The Capital

Trip Start Sep 01, 2013
Trip End Dec 20, 2013

Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yesterday was my first time outside of Alcala, and what better place to visit than the capital, Madrid? I don't recall having seen so many places of historical importance and astonishing architecture in one day before. I'm pretty sure I will feel the same way about every new city I visit this semester though! 

This trip to Madrid was sponsored by the institute. It was primarily meant to familiarize the students with the modes of transportation and major streets / attractions in Madrid so we would feel comfortable making the trip by ourselves. The trip to the main train station in Madrid from Alcalá takes only 35 minutes, so It is somewhere I expect to go much during my time here. 

The train we took yesterday was a double-decker. I thought that was really cool! After arriving in the station in Madrid I realized just how important trains are in Europe. Stepping out onto the platform, I noticed at least 10 other tracks that ran parallel to the train I just stepped down from. After going up at least 4 elevators, we made it to the ground level and stepped out into the Plaza del Sol (like New York's Times Square). It was the center of tourist activity and held many expensive shoppes, although no important government buildings. Immediately the item of interest were the street performers. People in various consumes doing different acts and illusions. Some I had seen before (like the slow moving robot complete with sounds), but most were extremely creative and very impressive. There was a levitating monk holding on to only a stick while in the seated position (no idea how that was done!). Sorry I didn't take pictures - I also didn't want to feel obligated to tip them. 

Madrid is a city full of statues at every turn. Many are very large and intricate also. I also noticed the intricate designs and engravings on may of the old buildings. Seeing my first Royal Palace was an incredible experience. The building so so large it made me feel like a small bacteria in comparison. It took at least 5 minutes to walk from one end to the other. We did not go in however, to do so is very expensive! Right by the palace is an impressive cathedral. This is the place where the royal weddings usually take place, and I believe it is the place where the current rulers, Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia were married. 

After standing in the shadow of royalty, the tour continued down main street! This again was adorned with interesting shops, performers, and all kinds of people from all over the world. The Plaza Mayor is the largest and most famous plaza of Madrid. Completely surrounded by buildings, it gives a feeling of entrapment. In the old days it was actually used for bullfights! 

After the tour with the institute guide was over, Butler's personal teacher that is accompanying this trip took us to a special place not well known. It was the top of a local district Library. This place actually was my favorite activity all day. Walking around on this rooftop, we could see most of the city and get a feel for how unorganized Madrid seems compared to large american cities. It was interesting to watch the flow of traffic around 6-laned roundabouts from high above.This observatory deck doubles as a bar at night, which would give an amazing view of the city! 
We returned to Alcalá by 5pm, spending only about 5 hours there in all. On Saturday, most of my Butler group returned to Madrid for to watch the televised selection of the 2020 Olympic City in front of the Puerta de Alcala. This ended up being a huge concert-like scene similar to what could be expected at new years in Times Square. Although Madrid lost to Istanbul and the party did not escalate into what would have been an insane experience, It was still likely the largest crowd I had ever seen in one place. There were many Spanish artist performances that were interesting to watch and the backdrop of the concert was incredible. My group was somehow towards the very front - Only about 30 yards from the stage in a crowd that stretched over a mile back on one of the largest roads in Madrid!
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Ferg on

i was in an ex-pat bookstore/bar in madrid when they announced rio over madrid for the 2016 olympics! bummer madrid missed out again. if you have a chance to go to j & j books and coffee, do! they're nice people. i'm trying to remember the names of a couple café/restaurants i liked in madrid. there's a kebap place TO DIE FOR. i'll let you know when i figure it out!

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