Monday, July 16, 2012

There and Back Again...

The Palacio Real in downtown Madrid
Hello again!  I got back from visiting my friend Rebecca in Madrid yesterday afternoon (check out here blog here for another perspective and more pictures).  I had a great time but was too exhausted to post before bed.  I saw a lot and heard lots of new names, so grab some snacks, and I'll try not to make too many mistakes.

I flew out from Kristiansand airport on Thursday afternoon and landed around midnight in Madrid.  My plane to Amsterdam was actually late to leave, but luckily I was able to power-walk my way through Schiphol and make the connection.  After a month abroad and a long day of traveling, it was a definite relief to see Rebe at the airport, and I crashed soon after arriving at her apartment.

After waking Friday morning, I quickly realized that I had packed for Norway weather, which is about twenty to thirty degrees Fahrenheit colder than Madrid (and had forgotten to pack all but one of my short sleeve shirts, anyway).  Pulling on my single available shirt and a pair of jeans, we headed out for a long but jam-packed day in Madrid.
The Almudena cathedral next to the palace
only completed in 1993!

Madrid has a great Metro system, so after buying a ticket we were able to get anywhere we wanted within a few blocks.  We started our day at the Ópera metro station and went to the royal palace.  The palace is from the mid 18th century and is actually no longer lived in by the royal family.  We didn't stop for a tour, but could peak through the fence to see most of the exterior and courtyard.  Immediately next to the palace was the Almudena cathedral, so we stopped in to check it out.  I only had my little camera, so I didn't take many pictures, but it was a really interesting mixture of old and new styles of art and architecture.
The interior of Almudena cathedral

Walking the streets of Madrid
I had to take a picture, I felt so at home!
We walked the streets and after walking through the Plaza Mayor and passing the oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrino de Botin, we stopped at a Museo del Jamón (literally, "ham museum").  Despite their name, these were small walk in restaurants scattered around Madrid's streets filled with delicious ham.  I had the Spanish version of prosciutto and was astounded at how cheap the prices were - at least compared to what I would pay in Norway.

The main statue and pond in Retiro Park
The last major stop of the day was in Retiro Park, a huge park right in the center of town with lots of trees and water features.  The park includes a few large ponds and an art museum filled with exhibits that went far over my head.  At this point it had been quite the long, hot day, so after seeing the major sites in the park, we stopped in the shade until heading back.
Puerta de Alcalá on one of the major roads of Madrid

That night, we went to get tapas at a bar near Rebecca's apartment with her roommate.  While discovering how much of the Spanish language I had really forgotten, I had what they declared the best tapas in all of Madrid.  With an order of a beer each, we got five plates of appetizers (her blog has pictures), and before we finished one, another would be put out!  By the time we had finished our second beer, we were all full to bursting with excellent food and (I was) ready for bed.
The Plaza de Toros had the Hapsburg
seal on its outside...  History dorks,
be impressed

On Saturday, we woke up later and embarked on a slightly less ambitious day.  We started by walking around the bull fighting ring, Plaza de Toros, and then continued to Plaza España.  The plaza had a huge pillar and statue of Don Quixote and Sancho.  While admiring the fountain and statue, we listened in on an American high school teacher using the story of Don Quixote as a pretty interesting allegory how the world is so dependent on your perspective.

The entire statue/column in Plaza
España.  I'm told the building
behind is actually abandoned

Don Quixote and Sancho
Later, we visited the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple donated and moved to Madrid in the late 60's.  We also walked past the Real Madrid stadium and looked awesome posing in front of the Puerta Europa.  We had some more delicious (and cheap!) Spanish cuisine, and went down to the river walk to end the day.

Rebecca single handedly stops
Spain's banks from collapsing
I'm definitely not sweating like crazy
in the Spanish heat

Puerta Europa
I had a great time and want to thank Rebecca again for hosting me and taking me through Madrid's many sights (which I'm sure are all old hat to her by now).

Hasta luega, Madrid!

Inside the Temple of Debod.  Actual ancient Egyptian engravings!

Looking out from the river walk

Puerta de Toledo at the end of Saturday

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