Trip Start Jan 06, 2011
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

 Last Monday I went to the sword dancing and clog dancing show that they put on at Harlaxton. The sword dancing looks so ridiculous. It was mostly old men with bells around their calves swinging handkerchiefs around as they dance and they had sticks instead of actual swords. I found it even funnier, because my English teacher in high school used to do this same exact dance for us! They also put on a hilarious play where some of the old men were pretending to be women wearing dresses and makeup.

Last weekend was a long weekend, so Lyndsey and I left for Madrid, Spain early Thursday morning. It was an awesome weekend, but started off on a bad note and was by far the most difficult travel I have done and hopefully will have to do. When we got to the train station I realized that I forgot my rail card. You don’t have to have a rail card to travel, but if you buy one you get 1/3 off every ticket you buy. I had bought my roundtrip ticket online and figured I would just have to pay a little extra since I forgot it. Boy was I wrong! I had to buy a whole NEW one way ticket for 60 pounds (equal to around $100 US dollars!), even though I obviously had paid for my other ticket. Plus, I had to pay the difference for my ticket back. I ended up paying over double what I paid in the first place. I guess I learned my lesson! The rest of the trip was long but at least I didn’t run into any more problems. Although we did check into the airport about 20 minutes before the cut off, which could have been tragic. It is really stressful when you have to catch trains and flights at specific times, because if they are delayed at all you could end up missing something and have to buy a new ticket. Our entire journey consisted of a taxi, train ride, the Underground, a flight, and finally the Metro to our hotel (Where we quickly figured out that couples are not shy about showing their affection in public… haha). Overall, it took about 9 hours to get there. When we got there we explored the city a little bit and went out to eat. For dinner that night we just asked the waiter what he recommended and ended up with a plate of meats and cheeses for our first course and steak and fries for the second. Not bad for not knowing what we ordered! Eating out was probably one of the most difficult things we did, because neither of us speak fluent Spanish and had no idea what most of the things on the menu were. When going to Spain, you definitely need at least a basic knowledge of Spanish to get by, because not many people speak English or if they do it’s not fluent. The rest of the night we just spent exploring more of the city and shopping around near our hotel.

We split the city into two sections, one half we would cover on Friday and the other half  on Saturday. To be honest, I probably couldn’t tell you what half of the historical buildings we saw were, but for me this trip was more about the culture than the sights. Anyway, Friday morning we started off at La Plaza de Isabel II and made our way to El Palacio Real (The Royal Palace), stopping at some fountains (which are everywhere!) and Los Jardines de Sabatini (Gardens) on the way. Madrid is such a gorgeous city and it was so nice to see blue sky (it is almost always gray in England) and the sun! It was about 60 degrees in Spain the entire time we were there! For lunch we stopped at a restaurant and got sandwiches. In most places, they have the meat hanging from the ceiling and just cut it off for your sandwich… which can be really stinky if you don’t go to a good place. We were still hungry, so we went to the supermarket and got these delicious pastries called caņa chocolates. They are basically a croissant with a chocolate filling! The rest of the afternoon we did a lot of shopping and were exhausted so we went back and took naps until dinner. Tapas are a small plate, pretty much like an appetizer and are very common in Spain. They have tapas bars everywhere so we had to try them!

Saturday we started off at the Museo del Prado. We worked our way through the big city area where we found a bunch of Disney characters and things. It was fun to see but we didn’t get our picture with many of them since they all expect you to give them money. Although, there was a very short Tigger that came up and put his arms around us and wouldn’t let go until we had our picture taken with him. Afterwards, he rubbed his fingers together like he was expecting money, we gave him a little, but we hadn’t even wanted to take our picture with him in the first place. Haha We kept walking and found a churro shop, they were also selling the caņa chocolates. They were much more expensive so we decided to try and find them again somewhere else. We found another supermarket that we thought was another branch of the one we went to on Friday. We thought it was weird that it was set up the exact same but didn’t put too much thought into it until we walked outside to find a bench and ended up sitting in the exact spot we sat Friday. Turns out we started at opposite ends of the city each day, but somehow ended up in the same spot by the end of the afternoon. After eating, we walked another block and realized that the restaurant we ate at the night before was right there as well. So, at this four way stop we ended up taking every different direction without realizing it. Haha That night we went out to dinner again and I had to try paella, because it is a traditional Spanish meal. It was rice and seafood and was soo good… except for some of the weird sea food. We just went to bed after that because we had to get up early for our flight Sunday morning. Our flight and everything went well coming back and the only problem we had was that our last train was delayed 15 minutes, so I would say it was a success.

Spain was so gorgeous and it was tons of fun to see the difference in their culture. We definitely got in a lot in the time we were given and our feet were ridiculously sore from walking all day every day. I would LOVE to go back someday and do other traditional Spanish things that I missed out on this time, such as flamenco dancing, markets (only open on Sundays), Sangria/their night life (which Madrid is known for), and bull fighting (only happens in the summer).

Monday was Valentine’s Day, so Harlaxton put on Valentine’s Day Karaoke in the bistro. I went down with a few friends and we ended up singing Wannabe by the Spice Girls. It was so much fun because everyone was really getting into it. Even some of the staff went up on stage by the end of the night!

Tomorrow there is afternoon tea in the Great Hall and Friday morning I leave for North Wales! I also have a presentation for British Studies that I need to do sometime between now and Monday… guess that’s what I will be doing tomorrow night! Busy, busy, busy…

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