Monday, April 12, 2010
Spring Break 2010 Part II: Real Madrid
By the time Tuesday rolled around, Laura and I were beyond ready to head to our next destination. We had heard some great things about Madrid and were excited to experience it for ourselves. We got there around 9pm so just took a cab to our hostel instead of dealing with the late night metro since Madrid supposedly has some of the best pick pocketers in the world and we were laden with travel bags.
We were dropped off at the address I told the driver but didn’t see signs for the hostel anywhere so we wandered around Puerta del Sol (one of the more famous squares in Madrid) in search of a neon sign like the one at our Paris hostel. We finally realized that we actually were at the right place but this hostel was just so small compared to our other one that its only sign was a name plate on the buzzer of what looked like an apartment building. Laura and I headed upstairs from some desperately needed showers and then took off in search of some of Spain’s famous paella for dinner. If you are keeping track, you’ve realized its probably getting close to 11pm by this time. Apparently it is completely normal in Spain to eat dinner at that time after taking a late afternoon siesta so we had no trouble finding a place. After stumbling over my efforts to speak Spanish and not Italian, I ordered Paella de Mariscos (seafood) and a daiquiri, even though daiquiris are actually from Cuba and not Spain. We were exhausted after traveling so unfortunately didn’t get to experience Madrid’s famous seven story club, Kapital, but we figured we would get more than our fair share of clubbing in once we got to Barcelona.
Wednesday morning we woke up early to hit the tourist spots since we only had one day in Madrid. The first thing we headed too was a famous church called . The weather was beautiful so we ditched our rain coats and boots from Paris to t-shirts and flip flops and my mood was instantly lifted. The first thing I said on our walk there though was, “Wow, I’m sure it is going to be sooo different from the thousands of other churches we’ve seen across Europe” but ended up eating my sarcastic comment once we walked inside because it was beautiful. The stained glass windows were like nothing I had ever seen before. After that we walked to the Palacio Real (royal palace) where there was some kind of flag ceremony going on which was cool to see and then we headed to Madrid’s huge Parque de Retiro which literally almost made me move to Madrid. First Laura and I sat down at this outdoor restaurant to enjoy more Spanish specialties: Spanish tortilla sandwiches and sangria. So good.
We decided to walk through the park and for some reason I just continued to fall in love with this city. People were jogging in the beautiful weather (something you NEVER see in Florence) and paddle boating through the pond in the center. After another half mile of walking, we came across what at first glanced looked like a playground but then we realized it was a work out park. They had bars randomly placed all over that you could do pull ups on or stretch and everyone just looked so happy in the warm weather. After attempting to do a couple of pull ups after being motivated by the athletic bodies around me (key word there being “attempting”), Laura and I decided to just relax in the warm weather. We laid down on the grass to soak up some sun and people watch for an hour or so and I finally felt like I was truly on “Spring Break.”
Unfortunately our trip to Madrid was very short. We left early to get to the airport on time for our next flight and once we went through security, decided to settle into our chairs and just wait for the plane. I was absorbed in my book and Laura was snoozing when all of a sudden we realized our flight was supposed to leave in the next 15 minutes and they hadn’t called us to board yet. We jumped out of our seats and sprinted to the desk only to see that the sign had a different destination listed even though we were sitting right at the gate our boarding pass and the check in guy told us to go to. We started running around to find the board that lists all the gates and flights and saw that our flight was only three gates over. We also saw that our flight was pulling away from said gate at this time and all we could do was just stand there with our mouths hanging open in defeat.
We sprinted to the Vueling airline desk at the other end of the airport and while panting from running and sweating from carrying my overstuffed backpack we quickly explained to her what had happened. She showed absolutely no sympathy and simply told us we needed to purchase a brand new ticket. We said fine since our original ticket was only 20 euro so we figured it would be the same price. Not so much. Buying a ticket the day of brought us to a grand total of 130 euro each. Here come the water works. I then did what any young women would do in my situation. I called my Mommy. The women behind the desk is sitting there watching me blubbering on the phone to my mother and offers an overnight train ticket for 60 euro as our only other option. Um, thanks, but I’d rather not wait in a train station in the middle of Spain at midnight looking like the vulnerable American student that I am. We finally forked over our credit cards for the next flight which was leaving in an hour.
We walked up to security to go through for the second time around when we realized we were both starving. We saw a McDonald’s right before security but wanted to ask if there was another one once you got through since we weren’t about to risk missing another flight. I even tried asking in Spanish but the first security guide couldn’t understand what we were asking so he called for backup, who called for another backup, and before we knew it we had five different airport security team members trying to help translate our question. When one woman finally figured out that we were simply asking where the McDonald’s was she burst out laughing and said something in rapid Spanish to her coworkers. Roughly translated, I’m sure it was something along the lines of, “these fat Americans are concerned that there isn’t a McDonalds on the other side.” Between that and the minor incident where we missed our flight and sprinted several times back and forth trying to find who to talk to about it, I think it’s safe to say we failed to go unnoticed in the Madrid airport. Time to get out of here and go to Barcelona I think.