Part 4: Madrid

The last stop is naturally the most sentimental and bittersweet. The thoughts of leaving France after being there the longest (only 4 days) made me sad. As simple as that- sad. But each time I thought of leaving Paris, I remembered that I still have Madrid. “Madrid, Madrid, don’t forget about Madrid.” It made me curious, the city that my parents adored when they went together. I wondered if I would love it just as much.

We woke up on the morning of April 24th at 4:15am. The earliest yet. I remember texting my aunt, who was to arrive in Paris that morning. The whole trip I have been emailing her tips about the European lifestyle. Just some things I noticed along the way. Her flight got in 45 minutes after I left for Madrid. What a shame. It was about 10am when we arrived at the airport. Madrid’s airport, I must say, is definitely the quirkiest out of all the ones I have been too.

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We collected our luggage, and I was the last one to find it. Randomly, someone picked it up and put it on the opposite side of where I was waiting. I starred at everyone’s bag, looking for mine, only to realize that it was never going to come. When I finally found it I took a pair of jeans out. I had shorts on, thinking Madrid would be warm, but I was mistaken. Madrid was just like England and France, chilly but bearable. We did a number count. I don’t know if I mentioned this in my first post, but my number was 24. Just a little fun fact. I have yet to post a single picture of Simon. (I will at the very end of the post) But until then, let me draw you a picture- imagine a skinny/fit guy that wears a grey beret, with defined features, and a British accent. That is Simon.

So we first drove to our hotel just to throw all our suitcases in a few rooms. Now I am not going to lie, but my first impression of Madrid, didn’t.. well impress me. It was cloudy and rainy, and the hotel was in a really urban, plain area. It just wasn’t how I pictured the city. I pictured the sun, vibrant colors everywhere, Spanish architecture, and churro stands along the streets. But that is not what I saw when I first arrived. But the second impression made me see the real culture of Spain.

We first walked to the Plaza de España. It had a statue of the writer Miguel de Cervantes’s characters. Cervantes was the famous Spanish writer who wrote the wildly popular story of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his partner, Sancho Panza. The first picture is of Edificio de España, one of Madrid’s tallest buildings. Seems like a baby compared to New York City’s skyscrapers.

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After this short and informational stop, it was time for food! We walked to the Metro and hopped onto a train. I would like to mention that in Madrid my subway group sang ALL the time. More so than anywhere else, and the people in Madrid did not seem to mind. They were so happy here. Quite different from where I come from. Not that Bostonians are always angry, we are just easily angered. Once we got off, we walked to the restaurant called Museo del Jamon. Which means: The ham museum.

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We ate, we talked, and then, we left. Now it was time to be free. That sounds awkward. What I mean to say is that we had some free time. The area had hundreds of trendy and fun shops. Kristen, Hannah, Rachel, and I walked some time until we found a cute candy store called Oomuombo. I decided to grab a little box and fill it with the weirdest candy I could find for my brother and dad. That box still remains half eaten on my counter.. We did not think we would buy any clothes, or at least that is what Rachel said. Then we saw it. Brandy Melville. We couldn’t just not go in. It sucked us in, and we spent a lot of money here. The picture with our shopping bags prove it, if you didn’t already get that with our glum, defeated faces holding our debit cards.

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Honestly I don’t regret my purchases at all though. That store just gets me. Check it out one time if you ever happen to walk by. Once we finished with our free time, we walked to Puerta de Sol. This is one of Madrid’s famous courtyards in which everyone must see if they go to Madrid. We stayed here for a while to just walk around and explore. Mostly we people watched, and Kristen messed with a perfume seller along the way, but this is how I pictured Madrid. However, I didn’t realize how much of a threat pick-pocketers are here compared to Paris and London. I was always on guard. My teacher walked up behind me at one point and unzipped my backpack, pretending to be a pick-pocketer. I was so close to punching her right in the face. I turned around so fast, I realized how unbelievably annoying and awful it would be if someone actually did steal from me.

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After about an hour, we went to another famous square called Plaza Mayor. This is where I first met my secret enemy- the annoying whistlers. Anyone who has been there knows exactly who I am talking about. That noise did not please me. Not trying to sound snotty, but that is all I can say. It did NOT please me. The man wearing orange in the third picture was one of those dreadful noise makers.

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After a quick overview of the plaza, we walked through one of the grand arches to get to dinner. Along the way we past what is said to be the oldest restaurant in the world!

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Then we arrived at the restaurant below to have a real tapas dinner. I really enjoyed it, but it is dangerous having that much food served to you.

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After tapas, we came outside and separated into our bus groups. Me and Rachel were listening to Tyler, and laughing at what he said, when we realized our bus was far ahead of us. The 6 of us (Tyler, me, Rachel, Anthony, Brian, and Kevin) all turned to catch up, when all of a sudden Kevin flipped over one of the thousands of knee-high posts that line the streets. Me and Rachel turned to see him on his backpack with his legs and arms up in the air. He looked just like a turtle! The 6 of us were the only ones to see, and oh did we laugh. We laughed so hard that Rach peed her pants, but only a little! Just thinking of it makes me laugh.

Anyway, we hopped on another train, singing along the way, and then we reached our hotel. We took our wifi pages, and went to find our rooms. In this hotel we had doubles, so take a guess who I was with?

If you guessed Rach, you win. A prize? Satisfaction, pride, idk.

Here is a picture of the room

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That night I was looking at my phone when I realized that I still had my timer going from the time when I set it during the game we played in Normandy. On our last night in Normandy, we got with teams of 7 for a game that combined questions of what we have seen so far, and a scavenger/picture hunt. I set a timer, so I would know to be back before the ten minute limit, but I never turned it off. 3 days later, this is what I found.

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And that concluded day 8 of the Europe trip. The next morning we woke up at a more reasonable time on April 25th. We went down to breakfast, to find that this hotel won the award for the best breakfasts. We ate to get our energy up for the tour to come. We started with a bus tour on the way to Palacio Real (the Royal Palace), and the tour guide we had was so sweet, of course I don’t remember her name!

On the way we past the vertical garden that was really interesting and unique.

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Then, we finally made it to the palace. It was incredible! And I even remember our tour guide’s name, Penelope. She did a great job. We couldn’t take pictures in the palace, but I wish we could have. Each room was so detailed and ornate, and I couldn’t capture one bit of it’s interior on my camera. But if you ever get to go, go. I mean there was gold and silver stitching on the walls, can you beat that?

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After the palace, we boarded the buses again, and continued our bus tour. We drove past the soccer (fútbol) stadium and bull fighting stadium.

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After that, our bus tour ended and we headed back for Plaza Mayor. Upon arrival, we were told that we can have more free time. The lunch we (Hannah, Rachel, Kristen, and I) bought, was not umm.. good.  But we decided that tomorrow’s lunch would be much better (which it was). But with all this free time, we didn’t know what to do. So for two hours we sat against the wall and people watched. I did get a good base tan.

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The Prado Museum came next. I didn’t know what to expect here. I knew it was great, but how great? Remember I had just gone to the Louvre not so long before. It met all my expectations, after we got in. The line was horribly long, but the wait was worth it. During our wait, to pass time, Simon decided to make a point. He called for five volunteers. So me, Rachel, Kevin, Tyler, and Anthony went up. He asked Kevin and Anthony to hold hands and put them in the air. Then, Simon asked me to hang from their arms. So I grabbed their wrists and just hanged. We were all trying to figure out what he was trying to prove. The boys held me up, but then Simon made an adjustment. He asked Rachel and Tyler to add their hands to add more support. Simon went in the middle, and grabbed hold of their wrists, and hanged. He was proving that the Gothic arches had more support, than the ones that only have two supports that meet at a point, instead of four. It was a funny thing to do, and a good way to kill time in the line. I enjoyed it. 20 minutes passed, and we finally started to enter the museum’s doors.

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We couldn’t take pictures, but the artwork was incredible! I did manage to take a photo of a skull. Very random I know. The Raphael’s blew me away! I was the one to hold up my friends every time we entered a new room. It just sucked me in!

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The Prado was our last stop for the day, other than dinner. We walked to eat at a nice little restaurant that was on the way back to the hotel. I, however, cannot remember what I ate or what the place was called. That night, we took the Metro back, and once again, singing all the way.

Our last full day in Europe, is what April 26th represented. This day was sad, like mentioned at the beginning of the post, but it was an awesome day. Today was the day we got to explore Toledo, Spain. Toledo was like no other. The stone buildings and narrow roads made me gitty with happiness. Our tour guide was like no other too. He was an older fellow, who was very comical and confident about himself and the city that he was born and raised in. I think Toledo was what made me love Spain as much as England and France.

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We took a quick bus tour to get up to this view, where the pictures above were taken. I even bought a painting from the man in the 4th picture. It was a watercolor of the devil looking over Toledo. The colors he used were perfect. Following our guide, we walked to the St. Mary’s Synagogue, and it blew me away. All it’s stain glass windows and statues were memorizing. My tour guide is in the 3rd picture below. Sadie seems to be very interested in what he was talking about, I would like to add.

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We walked into a room with a painted ceiling, to be confronted by one of El Greco’s masterpieces, but not his most famous. That was to come later.

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We left the Synagogue and walked to the Church of Santo Tomé. Within we were able to see El Greco’s most famous painting, Burial of the Count of Orgaz. They were very strict about not allowing us to take pictures of it. Next, we went to the synagogue church Santa Maria la Blanca.It was originally for the Jewish population that once occupied Toledo, but was later changed into a church.

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After the church, it was time to walk over the bridge (Puente de San Martín), and onto the bus.

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This did not conclude our Toledo tour. We had one more stop left. We went to the factory where they hand- make traditional jewelry and swords. It was really interesting to see the process, and to see which one of your classmates actually would by a dagger or sword. Many did. This concluded the Toledo tour. We drove back to Madrid for lunch. To make up for yesterday’s dreadful lunch, we decided that it was time for some churros. We went into a churro restaurant and each ordered our own plate and chocolate. But I can’t leave out that we also ordered two pizzas, all for 4 people. We were hungry, and we ate it all. Kristen paid with her card, and me and Hannah gave her 20 euros all in coins. Sorry Kristen!

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We had so much free time and no money, so we just sat in McDonald’s for two hours. 2 hours. It was embarrassing, but it happened. Not forgetting our journey to get to the McDonald’s. All we wanted was wifi, so we spent 45 minutes roaming around searching. All of that just for wifi that was available the next block over from the restaurant we ate churros in. We should have taken a right instead of a left. That night we had our last dinner, and back to the hotel room we went. But not before we did our traditional concert underground waiting for the train. I have a video of us singing that is so funny. I’ll post it to YouTube one of these days and add the link, but it is 11pm here, so I’m going to put that off for now.

April 27th was a travel day. We woke up and went back to the funky airport. Got Starbucks, and boarded a flight to London. Once we arrived in London we waited about 4 hours for our next flight to Boston. This is also where we parted from our tour guides. This is my only photo of Simon.. I thought had more, but clearly I didn’t. Sorry, but this is them saying good bye. ( It is really blurry too, sorry about that too!)

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(My last picture on the trip. Pacman)

We got Starbucks again, and then I looked over photos with Kellen. Next thing I knew was that we were boarding onto a British Airways plane and heading back home to America. On the plane ride I sat in-between Leia and Tom. I thought I told them that I was going to watch Bad Grandpa, but apparently not. Until I apologized later for bursting into multiple fits of laughter, they asked why I was laughing. They thought I was just laughing for no reason! I arrived home at 7pm. I remember standing in the airport watching everyone being taken back home after being attacked by hugs and kisses from their family members. But I didn’t want it to end. I wanted so badly to turn back around and go somewhere else. But then I saw my mom, and I went home.

I had so much fun on this trip, and I’m so glad I was able to share it with everyone! I want to go back again and relive every moment, but I know that I will travel again some day, and make more memories (and posts) for me to look back on and smile about.

We finally got the class video up, that includes a mixture of photos from everyone on the trip. It is a YouTube video. Here is the URL:

 ♥ ya, Arica.

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