The last day

Trip Start Jun 05, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Well,everyone else (Drew, Anne-Elise, Jill, Kelly, Robert and Jenn) has gone home now. The same night Jon's parents came into town, his Louisvillian friends Will, Patrick and Keith happened to come in on the same flight. It's been a very busy few days, and in fact I am already confused about what happened when. It is strange how much our daily lives have changed, though from the beginning of the trip, but how quickly we've adapted to it. At the start of the trip we were scraping by, saving pennies whenever possible by drinking fountain or tap water, eating sandwiches of plain bread and tuna, and (in one sorry case) sleeping in chairs on the train instead of paying for a sleeper cabin. But in Madrid our entire group was staying in the three star High Tech Petit Palace, a very svelt, modern place with free Internet and cable TV, a private bath, and a NICE air conditioning system. (In Barcelona we stayed in an unairconditioned bunk room with 10 other people, with a shared shower and definitely no plush couches to hang out in and watch the news in the lobby.) I must admit at this point, though, that I only slept in a "nest" of blankets on Robert and Jennīs floor, as I'm still too cheap to even pay for a roll-away. So that was nice, but after our high-rolling companions left, Jon and I were left on the street once again, likely to hovel under a bus stop at night and fight off other bums for turf rights. But, luckily Mom and Pop Casey came to our rescue, and have graciously allowed Jon and I to share a small (Read: uncomfortably small) pull-out sofa in their, yes, four star hotel outside the city. That is, in addition to feeding us very well, providing our daily entertainment through attending museums, the palace, the cathedral, a bullfight, and providing general good company, they've made us remember what it feels like to eat well and get a good night's rest. It's pretty good.

But, good though it has been, we must part ways, as the Caseys will be heading to Barcelona shortly, and we have a train to catch with my buddy Anton Garcia to head to Vigo, Galicia. As luck would have it, Anton is in Madrid right now visiting a friend, and we'll be able to take the same train to his home, where we are apparently staying at his grandmother's house for four days. After that we come back to Madrid: Jon to fly home, and myself to go to Palma for a week. I think we're both very excited about Galicia, and also, and in sort of a bittersweet way, the end of our trip. It's been great, without a doubt, and we've seen so much, but every once in a while, and when least expected we get this sudden hankerings for some random bit of Americana, be it a movie, a burger, or a combination of both in a family setting. But for now, we're enjoying Madrid and tonight we'll be having dinner with Jon's Louisville buds and our Mexican friend, Isaac, who we met in Florence, and who is studying in Madrid.

And I really glazed over our Madrid experience, but it has just been a fast-packed several days. The one comment I will make though, is in reference to the bull fight we went to last night. I went and got the tickets for the bull fight at 5pm, while Jon and his folks went to the Prado, that I had already seen earlier in the week, so we got pretty good seats. They were cheap, too, because the matadors were apparently novices, and therefore didn't do all the flourishes or have the precision or dramatic confidence of the more seasoned matadors. And what this boiled down to was a half-filled stadium watching basically a practice bullfight (6 bulls were ritually slaughtered by 3 matadors). To this point I had been to Spain several times, and had always resisted going to a bullfight more out of visceral disinterest than a philosophical or ethical dilemma, but now that I've seen it, I'd say I probably wouldn't do it again. I mean, I respect the bullfighters for their bravery and daring--what they do takes incredible courage and ability...but, uh...why do it? And I think more and more Spaniards are asking that same question, especially from an animal rights perspective, and bullfighting is losing a lot of its former prestige. And especially when two of the worse matadors failed to provide the last, swift killing stab with the sword, leading to some clumsy follow-ups, and one of the other guys having to repeatedly stab the bull in the head to finish the job, and we all watched as the bull struggled to hold onto life and then had a last death spasm--I was particularly disturbed. But, Mr. Casey assured me all of this was probably more humane even than what goes on at any slaughter house--at least the bull gets a chance (albeit miniscule) to survive. Anyway, without taking any moral stance on the issue (no, I'm not going back to vegetarianism), I'll just say I'm not going out of my way to watch another bullfight.

Well I must go meet up wit dem Caseys, who've been at the Reina Sofia Museum looking at Picasso's "Guernica," which I saw with my dad about 7 years ago (I doubt it's changed much). I hope everyone is well and I look forward to seeing you stateside in a couple weeks.

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