feel the need to pick up dog poop. I literally looked a man in the eye as he walked a way moments after his dog took a dump, and there was not a single crap given (so to speak) as he left fido's brown gift to the world on the grass. 

Moving On...

Including our ordeal with the French trains, it took us a good 10 hours to get to Spain, so it was great to finally get to our Airbnb, flop down on our beds, and nap for a little bit before heading out to do a free walking tour. Here we met up with Lucia, who joined us for half the tour, where we saw stuff and learned things from a really amazing tour guide. Lucia had a private lesson to teach in the afternoon so she left early, but we met back up with her that evening for tapas.

I felt a little bad for the tour guide, as we were chatting the whole time, but I couldn't help it. When you study abroad you have this little bubble of time in your life, and it's so intense and unique and amazing... and then you come home. And no one fully understands or shares any of your memories, and you can tell they get a little annoyed by all your stories that begin with "when I lived in France..." and you begin to question whether the whole thing even happened at all. And then you meet up with someone who was there with you, or you Skype them or you Facebook message them, and all of the sudden it's like you're back. I always forget how much I miss Montpellier people. It was amazing meeting up with her. I kind of freaked out a little when I first saw her, for some reason whenever I catch up with Mont people my first thought is "I can't believe you're real!" 

It was also yet another reminder of how tiny the world is. An American and an Australian meet in the south of France, a year later they both decide to teach English in two different European countries, and one quick (or not so quick) trip later, they're sharing tapas in a little bar in Madrid. I loved it. 

Our Airbnb: One great thing about Madrid, among the other great things, was our housing. Er... okay, the housing itself was pretty standard, but the people we stayed with were really cool, interesting people. That first night we ate dinner with them and we ended up talking until 11:00 pm about everything from wine and travel to immigration in Spain and the situation in Catalonia. 

Language Barrier: Throughout the trip language was sort of an issue, as neither one of us knows much Spanish. A month before leaving I started using the Duolingo app to at least get some of the basics down. But the only thing I really learned from the app were colors and how to say los gatos beben leche, and los gatos comen manzanas. I didn't get much use from "the cats drink milk" and "the cats eat apples." (Although I did repeat it over and over again. Sorry Ewelina.) I remembered how to say "where is" and "how much does it cost" which came in handy. I tried to ask for the bill one time, which I though was factura, but I thiiiiink that refers to your monthly bills. I'm pretty sure I should have been asking for la cuenta. At one restaurant I called the waiter over "la factura por favor" he looked at me funny "la factura?" "si, la factura" " factura?" "la factura." And we went back and forth for a little bit. It wasn't until the next restaurant that the guy corrected me. And then I felt stupid, I'm pretty sure I asked the poor guy for the restaurant's electric bill or something. 

The Food: I'm sad to say that the food in Madrid, and Spain in general, was a bit of a disappointment. I'm not a huge meat fan, so it makes sense that going to a country known for its ham wouldn't leave my palette satisfied. But it was more than that. When I hear Spanish, my stomach automatically preps itself for Mexican food, or at least something in a tortilla with salsa, being deprived of that was tortuous. BUT, I did have a little luck in Madrid. Context: I reall miss Mexican food. Let me tell you a little story about tacos in France: they are a lie. They do not exist in Mexican form. Here, you see "Taco" signs everywhere, but what do you get? Not a delicious meat- and veggie-filled tortilla with salsa, no, here you get a kebab. You. Get. A. Kebab. And they call it a taco. It's heresy, people were guillotined for less (exaggeration? Maybe). But in Spain there are a lot of South American immigrants, and not far from our Airbnb there was a little Taco place, and a beautiful, wonderful, Mexican man was sent from heaven to make me the best taco I have ever eaten. And I hate myself a little for not getting more when I had the chance, but I'm not exaggerating, I nearly cried with tears of joy. Ewelina didn't get it. 

Madrid verdict: besides the hookers who stand on one of the main streets every night, I liked the city and I had a great time there. It's a capital city, so it has that globalized feel that most major cities have. Between the Seattle-ish-like feel, all the dogs, and traveling with one of my oldest friends, I actually started to feel slightly homesick. Overall, thumbs up Madrid. 

Okay, shut up Ola, just show the pictures (I know there's a lot, but even so I had to cut out like a third of them):

Main square:

The symbol of Madrid, wrongly translated at the Bear and the Strawberry Tree. Madrid used to be surrounded by forest full of bears, that's where this guy comes from. There is still a lot of green area surrounding Madrid, and I felt like it still had an outdoorsy feel, at least as much as a major city can  

Kilometer Zero: They say that if you stand in it, you're bound to come back to Madrid. Fingers crossed that it's true.
Queen Isabella II, who became queen as an infant. I remember the tour guide telling us that no one wanted to marry her when she was 13 because she was too ugly. So she married her homosexual cousin. Rough. 

Royal Palace in Madrid: the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but it's only used for state ceremonies

Almudena Cathedral

We made a pit stop at a bar where we had shots of Madrid liquor out of edible shot glasses made of waffle and chocolate. It was really good.  

Restaurant Bodin, the oldest restaurant in the world. The prices are actually not too bad for a gueniss record holding restaurant, but there are some pricey things, like these baby eels, which cost over 100 euros. Ew. Ew for the price, and ew for the dish. 

Reunited!!! With tapas :)

Parc Retiro: 

I found a tree :)

The trees in this city man, they're all drunk and need things to lean on. 
Aaaaaaah, so many dogs! They were driving me crazy with their cuteness and their not mine-ness
In one of the main train stations. Grenoble, get on this level. They got trees and turtles and everything.
See all that ham? There was SO much ham everywhere

When one goes to Spain, one must drink liquid chocolate and deep fried dough. I don't know... I wasn't a huge fan, but I'm glad I tried. 
Inside the cathedral:

100 Montaditos! We both fell in love with this place. It's a popular chain restaurant in Spain where you order as many tiny sandwiches as you want. They have a whole list of different options, and the cheapest ones are only a euro each, so you could get a whole. I semi-take back what I said about not liking the food in Spain, it had its wins. I was absolutely fascinated by Ewelina's app, you point it at words in one language and it translates it to English. Sure, some of the translations were off (unless one of the sandwiches really was "meat waste"), but overall it was a nifty little thing that came in handy. 

I have a thing for olive trees. In fact, I had a thing for all the trees in Spain. 

Umm... Angry Pac Man eats Nazis, that's my interpretation anyways

Temple of Debod, Egyptian ruins given to Spain  as a gift

By the way...don't try to climb it. You will get rudely kicked out. Just saying. 

After our day of wandering Ewelina wanted to chill a bit, so I went out and explored a park and trail near the river not far from our apartment. I really, really loved this area. Like I already said, the weather was that perfect temperature, the kind that finally makes you want to leave your house after a long miserable winter. And the bridges were awesome. 

I had to, I just had to

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