This past Sunday, Matt and I got our first chance to travel in Europe and we went to Madrid. It was so much fun! Every one always says that traveling around Europe is so easy with cheaper flights to nearby countries and the train/subway/bus systems, and I guess we didn’t believe that until now. We thought it was a really big deal to look up a train from Avila to Madrid and back, get our tickets, ride the train, and then find our way around Madrid. It was so easy!
On the Train to Madrid
The train ride was about 1 ½ hours with only one stop, and it was a really nice train, so smooth it didn’t even feel like we were moving. I was really proud of myself because I actually did some research on some Madrid tourism websites to find out what we should see. I found out about a huge well known flea market with over 400 vendors that takes place only on Sunday mornings, and I found out that the most famous Spanish Museum, the Museo Del Prado, has free admission only from 5-8 pm on Sunday nights. A lot of tourist spots were free only during certain hours and on certain days.
So once we got to the train station, we found an information booth where the lady gave us a great map of Madrid, and I was able to ask her to point out all the places I had looked up. We only had one day, so we decided to only do a couple things. There is a subway stop at the train station, so we bought 10 passes for the day and got on. It was so easy to get around on the subway (with a good map)! First we started at the El Rastro Flea Market – it was really neat. They closed off a lot of streets and there were so many vendors and people everywhere! There was everything from jewelry to antiques to clothes to watches and tourist paraphernalia and it was so crowded! We went in this one booth that had some old-timey army gear, like gas masks and cool hats and camouflage clothes, but when we walked in we felt kind of creeped out by some of the stuff and by the guys working there, and we think it may have had something to do with Nazis….not sure. We left that booth pretty quickly. (sorry about the photo captions, I can't get them centered...)
One of the vendors told us to wear our back packs on our front or else things would get stolen, luckily we made it out of the huge crowds with everything!
After a couple hours at the market, we left to meet Nick for lunch – one of Matt’s teammates from Rollins who is playing basketball for Los Rozas, in Madrid. We met him and ate lunch at an Italian place called Ginos. It was so good! It was my first time to eat Italian food since being in Spain and it was delicious (even though the menu was in Spanish, and I wasn’t really sure what I ordered). It was really good to see Nick, too, and to talk in English with someone!
After lunch we headed toward the Prado Museum, which took us into the historical and tourist area of Madrid. All the buildings were beautiful! We stopped at this one building that was the prettiest (I think I read it was a renovated palace), and went inside. It turns out this is where the City Council’s Nativity Scene was displayed (I had read about this online). It is about 10-12 different scenes that narrate the story of Jesus’ birth, from the shepherds to the typical nativity scene. The line was really long, so we just saw what we could by not waiting in line, it looked really neat. I think the building is the City Council building. It was old, all white outside, with beautiful ceilings inside, and 6 stories tall. We tried to go to the platform at the top where you could overlook the city, but after waiting in line we discovered we had to have a number/ticket, so we gave up.
The building at night
After that, we headed to the Museo Del Prado. I was really excited about this because I’m not a huge art fanatic, but its not every day you get to visit a famous museum, so I was really happy it was free, it made it worthwhile without the pressure to stay for hours. My favorite paintings were the huge oil paintings – a single painting covered an entire wall floor to ceiling, and they were in beautiful frames. We saw a lot of paintings depicting Jesus and John the Baptist, and in another area there was a lot of Spanish art, mostly having to do with battles. Another area had a lot of sculptures, and there were lots of portraits, mostly of Spanish royalty. Past that, I can’t tell you much except that the paintings were pretty. The neatest thing was that there was an original Picasso painting on display! It belongs to a Russian museum and it was the first time it had ever been shown in Spain. It was called "Girl on a Ball". I thought it was pretty cool we got to see an original Picasso in person. There was a whole room dedicated to this one painting. Matt was a trooper and let me look at everything, and I think he maybe enjoyed it some too. We only saw a small portion of the Museum, it was so big and there were a lot of people there.
After the Museum we went to Starbucks, where the girl who took my order spoke English. It was wonderful (the coffee and the English). Matt and I thought Madrid was a lot more American friendly than Avila. We heard a lot of English, there are more types of food (more American restaurants – we walked past a Domino’s and I’ve heard there’s a KFC – and also Italian, Chinese, all kinds of food). We think it would be really fun to live in Madrid, but we are glad to be in Avila this year, I think it is forcing us to learn Spanish and the culture and have no American comforts!
After Starbucks we headed back to the train station and went home. We actually had a ticket for a later train and didn’t have time to change it, so we just played dumb when the conductor came by, and spoke in English to each other and acted confused like we didn’t know. It worked fine, and I’m glad we came home an hour earlier because we were so tired!! It was a really fun day though, and we definitely want to go back again soon.
As a side note, I started reading the Hunger Games (book 1) on the train on the way back to Avila, and it was so good I finished it in a day or two! I’m trying to delay buying the second book on my Nook so I can get some other things done. I know once I buy it I will only want to read! Maybe I’ll buy it Saturday before we fly home for Christmas Sunday as my treat to read on the plane.