Monday, March 26, 2012

Last stop... Madrid

Anyway, we got into Madrid at 7:30am and found our way to the hostel. We weren’t able to move into our rooms, but we left our luggage and began our adventures. Our first stop was the Cathedral of La Almudena. It was really cool. The frescoes and stained glass everywhere were in bright colors, like nothing I’ve ever seen in a church before. The light shining through the windows lit up the inside in bright colorful reflections; it was pretty incredible.
The most colorful cathedral ever!

Right next to the cathedral is the Royal Palace, so we made that our next stop. We were able to walk through a bunch of the different rooms inside; it was the most decked out place I’ve ever seen! So many colors, more chandeliers than I’ve ever seen, amazing floor patters, a ton of silver and crystal… it was amazing. Linked to the palace was an armory which was also really cool. It contained all the armor, swords, javelins, guns and horse protection from the royal family. Some of it was really decorated and seemed like it was just for looks, but I’m sure it was a status thing. Right next to the Palace was the Royal theatre. It wasn’t so grand, but then again, we didn’t get to see the inside so I can’t say anything.
Royal Palace with the royal lamps. haha
We started walking on Arenal street which is mainly a pedestrian street with a bunch of shops and restaurants. Madrid is a pretty cool little city. The street was so colorful; it seemed like every building was different, but when they are all put together the character of the city is amazing. We walked past the monestary on the street and right next to there was a small street market. The vendors all sold different things from jewelry to scarves to clocks and wallets. It was fun to walk by all of them and “window shop”. We finished making our way down Arenal and ended up in Puerta de Sol. This is a nice little open square with a fountain where it seemed like everyone gathered. Don’t believe me? Even Spongebob, Patrick, Mario, Buzz, Woody, the Smurfs and a mime were there. Yep… everyone gathers here! Haha. We just had to sit an people watch for a while; it was too entertaining not to!
Colorful buildings!
Characters Puerta del Sol
From here we headed to Plaza Mayor. This is another square, but a lot bigger than Sol. It has a bunch of restaurants and some shops. We decided to sit down for lunch here and eat out in the plaza so we could people watch some more… and it was in the 60s so it would be a crime not to sit outside! I had another fried squid sandwich, I’m tellin’ you they’re delicious, and a drink that was a summer wine with lemonade. It was very good, pretty refreshing! There were some interesting street performers we sat and watched for a while, and after we decided we had enough, we headed to our next destination.
mmmm lunch :)
We saw that we missed some gardens that were over by the Royal Palace – Jarines de Sabatini – so we made our way back. Along the way we passed another little square, Plaza de la Villa, which was pretty nice, but people don’t really gather here… I think it’s surrounded by government stuff so that’s probably why. Unfortunately when we got to the gardens it wasn’t as grand as it sounded, but it was a nice place to sit and relax for a little while.
The next stop was San Francisco el Grande. We had seen many San Francesco churches, so why not one more! We got there and realized that even the church closes for siesta. We had a little more than a half hour to wait so we went to the park next to the church and took a little nap in the sun. It was pretty pleasant. We woke up at 4 and went into the church, which was freezing cold. But it was beautiful nonetheless! There was a tour going on, but it was in spanish so we couldn’t understand. So we did our own thing until they took them into the back of the church, and then we tagged along so we could see the back haha. We also hung around until the turned the lights of the dome on so we could see it in all its glory… and then we cut out after they shut the off to continue the tour haha.
The dome inside the church
We saw something on the map, it was a column of some sort that looked important, so we decided to find our way to that. Along the way we ran into a pastry shop and of course were drawn in. Girls + Chocolate… come on now. We got these Palm pastry things. It kind of swirls around and forms a heart, and of course it was covered in chocolate and a little bit of whipped cream. It was delicious! We found the statue shortly after that, but it wasn’t as grand as the pastry haha. So we made our way back to the hostel to move our stuff into the room and settle down a bit before dinner. It had been a long day!
Snack time!
After our recovery, we headed out to find food. We didn’t quite know what we were hungry for so we just wandered. We ended back up in Mayor Square where we had lunch, but we went to a different place called the Jamon Museo… yes, the ham museum. They have stuff here kind of like Prosciutto, some may say it’s better… it kind of is :) so we got some of that with fries and eggs. It was a pretty delicious meal; pretty filling too! After we were satisfied, we headed out to discover a place we passed on the way to dinner – Ice Bar.
It is just what it sounds like – a bar made entirely of ice. The walls, tables, chairs, everything is ice! They give you a huge coat to keep you as warm as possible because it is -8 degrees Celsius inside! With our cover charge we also got two free drinks… which was all we were able to stay for because it got pretty dang cold. It was quite the experience! We made friends with the bartender who actually makes all the ice sculptures inside. He talked to us for a while and told us his favorite building in Madrid and where to visit. He was a pretty friendly guy!
Probably doesn't need a description..
We left the bar, and suddenly it didn’t seem so cold outside anymore! Haha. We headed back to the hostel and called it an early night because we were pretty worn out! We slept in til about 9, and then checked out. Luckily we were able to leave our luggage at the hostel so we could walk around more since we weren’t leaving til late.
Our first stop of the day was the Prado Museum – free for students! Yes, another museum. But I will give it props, even though I don’t really like museums, this one was pretty cool. Something about the paintings just made it better than some other museums. We spent a couple hours there, and found out our ticket got us into Jeronimo’s  Church for free. It was right by the museum so we decided to stop there before lunch. We poked our heads in… to find out there was a wedding going on. Oops… they should really warn us next time. Haha.
The church.. with the wedding inside
On that note we headed to find lunch – surprise, surprise bocadilla de calamari! Haha. Yes that makes three this trip, but I figured I probably won’t be able to have it again, at least for a really long time, so I need to enjoy it while I can! We enjoyed our lunch and then headed to the Botanical Gardens. It was a lot smaller than the gardens in Barcelona, but it felt more natural and peaceful. I liked it… so much that we took another nap out in the sun there. It was pretty enjoyable! :)
Beautiful flowers :)
We spent probably a couple hours at the gardens and then headed to a huge park – Retiro. There were a ton of people here. There was a house made entirely of glass that we went in and a museum as well. We also went and sat by the pond area where there was a huge monument; we watched all the people who rented out row boats and all the kids skating around. I would love to have a park like this at home, or at least one nearby when I settle down to take my family. It is definitely a great place for families!
Turtles hangin' out at the park!
We left the garden and walked by the Puerto del Atocha, the Palace of Cibeles and the building our friend at ice bar told us about… which looked a lot like Gaudi’s houses. We’re not sure if it was or not though, but it was beautiful. We were feeling pretty worn out by this time, we had done a lot of walking. But we wanted to go see the first angled towers built, which happened to be in Madrid! So thus begun our final walking adventure… It was a lot farther away than we thought… We passed by the soccer stadium where the Real Madrid game was getting ready to start – should have gotten tickets for this too!
Puerta de Atocha
After about 45+ minutes we made it to the buildings. Was it worth it? My feet might not think so, but they were pretty cool to see. And besides, right next to them was a place where we got chocolate covered churros… if you ever see these – get one. They are so good! So after this we decided it was in our best interest to take the metro back to our hostel instead of making the hour+ walk… so that’s what we did. When we got back we hit up a restaurant close by to watch the game and get some food. I had some pork with eggs and potatoes. It was a good last meal in Madrid – and I washed it down with a local beer, Mahou.

We headed back to the hostel to get our bag and change for the ride home. Since our plane leaves at 6:30am and our time changes at 2am here tonight, we decided it would be a good idea to stay at the airport instead of pay for another night at the hostel and risk not getting to the airport in time. So sleepy time in the airport it was… only it was freezing cold on the floor… so no sleeping happened. They finally opened up security at about 4am and we went through and sat some more until our flight left at 6:30am. I immediately fell asleep. All-nighters aren’t my thing anymore! Haha. Our flight landed, we loaded a bus, got to the train station and boarded the train to Orvieto.
These last two weeks have been great… but I’m glad to be back home and settled down. What an adventure. Now… back to school…
What a beautiful city...

End spring break marathon blog... Ciao!

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