Madrid: Where a blonde and a redhead stick out like a sore thumb
Meghan and I arrived in Madrid on Tuesday night around 10:00 pm. We had looked up the metro line and stop that we had to use to get to our hotel, but were a little confused at first how to get a metro ticket. There were kiosks set up that said "Tickets" and so we tried using one. As it turned out though, they were in Spanish and we could not get it to work in English nor find the name of the stop we needed. Finally, after trying a number of times and standing there looking like idiots probably, we managed to get it to work in English, but we still couldn't find what we needed. Then we decided we should probably just ask for help. As we were walking to the information desk, we saw some other kiosks, which we decided to try. And guess what!?! We found the right kiosk and was able to get tickets to where we needed to go. Off we went. 45 minutes later, we were in out hotel room. We had been unsure of what to expect for the hotel because we booked it on a discount website, sort of like Expedia, and it was just as cheap as a hostel. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite nice though. We had two single beds and our own private bathroom, which is not always the case in European hotels. It was also nice to have a room to ourselves instead of sharing a hostel room with some random strangers since we didn't have to worry about out stuff.
Our first night in Madrid was quiet. We went to McDonalds, which was conveniently next door, for a small snack and the free internet (we had to pay for Internet in our hotel), then relaxed in the hotel room.
On Wednesday, we went on a walking tour like we did in Amsterdam. The same company does tours in Madrid, and we had really enjoyed the last one we went on, so we went here. Madrid has a really interesting history, so it was cool to learn about it and see the different historic landmarks and cool buildings. For example, one church has a stuffed crocodile in it that has been there for more than 400 years. And I mean the crocodile has been there that long, not just the church! They have a story that some people were on an island that they thought to be deserted, when they heard a baby crying. They went in search of the sound and when they came to where the baby was, they saw a crocodile approaching it. So, rather than just trying to run and save the baby, they dropped to their knees and prayed. And then, surprise surprise! A miracle happens and a tree falls on the crocodile, killing it. To them, this is an act of God and rather than saving the log or anything, they take the crocodile with them and stuff it and put it in this church. And that is how a studded crocodile that is more than 400 years old came to be in the church. We didn't actually get to see the croc because they removed it to try preserve it better. I guess the techniques they used 400 years ago to preserve the thing may not be the best anymore. Also, the current King doesn't actually live in the Royal Palace. When he became king, he thought the palace (which has more than 2000 rooms if I remember correctly - might be 2800 rooms) was too large, so he moved into a smaller place and only uses the palace for really important occasions. Now it's more like a museum when it's not being used to royal business. I thought it was kinda cool that the King thought the palace was too large.
After finishing the walking tour, we wandered around the centre of Madrid for a while enjoying the beautiful weather. Then, once our stomaches were feeling a little empty, we decided to stop for a meal. We found a nice little restaurant with tables set outside. A lot of places have the 'Menu del Dia' and for between €9 and €12 you can get a three course meal, bread and a drink, and we decided to try this. So we sat down at this little place and our server came over. Well, he didn't speak English and we don't speak Spanish, so there was a bit of a language barrier but somehow we managed to order our food. Meghan and I weren't really too sure what we had ordered, other than the fact that we were getting wine and paella and something to do with pigs. So we are sitting there, waiting for the glass of wine that we ordered and the server brings an entire bottle and just leaves the bottle and two empty glasses on the table. Since we can't communicate really, Meghan and I weren't really sure if we had to pay for an entire bottle, if we ordered wrong or of it was somehow part of the meal. But we decided to drink it anyway and see what happens when we had to pay the bill at the end. Not long after bringing the wine, out server brought us our Paella, which is a Spanish dish made with rice and saffron and meat. Ours had crab, shrimp, oysters, mussels and pork in it. I am not a huge seafood person by any means, but I really enjoyed it. I was hesitant at first when I tried it - Meghan was laughing at my facial expression as I picked through it - but it was really good. Our server also brought us some delicious buns. Once we had finished the paella, our next course was brought out, which was pork with fries and a blue cheese sauce on the side. Also tasty. And lastly, coffee. By this point, we had almost finished off the bottle of wine as well. We made sure we finished the bottle before we left though - it was such good wine, we could not let any go to waste! Two hours and only €23 later for the both of us, we left the restaurant and headed back towards the hotel to freshen up a bit.
On our walking tour earlier in the day, the tour guide, Jake from London, had told us that some of the museums are free admission for the last couple hours that they are open. Meghan and I decided that we should take advantage of the free visit and went to an art museum. There we saw some of Picasso's work and also Salvador Dali. I loved Dali's work - he uses fantastic colour in his pieces and some of them were super interesting to look at because there was so much going on in them.
After enjoying the art for a bit, we decided to continue wandering around the city. We wandered down some streets that took us back in the direction of our hotel and the touristy area, but as we were walking it seemed that we were on streets filled with local tourists. Now, not being hispanic, Meghan and I stuck out like a sore thumb with our blonde and red hair and the guys here were quick to notice. I could not believe how many looks we got and the number of guys who called after us. To which we responded to by walking faster. Once we got to an area we were familiar with and filled with both tourists and locals, we stopped at another restaurant to enjoy a glass of sangria. Mmm.. Sangria! So good! What is almost as good as the sangria is the fact that tons of tables were set up in the plaza so we could sit out and enjoy the evening. Nearby an elderly couple played the accordion and a tambourine. A perfect place to sit and people watch. By this time you would think that our bellies would be super full, and they were, but we also had to try some chorros (I don't actually know how to spell the word), which are deep fried dough that is dipped into liquid chocolate. Jake pointed out the best place to go for them on the tour, and said they were really good, and so obviously we had to try those. We got to the place that makes them, and we ordered some, then found another seat outside where we could sit and enjoy them. Turns out they weren't as great as they were made out to be, or at least that's what I thought. Don't get me wrong - they were good, just not amazing. Still worth trying though! Then, with really really full bellies, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel, and again on our walk we got lots of looks from the guys there. I must admit, I was happy we didn't stay out super late or party hard or anything simply based on the fact that Meghan and I stick out as foreigners like crazy! We got enough attention by that point - no need for anymore!
This morning, we woke up and once again packed our bags as we are currently sitting on a train on our way to Barcelona. Once our stuff was packed we went back to McDonalds for breakfast and then wandered around. For lunch, we stopped at a grocery store, picked up some strawberries and bit of other food, then headed to an area by the Royal Palace that had some nice trees and benches where we sat and relaxed and enjoyed our food. One thing that I have loved about our trip so far is the amount of time we have been able to sit and enjoy the weather. Meghan and I haven't taken in many museums or gone crazy trying to see every single sight that the cities have to offer, but rather we take it at a leisurely pace and wander around a lot, which I love!
And like I said, now we are off to Barcelona. I really enjoyed Madrid and could easily have stayed longer, but time to move on to the next place! So many places to see in a short time!