Tour Guide Barbie
Trip Start Dec 17, 2010
22Trip End Apr 26, 2011
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We left Alicante on Friday afternoon. Rain in Alicante, rain in Madrid. We landed and went straight to the hostel to get ourselves organized. It was my first time in a hostel, and I loved it! We got there and found out that we were sharing a room with some Americans and Argentinians. The Americans were there when we got there. Turns out that two of them go to the same school as my friend, Carolyn, who was with me. They spent some time discovering mutual acquaintances and repeating over and over again that they couldn't believe the coincidence. Then they headed to see the museums and we went to the tapas place they recommended (We stopped at one Starbucks and passed 4 more on the walk).
The tapas bar was called El Tigre. Apparently everybody in Madrid has heard of it and loves it. It was already crowded even though it was just mid afternoon. I've heard that it's out of control once it gets late. We got some drinks and ate plates of delicious unhealthy food that we didn't have to pay for (not paying for food, as you will see, became one of the main themes of the weekend).
I was the only one in my group, (Me, Carolyn, and Felicia) who had studied a map of the city so after dinner I led them around to a few of the important places. I couldn't believe how quickly I figured out the layout of the area. Definitely made me feel more confident about the three weeks of traveling I'll be doing at the end of the semester. We saw Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, did some shopping, ate some cake, and took a ton of pictures. Then we went back to the hostel to get ready to go out.
We met up with the Americans again. Started a pub crawl, but left early to go to McDonalds. I got a happy meal. Happy meals here come with fries and ice cream! both! The toy was a Barbie check book. Thanks, McDonalds, for making sure little girls learn early that if they don't have money, they can just write checks. After McDonalds, we went back to the hostel for a little bit. It was still pouring, or pouring again, I don't remember. We weren't ready to call it a night, so we went out one more time.
When we were at El Tigre we had met a guy that works at one of the discotecas, Moondance. His name was Carlos and he told us that he could put us on the list for the night if we wanted. It was a fun place. You couldn't walk anywhere without stepping on shards of glass, so good thing I bought new boots for this trip. We danced some and talked to Carlos for a little bit, but he was working so he couldn't talk much. We went home at 3 or so because we had so much to do on Saturday. Got back to the hostel and knocked out hard.
I got the girls out of bed early on Saturday. We went for the free walking tour of the city. If you ever visit a city that has a free walking tour, do it!! We decided to do the Spanish language tour. It was nice because that was basically the only time all weekend that people spoke Spanish to us. It made me glad to be studying in a city that's less touristy, because in Alicante people don't automatically switch to English when they hear my accent. (I'm calling it an "accent" instead of "bad Spanish" now.)
The tour goes through a lot of well known and important touristy places, but also passes some of the places that we would have otherwise missed, like the oldest restaurant in the world. There were also lots of history lessons thrown in between stops. This made me realize how much I've actually learned this semester.
The classes that I'm taking are called Español a través de la literatura and Español a través del arte. This means that the primary purpose of the classes is for us to learn Spanish. Depending on the class, we learn Spanish through talking about art or literature history. The teachers correct our mistakes and give little grammar lessons when they notice a mistake that people make a lot. The classes are cool, but there is such a variety of Spanish skill level in each class, so it was starting to get frustrating to hear grammar lessons that I had in high school. Some days I didn't feel like I was learning about art or literature at all. The tour, however, made me realize how much Spanish history I know just from the classes I've taken here. My Spanish history knowledge is so much better than my American history knowledge, but then again, there's more to know. Here's something I didn't know before the tour though. The origin of tapas:
King Alfonso X of Spain, was called el Sabio, or the wise. In his infinite wisdom, he figured out that if people eat a little when they're drinking, they don't get drunk as fast. Therefore, restaurants started providing some free food with drinks so that people would keep buying drinks. The world back then was a dirty place. There was always dust in the air, so people's drinks would get gross. Restaurants would counter this by covering (tapar=to cover) the drinks with the plates of food. The food then became known as tapas. Y ya está (that's it). You have permission to use that awesome story when you want to impress someone.
On Saturday afternoon we went to the Prado Museum. (We stopped at El Tigre on the way there and again on the way home. Really, that place is good.) The Prado is one of the best collections of Renaissance and Baroque art. We saw some paintings by El Greco and Velazquez, including Las Meninas which is so pretty. There were also several rooms that were just dedicated to Goya. Probably close to 100 of his paintings. We were definitely going by the checklist method of seeing the most famous ones because there's no way we could have seen everything. Definitely go to El Prado if you're in Madrid. It's free from 6-8 every day.
On Saturday night we went to Kapital. At first, I was pretty cranky about having to spend 17 euros to go to a nightclub, but then I decided that I might as well have 17 euros worth of fun. For those of you who don't know, Kapital has 7 floors. It's a very touristy place. Definitely something to do if you're just in Madrid for the weekend. I can't imagine that anybody goes there regularly. I had a good time, but again didn't want to stay out too late.
On Sunday morning we went to the Reina Sofia museum. It's free all day Sunday. There's not as much to see there. I was most excited about the Guernica. It was awesome. Bigger than I thought it would be. There were also several other Picasso's and a few rooms full of Dali.
Some of the Argentinian guys at the hostel offered to cook for us, so that took care of lunch. Afterwards, Felicia and I went to the Parque de Buen Retiro.
Note: after I wrote this yesterday, I decided to take a nap while the pictures uploaded. My host mom woke me up for school this morning. I slept 17 hours.