Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Madrid!

Ok, now I will finally get to telling you about Madrid, Spain! My friend from study abroad, Emily, was going to be in Europe for a few weeks and wanted to go on a little trip with me, and RyanAir was having a sale or something so I got a cheap round trip flight to Madrid!
I met Emily on November 25th in Paris after work and we stayed in this hostel, since our flight was so early in the morning. We also got a chance to meet up with our friend Mickael and hang out and catch up.
The next day our flight was at 9am, which doesn’t sound too bad. Except that RyanAir flies out of Beauvais, not Paris. Beauvais is a little more than an hour outside of Paris (which is about as far as Charles de Gaulle airport is from Paris as well), but RyanAir suggests you take a bus that is 3 hours before your flight, to ensure that you get there on time. Which meant that we were leaving our hostel at about 5am, since our hostel also wasn’t very close and we didn’t want to risk anything.
One nice thing about a flight that early, is you arrive early. We arrived in Madrid around 11am. We dropped off our things and walked around. Our hostel was in a great location for getting around and I soon discovered that Madrid is actually a pretty small city in terms of sightseeing. Coincidentally, my friend Matt from college/study abroad happened to be working as a language assistant in Madrid and when I hopped on Facebook that first afternoon, he was online and came to come meet us! We went to have pinxtos at a really cool wine bar called Lamiak. Pinxtos are kind of like tapas, but that they are always served on bread (I think so at least). Anyway, mine had goat cheese and caramelized onion on it- yum!!!
After we walked around the city for a bit more and then went to have churros! Apparently, churros are had with this very thick hot chocolate that you dunk it in. They’re delicious, but so bad for you!
Walking around some more, there is an area that is meant to look like New York’s Times Square! The city is also really well done for Christmas, with a giant Christmas trees, an ice rink, and lots of lights everywhere. There is even a building that has a Christmas lights show to music on its wall, just like one I saw in NYC a few years ago.
That night, Emily and I went to this roof top lounge that is worth mentioning. I don’t know what it was called, but the view from the top was unbelievable. Some random girl in the hostel told us to go and we got a crew going and had a really cool time. What a random, swanky find!
The next day was Sunday. In the morning we met Matt outside of a well known restaurant-type place that sell what are supposed to be amazing calamari sandwiches. I love calamari, but this was definitely not the best, and whoever thought putting bad calamari on a crappy role, and then maybe putting mayonnaise on it, they clearly were not thinking straight.
After, that, it happened to be right by the modern art museum Reina Sophia, which is free on Sundays. This museum holds famous and beautiful modern art and is most known for its Dali’s and Picasso’s. There is especially one Picasso that is the highlight of the museum: The Guernica. The Guernica, completed in 1937, is an intense piece depicting the Spanish Civil War. It really is a giant and emotional piece and I would highly recommend seeing it if you go to Madrid.
Afterwards, we walked to a very beautiful park called Retiro Park. On the way, we passed what seemed to be an Occupy Wall street-type protest, which was neat to see. In the park, which is enormous, there are beautiful fountains, trees and shrubs. They even have palm trees because it never freezes there! There is one beautiful man-made pond that has an enormous fountain and you can rent row boats. We sat on the steps in the sun watching the row boats go by…
After, we discovered that there is a free art exhibit in the park that is a gallery of the Renia Sophia. It was particularly striking because all the walls were blaringly white, in contrast to the colorful paintings on the walls. Then, pretty nearby, was the Glass Palace, which we also discovered. Inside was another modern art exhibit, but it was just one work of art. The palace is all in glass so that the sun comes through, and the exhibit was a wall that lined the outer glass wall so you could walk between the glass and this wall or inside of it. On this wall were millions of tiny cut out symbols, so that when you looked at the sun through it, it looked like stars. It was very beautiful.
After that, we wandered around for a long time. I got to see the beautiful cathedral of Madrid and the Palace of the king and queen (who knew that Spain still had a king and queen? Lol I can’t believe I didn’t…).
We also went to the Prado Museum for about an hour, since it is free for the last two hours. Here they have beautiful Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco.
The next day we walked around the area known as Malasaña. In this area, my friend Kristen recommended to me a restaurant that has the best paella in all of Madrid. This quaint little restaurant did have great paella, and Emily and Matt really like what they ordered as well! Which was easy, since we all have very different tastes and Emily is a vegetarian.
After that we walked to the center of town and got nun cookies! In a small square known as Plazuela del Conde de Miranda, there is an old convent of cloistered nuns that make old fashioned cookies. To get them, you have to go to this door on the street and ring a bell, then, after telling them you want cookies, you go in and follow a hallway and at the end, you reach a dark room and on the left wall is a sort of lazy-Susan and behind it is a cloistered nun who you’re not allowed to see. She speaks to you (in Spanish!) and you get to choose what kind of cookies you want. I bought almond and coconut. They are really dense, powdery cookies made with lard instead of butter in the very, very old fashioned way and are called pulverones.
Other things we saw is there is a beautiful covered market that has all kinds of food, wines, and tapas.
I think that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t seem like much, but I really loved Madrid. The weather was excellent and warm and the architecture is beautiful and you can just walk around all day looking at free and beautiful things.
To see pictures, follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150420537841319.354073.544216318&type=1&l=c85f31ed42