This place is great. In my next life I want to either be a Spanish baby or a Spanish viejecita. Or a Spanish person, more like. Europeans have all the fun.
So yesterday was our very first day in Madrid... let me tell you, what a cool place it is! We rode in on the metro, and then walked around the city basically from about 10-9 PM, and every second was great. We walked past La Reina Sofia (famous museum where Picasso is king... lots of his obras there) and then got our móviles! Hah I thought I had escaped a cellphone, but every pareja de compañeros has one here. Too bad we have to pay .05 euro a minute! And sorry Mom... I think it'd be too pricey for you to call me on! After that we went down the street to El Prado, (famous museum housing mostly works by Velazquez(th) and other spanish artists. (I'm pefecting my Spanish athent, you see) Afterwards w
e walked up the CRAZY streets of Madrid with THOUSANDS of people up to El Puerto De Sol, which is basically the main square of Madrid. I'm sorry I didn't take very many pictures, Mom... I'm going to be here for 2 months, and I kind of feel like it's picture overkill, so sorry... I'm being selfish.
Yesterday was Kelly's (a girl in my group) birthday, so we decided to celebrate with some good, old fashioned, delicious, best-i've-ever-eaten helado de España. Ayyy where is this stuff in the US of A? I had tres leches, and it was delicious. I will definitely be going back for more, and trying a different flavor every time! Just remember to steer clear of the ones with alcohol...
After our break we made our way to La Plaza Mayor.
... that place is where all the action happens! There was a big old festival there, and for some reason, a lot of bagpipes! There are also a TON of street vendors there, and, like all over Madrid, living statues, fat Spidermans, and Mickeys and Minnies who want you to give them euros for pictures. It's a good happy medium of funny and annoying all wrapped up into one! My favorite experience in the Plaza was when one of the Chinese masseuses grabbed one guy in my group, and would not let go, giving him a massage against his will, and pushing him right back down when he tried to escape. So funny... these people know how to get some business!
We continued walking after the Plaza to the Palacio Real and the Catedral de la Almudena, which are two of the most ornate and magnificent buildings I've ever seen. The Palacio is the King and Queen's but they don't even live there.
What a waste- if they're looking for someone to stay there... well, I will take it off their hands. Mis padres told me that the princes get married in the Catedral, and I think it's basically tourists and their donacíones that support it the rest of the year.
After visiting here, our group all went back to Alcalá, but some of us decided to stay. We headed to Jardines de Sabatini y Campo del Moro, which are big, beautiful, amazing gardens. We ate lunch there, then sat around and people watched some. I love Spaniards.
The rest of the day was spent wandering through the streets of Spain, going back to places we'd previously been, trying to make heads and tails of this ginormous city!
We went to El Parque de Retiro, which is one of Spain's versions of Central Park or the like, and walked around, laid around on the grass, and partook in more touristy attractions. All I know is that THIS is where I am gonna go to do my homework/sienteme en el cesped. It's beautiful.
Later, we met back up with some of our people and went out back into the city for churros y chocolate.
Boy HOWDY that is some good stuff. Meat, Alcohol, and Chocolate Con Churros- those are the three main food groups of España. The chocolatería to which we ventured yesterday is said to be one of the best in Spain, but me and Natalie think otherwise- you see, our "hombre" and we like to call him, Roberto, works at a chocolatería here in Alcalá, and the chocolate y churros there are better. And it's just down the street. ¡Que tío! But really- so far I am not a fan of Spanish food, so if I can live off chocolate and churros for the next some odd weeks, I will be happy as a clam. The hot chocolate here is more or less a melted candy bar, and the churros.... ahhh talk about greasy goodness. The only thing that makes going to restaurant hard though, is that they don't split the check- basically the mesero gives you the whole thing and lets you fend for yourself, which is hard when you're splitting between 8 people. and everyone just exchanged euros, and they've only got a 50. Oh the meseros... they've got the personality of a... well, let's just be blunt here, there is none to speak of. Good thing it's not customary to leave a tip :)
After a heavenly time of chocolate and churros, it was time to head out and back to Alcalá, which is about a half an hour trip by metro and then train. Gotta watch your bags here.... there's a lot of riff raff.
Upon returning, Natalie and I spent the rest of the night chatting with our family. They're a funny bunch! ... and I still don't know my madre's name :/. However, I have learned that they have another son who is older than Roberto with a daughter named Natalia who is learning English, so when she comes over, we are to speak English to her. They own their own business underneath their apartment, where they fix and sell different clothes, but business is hard because of the recession in España- oh, and she hates all las tiendas chinas- they take her business and don't have to pay taxes! Last night we gave them our gifts, too- chocolates from Natalie, and from me, a Snuggie, compliments of the USA. Oh they loved the chocolates, and I think Mama is going to love the Snuggie for when she sews at night... and the booklight was definitely a hit, too!
Today is Sunday, and that meant church. Our family told us the buses didn't really run very often on Sunday, so Natalie and I decided we could walk, get a little sun and exercise, and get there just fine. Good thing I've got an internal compass and a map, because la iglesia was FAR. I'm sure we looked like real ciudadanos de Alcalá with our map, especially when we'd stop in the middle of the street and look for street signs, which are usually quite ambiguous, worn out, and on the side of buildings. We made it alright, and church in Spanish went a lot faster than the English variety- probably because I had to pay such close attention to understand anything. I didn't even try in Sunday school, though. I figure if I don't understand the Old Testament in English, there is no way I'm gonna understand the story of Baalam in Spanish!
Today was fast Sunday, el domingo de ayuno, but the truth is, it wasn't even hard for me, because I mostly avoid eating here, anyways. Most people gain weight when they go abroad- I am going to lose it. When I tell you I don't like meat, well, I am not kidding. As I've had to choke it down the last couple days, I remember how sick it is- it's salty, it's overpowering, and it is scary. Today for lunch was my first time tango-ing with langostino.... this is better expressed with a picture.
I'd say even non-vegetarians would take issue with ripping the heads, tails, and shells off these bad boys. They tasted like the smell of fish, but I choked two down. Ahhh what a big girl I am becoming. At least we had some salad, though. I was able to eat around the ham, and they even had Caesar dressing! Loved it. I hadn't seen a vegetable thusfar until today. Since lunch is big, we had lentejas, too. LENTILS. I love lentils so much. I secretly ate around the gigantic pieces of beef fat, and tried to not think about them swimming around in my beautiful pile of lentils complete with patatas, zanhorrias, y algo verdura verde que yo no sé, It was a meal to remember, but I got to finish it off with a Magnum bar, the best ice cream bar around, well, the planet. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. (just a little Bueller reference for you) But really, they are delicious, and my lack of calories from actual meals might be made up Magnum bars. They keep the freezer well stocked!
Fernando y Mama went somewhere today for almuerzo because today is El Día de La Madre, so Roberto ate and talked with us. We talked music, food, and had a good time. He likes a lot of English music, but doesn't understand the words, so I did a little bit of translation with the song Impossible Germany by Wilco, (great song, btw) and that was really cool. Here everyone loves American music, clothes, etc, but they don't really understand it.... they play awful 80's music in the tiendas y bars, and my favorite musical moment thus far was when two boys around the age of 9 or 10 walked by me, and the tune of "will the real Slim Shady please stand up" followed close behind. A lot of the young people wear English on their clothes, and man.... most of the English phrases make no sense. They usually broadcast things like, "I Hate You" or the like. I can't remember any more of the good ones right now, but I am sure I will see more!
Well, the rest of today is looking like vegging out and getting ready to go to Toledo tomorrow- should be fun, and the last day completely free of any commitments... class starts Tuesday :/. However. it's only 9-11 every day, so I probably shouldn't complain :)