¡VAMOS A MADRID!

More new experiences last Friday: a day trip to Spain’s capital, Madrid! What a beautiful city! Our group managed to see and explore a majority of the city, despite the cold temperatures and cloudy skies. This visit was more of an overview—it gave us a little piece of everything, and we have been encouraged to return to delve further into the mysteries of Madrid. I, for one, can’t wait to go back!

Madrid is very close, only a 30-40 minute train ride from Alcalá. I found the train ride to be rather enjoyable. With the exception of the awesome ride at Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I have never been on a train before, so this was pretty exciting for me!

Off to Madrid with Brittni, Abby, and Kelly! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Off to Madrid with Brittni, Abby, and Kelly! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)

After thoroughly exploring the train station and learning how to take the train to various locations (like the airport, for long distance adventures!), Museo Reina Sofía, Jardín Botánico, Museo del Prado, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza were among our first stops. Unfortunately, due to time constraints (and weather constraints for Jardín Botánico!), we were not able to go inside any of the museums. But, luckily for us, most of the museums in Madrid grant free admissions to students with a valid university ID, which we have! We can’t wait to explore more!

 

Posing between banners of the two rival fútbol teams in Madrid: Atlético Madrid (left) and Real Madrid (right). We’re talking about a Packers/Vikings type rivalry here! It’s intense! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Posing between banners of the two rival fútbol teams in Madrid: Atlético Madrid (left) and Real Madrid (right). We’re talking about a Packers/Vikings type rivalry here! It’s intense! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Met my new boyfriend on this excursion! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Met my new boyfriend on this excursion! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Attempted jump photo outside la Catedral de la Almudena! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Attempted jump photo outside la Catedral de la Almudena! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Hanging outside el Palacio Real! Don’t worry; no one actually lives there. (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Hanging outside el Palacio Real! Don’t worry; no one actually lives there. (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Oh, you know. Just chilling with Don Quixote and Sancho in la Plaza de España. (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
Oh, you know. Just chilling with Don Quixote and Sancho in la Plaza de España. (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)

 

Our other stops included:

*El Congreso de los Diputados and el Senado: where the government representatives hang out, similar to the Senate and House in the U.S.

*Real Academia Española de la Lengua: the headquarters of Association of Spanish Language Academies, where they regulate the Spanish language. The motto of the RAE is “Limpia, fija y da esplendor“, or “It cleans, sets, and casts splendour”.

*La Plaza Mayor: the most central plaza of Madrid, surrounded by beautiful three-story apartment buildings, with a statue of King Philip III at the center.

*San Jerónimo el Real: (my personal favorite!), a beautiful Catholic church, built in 1503, located behind the Museo del Prado.

We also learned how to take the metro, another completely new experience for me! I will be very well rounded in transportation methods by the end of this semester abroad!

La comida: the most important part of the day! Clearly, I am enjoying my dessert. Delish! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
La comida: the most important part of the day! Clearly, I am enjoying my dessert. Delish! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)

After a long day of adventuring, I was exhausted when we finally returned to Alcalá. But after a siesta and dinner with my family, it was time to explore something new: the nightlife in Alcalá. I completely understand the purpose of the siesta during the day now… because it is a fiesta all night! We didn’t even go out until midnight and I’m pretty sure the sun was already starting to come up when we got home. While it was fun to dance and meet new people (the locals!), I am someone who loves waking up early in the morning, so it was a bit of a struggle for me. I don’t know how much I’ll be embracing this aspect of the Spanish lifestyle during my semester here. Dancing was fun, but I don’t think this will become a nightly (or weekly!) event.

Saturday afternoon brought about more new things: downtown Alcalá without a guide. ALERT THE MEDIA, we are on the loose! The day mostly consisted of drinking coffee, shopping, and trying new Spanish desserts—three of my absolute favorite things. When you go on a long trip, you can usually count on someone to say, “Now don’t spend all your money in the first week. Make it last.” However, this trip was completely the opposite. On the first day, we were told, “Go shopping now! These sales won’t last forever!” The entire month of January is like Black Friday in the United States. Everything is on sale. Super sale. And when I say everything, I mean everything. It’s crazy! We also tried a few of Alcalá’s desserts at a bakery on la Calle Mayor: Rosquillas and Costrada! They were phenomenal! You can count on the fact that I will be Googling recipes for these and making them (or attempting to make them!) when I get back to the United States.

And of course, it would be impossible for me to go a whole day without some sort of crisis! When returning from downtown, I realized that I don’t actually know which stop I am supposed to get off the bus. It was about 7:00 P.M., so it is completely dark and I didn’t recognize anything around me. I was banking on the fact that I would recognize the name of my stop… That didn’t really work out too well. I ended up just staying on the bus, until the bus driver turned around and said to me (in Spanish), “This is the last stop. It’s the end of the route.” I looked outside and we were parked at this sketchy, deserted bus stop in the middle of nowhere. Not a soul in sight. Haven’t even been here for a week and I’m already lost, by myself, in the dark, in a foreign country. ¡¿Como se dice “Taken” en español?! I was about to get off and just call my host mom or call for a taxi, when the bus driver asked me if I knew where I was going. In jumbled, panicky Spanish, I attempted to tell him that I was lost and I didn’t know my stop. He asked me where I lived and said I could stay on the bus and he would tell me where to get off. He was the nicest man ever, he kept saying, “No te preocupes,” (don’t worry!) and he was able to help me get home safely. It just took almost two hours to get home, instead of the usual fifteen. Ah, well. Another adventure for the books. Now I know how to get to the hospital! Hopefully, I will never need to go there, but at least I know!

 

Spent Sunday with the coolest kid I know, my new little brother! He loves Photo Booth on my laptop and he taught me how to play the Mission Impossible theme song on the guitar!
Spent Sunday with the coolest kid I know, my new little brother! He loves Photo Booth on my laptop and he taught me how to play the Mission Impossible theme song on the guitar!

Thought for the day: speaking a new language is like getting your drivers license. When you first get your license, you are an excellent driver. After you have had your license for a while, you start to get a little sloppy: forgetting a turn signal here and there, slacking on the 9 & 3 formation, and cutting yellow lights a little too close. Then you get a little worse and then a lot worse, and soon you are thinking, “Gosh, I really am a terrible driver. How on earth did I pass that driving test?” But then, miraculously, you start to get better again. Driving becomes really natural, to a point where you don’t have to think about and you are still pretty good at it. It’s instinctive.

As far as Spanish goes… well, I’m not at the “instinctive” stage yet. Probably more at the “oops, was that a stop sign?” stage. A little more patience and a little more practice!

 

WE LOVE SPAIN! ¡NOS ENCANTA ESPAÑA! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)
WE LOVE SPAIN! ¡NOS ENCANTA ESPAÑA! (Photo Credit: Cristina Blanco)