Sunshine, Sangria, and Spaniards

Monday, March 10, 2014

Very simply put, Spain was good to me this weekend. I really, really did not want to come back to Paris and school and my six page art history paper. It’s crazy what a little bit of vitamin D can do for your mood…the sangria and Spanish food didn’t hurt though. I had a hell of a week again last week (I’ll get to that in a future post) and I was really looking forward to getting away for the weekend, especially when 60’s and sunshine was in the forecast in Madrid. The girls and I took the metro out to Charles de Gaulle Thursday evening and then a metro into Madrid from the airport there. Silly me looked at every little detail of how to get to the hostel besides how to get from the metro stop to the actual hostel itself so we wandered a bit on the streets of Madrid until we found a hotel where we could ask for directions; luckily the lady at the front desk was very friendly and spoke English. Our hostel could not have been more perfect…I just searched “hostelbookers.com” and it had good reviews and was super cheap. Only 14 euros a person per night for our own room with two bunk beds, nice clean bathroom, free breakfast and wifi…they also had daily events like free walking tours, free sangria socials each night and even night life trips lead by one of their employees; oh and it was blocks from streets with restaurants, bars and clubs and another few blocks to the center of the city. We walked so much this weekend, my feet and legs were in serious pain by the time I got home Sunday night.

The view from our window
The view from our window

After dropping our stuff in our room Thursday night we were wanted some Sangria, because why not? We just walked towards the streets that looked busy and were immediately overwhelmed with “Chicas, chicas, chicas!” All of these bar/club promoters are paid by how many people they bring into the club so they stand on the street with their card and shout promotions at you “Free entry!” or “Free mojito!” We stopped for a 1,50 beer and some tapas and then went to the club next door because we got in for free, it was so much fun! We decided to call it a night around 2 and headed back to the hostel. Friday we got up, enjoyed our free breakfast and then headed toward the main square. There was so much cheap shopping and stores we had never heard of around there so that was exciting. After about two hours of just wandering we were getting very hungry and decided to walk toward a market that Lauren had read about. Serious struggle to find it but once we did we were more than happily surprised. It was similar to the Milwaukee Public Market, where it is indoors and there are just a lot of vendors selling certain types of food; the difference was the energy. It was so busy; I loved it! After a few fried tapas things, white sangria, two small empanadas, a spanish beer and some frozen yogurt (all for less than 10 euros which was amazing) we were all stuffed and decided to wander a little more to find this famous Plaza. It was literally just a park but the sun was shining, and four pasty-white Wisconsin girls wanted to soak in the sun so we sat and people watched for almost two hours.

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Friday night I had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend from two summers at camp. Alvaro spent a month at camp my first summer and was there my whole second summer so I hadn’t seen him in over a year. The four of us girls, Alvaro, his girlfriend, and another friend got some food, a beer and then went to a club (all of which were in different places across the city, more walking!) We were all exhausted from the day but when in Spain, you must go to a club! It was a lot of fun but I can’t even tell you how many times I said “no hablo espagnol”

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Saturday morning we all reluctantly put on dresses and skirts; the forecast was beautiful but again, Wisconsin girls 8are trained to be prepared for bipolar weather. Today our goal was some real Spanish paella. More wandering and we ended up at a restaurant with lots of outdoor seating right in the sun near the market we went to Friday. We ordered two plates of paella, one vegetable, one sausage to split and that was perfect. While sitting there, there was a couple at the table next to us, they were probably in their mid twenties, the man was Scottish and the woman had a British accent. Somehow we got to talking to them and we learned that they both lived in London and the man worked for an American company that caused him to visit the US all the time. He said he loves it there and we all laughed, that was a first coming from a European. After some more conversation he asked if we were going into the market and we said yes (dessert was necessary); his girlfriend wanted to stay sitting in the sun so he walked into the market with us. I was astounded at how friendly he was; he even offered to show me around when I come to London. Friday afternoon was spent in the biggest park in Madrid. We walked through the park a bit and came across this mini lake where you could rent paddle boats. Of course the line was so long for it so we decided to just enjoy the sun some more and we sat by the water talking all afternoon. At this point we had all taken off our sweaters and were in sleeveless dresses…our skin burning with zero complaints! The only way to describe the weather Saturday was perfect; like in my mind, what I would like the weather to be every day forever…65/70 degrees, clear sky, sunshine, slight breeze. Yes, you can be jealous.

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Left to right: Alyssa, Alex, Lauren, and me
Left to right: Alyssa, Alex, Lauren, and me

Saturday night we headed to this little bar we heard about from Alvaro, and two other friends who studied in Madrid. It was hidden on one of the side streets, but was packed when we walked in. We ordered four Sangrias and went to find a table.  When you order a drink at a bar in Madrid, tapas is generally included and that’s usually like some tiny pieces of bread with meat on them or potatoes with a sauce on them (not much, a snack portion) There was a tray on the counter next to our drinks with three plates piled with large tapas on them. Alyssa went to grab one plate and the bartender goes “no, all three” So we got four sangrias (which, by the way, were the best, most refreshing drink I’ve ever had) and three plates of tapas…and after finishing those two more plates just appeared on our table all for 24 euros. Like I said before, I LOVE how cheap Madrid is! We heard a group of college aged kids at the table next to us speaking English so we leaned over and said “where are you guys from”. The girl closest said she was from Indiana University and then asked where we were from; after telling her we went to Wisconsin she goes “Oh, those two guys over there go to Madison” Yes, we found people from home in a tiny bar in Madrid…talk about a small world. Safe to say it was a good night.

Sunday was just exhausting.We had a few more things we wanted to see but somehow lucked out on each one because of lack of time, lack of proper research, or lack of direction. Four happy overtired giggling girls headed back to Paris Sunday night. It was a wonderful weekend.

A note on the food: I did not eat one bad thing this weekend. In Paris the food is good, but I have really only had a handful of meals that I finished thinking it was excellent. This was literally every single thing I ate in Madrid. With that being said, I have been vegetarian since I was 13 and I ate a lot of meat this weekend. I came into this experience knowing that European culture is much less accepting of vegetarianism than the Unites States and I would probably have to each a little bit of meat. I have had chicken a few times in Paris, but wasn’t really happy with it. I had chicken, tried a bit of sausage, pork and ham in Madrid; loved all of it…I would not be vegetarian if I could eat like that all the time, I would also be very fat if I could eat like that all the time.

Another note on our weekend: each time we came across someone who could fluently speak English, we asked what their impressions are of the Unites States, or what was the first thing they thought of. A group of Danish guys at the hostel told us they thought of weapons, grand theft auto, and our prisons…so that was a good start. We came across a man who said “I like the Broncos”…interesting reaction. One group of guys who started talking to us on our walk home from the club asked where we were from:
“United States”
“…no, where?”,
“Wisconsin”,
“oh what city?”
“Milwaukee”
“Oh, we love the Bucks!”…We all started cracking up and replied “Not even people in Milwaukee like the Bucks.” and kept walking. The Scottish man said he loves the US because we “Work hard, play hard”…this was a refreshing change of opinion that is very valid. He proceeded to tell us the average vacation days throughout Europe which are double or triple that of the United States; very interesting for me to hear, and a nice complement, or I took it as a complement anyways.

Big news coming later this week that I will post about later! Here are a few other random pictures from the weekend…

This begins the Gran Via which looks a little like Times Square in New York.
This begins the Gran Via which looks a little like Times Square in New York.
Found this little guy in the market, what a cutie!
Found this little guy in the market, what a cutie!
The outside of the bull fighting arena, way too expensive to just walk in and look around so we just observed from the outside.
The outside of the bull fighting arena, way too expensive to just walk in and look around so we just observed from the outside.

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