I wish I had more positive things to say about Madrid, but it honestly wasn't the best experience I and our group have had. It is HUGE and there are A LOT of people- it was very difficult to walk around at times and we had to be on our guard for pick pocketers... No wonder people get away with it all the time. I had been a little bit sick a couple days before this, but the day that we went (Saturday, Sept. 18), it put me over the edge. My throat hurt so bad and by that night I had completely lost my voice. Whatever it was that I had, I haven’t really gotten over till about now (a month and a half later) and I’m STILL not 100%. This immune stuff is very frustrating.
While in Madrid, which was only for a weekend (Saturday morning until Sunday night), we went to the Prado Museum (one of the best museums in the world) where we got to see a bunch of famous paintings by Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. I got to see the “las meninas” painting in person, which was pretty cool- and huge! We were there for about 2 hours, which for me was plenty of time, since I’m not too much of an art fanatic. We also went to el Parque del Retiro, which was a huge park with a central man-made pond thing where people were in little boats just passing time and soaking up the sun. There were a ton of performers and people pretending to be statues for money.. kinda creepy but interesting. They were all over Madrid! This park was basically the New York Central Park of Madrid. There were a bunch of cool fountains and grassy spots to sit and ponds and whatnot. People came there to jog or just to pass time, and we went there to eat lunch and of course, ended up buying some ice cream J We also walked around the old part of Madrid and saw one of the Royal buildings (but not the palace) and a cathedral-which was actually only built like 15 years ago. But the time we had our free time, we were all pretty exhausted. We attempted to go shopping on the street that was nothing but places to shop, which was cool, but full of people and we were all too tired to try on clothes, let alone buy anything. We ended up heading back to the hotel (in which we got completely lost and couldn’t find… so we stopped into McDonalds quick to get a American food recharge before we wandered around some more) and resting a little bit for what was originally suppose to be a big night. Our friend Katie was turning 21 on Saturday, so we all planned on going out to eat and then go out afterwards because we heard there were some great places to go out in Madrid, because, like New York, the city never sleeps. Since our hotel was so far from everything, we had a lot of trouble figuring out where to go or what to do. We ended up going to an Italian restaurant (which you had to walk through a convenience store to get through..?) which was really good! I split a margherita pizza and a really good pasta dish with chorizo and cheese and tomato sauce and whatnot with Heidi and it was worth every penny I think. After we finished, we tried to find somewhere to go out.. but the only problem was that everything was really far, the metro closed at 2, and everyone was pretty tired. After wandering around for an hour, I decided to head back to the hotel with Amanda and Heidi, which was a good choice in the end. We went and bought Kit Kat ice cream (yum!) and then we watched some tv.. I believe it was Ms. Doubtfire in Spanish! Surprisingly, that was one of the few channels in Spanish.. everything else was in German..?! Everyone else came back pretty early because they couldn’t find anything.
The next day, we woke up and had a really good breakfast! There were all sorts of cheeses and meats and some pastry-type things. They also had peach juice and orange juice which were both good, and then a bunch of different fruits and cereals! It made me realize how much I missed breakfast. After we packed up, we went to La Reina Sofia- a much smaller museum- which had the Guernica painting! I was super excited about this. I’ve learned about it quite a few times and its pretty famous, so it was awesome to get to see that. It was huge! It basically had its own room and was the only feature item in the museum. When we were finished here, we went to a little pizzeria called Pizzeria Pinnochio where I got an alfredo pasta, some really good bread, these potato things with a bunch of different dips and sauces, and then had a chocolate mousse for dessert. Yum! It seems like all we ate was McDonalds (twice) and Italian food while in Madrid, which I like both, so it all worked out :P After lunch, we had some more free time, so we decided to go to el Centro Commercial where there is a bunch of shops/a mall connected to the metro/train station. I think everyone was a little more in to shopping that day because they had a little more energy, but me with my voice gone and being extremely tired, I just browsed a little bit and waited for everyone, which was fine. I suppose I saved some money! After everyone shopped till they literally dropped, we got our things and headed back to Segovia! It felt like such a relief getting back home… Im pretty sure I went straight to bed!
This was one of our one day excursions, Saturday during the day. La Granja is one of the pueblos that was literally like a 15 minute bus ride away from Segovia. We went to a really cool glass blowing factory (La fabrica de los cristales) where we had a tour and heard about the history of the glass makers that use to live in this factory and make glass for almost everything. This is where a lot of cathedral glass was made and anything glass related for royalty. We also got to watch two guys working together and making glass bowls and blowing glass right in from of us! It was cool to see the process. After the factory, we went and found a park and ate our bag lunches. I remember it being cold, yet sunny that day. We then went inside La Granja, which was a huge palace that I think was used by one of the Royal families as a summer home. But of course, it was gigantic. We got to see these large works of art (basically) that were made of thread which was actually gold and other precious and expensive material Im sure. They had scenes on them of all sorts of different things, I think most religious. There was also a room that was completely covered in sea shells.. it was interesting. Behind the palace was these gorgeous gardens and parks where a lot of people like to go and just sit. There were a lot of (interesting) statues and some cool flowers and trees and whatnot- of course all perfectly manicured. And that’s about it for La Granja.. it was a pretty quick half day trip!
I was super excited to go to Toledo! It’s one of the oldest and historic cities in Spain and is mentioned in a lot of stories, like Lazarillo de Tormes that we had to read for our Classic Literature class. At some point in time, Christians, Jews, AND Muslims all have lived in Toledo so there is a lot of influence from all three cultures.. which is unheard of since there was a lot of religious persecution in Spain and Jews and Muslims were both banned from Spain later in time. I was later informed by Ruben (being a military member and feeling the need to tell me, of course) that it has a lot of military history and some of the best soldiers come from Toledo, especially considering all the history the city has, and because of it’s central location. Overall, Toledo reminded me of a larger version of Segovia but with less tourist attractions and way more hills! The streets are all very narrow and there were not very many cars throughout the city. We took a drive around the city to see it from the outside and take pictures and it is basically built on a hill with a river at the bottom, so the castle that was there could be very well protected. We did not go to the castle.. it was not very typical looking and not very big. But we did go inside a really huge cathedral with a lot of fancy decorations.. one of the biggest and most impressive I had seen so far. About every 4 minutes some voice of god came on over the loud speaker saying in 5 different languages that we were not allowed to take pictures.. so you know the stuff is good when you can’t take pictures! Haha. We also went inside of a synagogue which was a pretty quick stop because it wasn’t that large, and we also went to la Iglesia de Santo Tome where all we saw was a famous painting called Entierro del Conde de Orgaz painted by El Greco- one of his most important works that showed both earth and heaven which was opening up above to take the body of the deceased.. it was unique because it was not something that had ever been painted before and there were a lot of different aspect to it that made it special. After all this touring, we had free time where we wandered the streets and shopped around a little bit. I was hoping to find souvenirs, but everything was fairly expensive since it is a really touristy city. We also has free time during siesta.. and so a lot of shops were closing up. Overall I really enjoyed Toledo.. but I still think I prefer Segovia :P