Sunday, March 29, 2009

In the land / of Ferdinand / My favorite bull / who kept his cool!

we survived! (and that's why we look so tired)
the Parque del Buen Retiro (bigger than Central Park)

turtles in Atocha Station, which basically had its own indoor rainforest
the view, on our day trip to Toledo
everything was ornamented, even the balcony undersides
city wall gate in Toledo
hot chocolate and churros near Puerto del Sol!
one of about a million cows all over the city
protesters on the free New Madrid tour that we tried to take
the amazing green art (which was also in Avignon, on the side of Les Halles)
part of the outdoor Rodin exhibit

We arrived in Madrid after the world's longest overnight bus ride from Avignon--stops every three hours, mouth breathers, "Titanic" in Spanish, and of course, a healthy dose of motion sickness. Not to mention that the bus left from a sketchy corner in Avignon at 10 at night. But no worries, we survived and made it to our hostel near Sol.

Everything in Madrid was so inexpensive compared to Dublin, especially wine, which was only a few euros per bottle. At one bar (El Tigre, for anyone planning a visit), a glass of the local cidra cost 1.75 euro, and came with a plate of delicious tapas. For 3 euro each, we were fed for the night. Whoever heard of a 3 euro dinner in Dublin! (and yes, McDonald's would have been more expensive, not to mention less delicious and slightly more destructive to my arteries)

We spent a lot of time walking around, just seeing the city, in addition to visiting the Prado and the Reina Sophia (which I absolutely loved--the Prado for its "Sleeping Beauty" room, and the Reina Sophia for the Picasso and Thek exibits). We actually tried to take one of the New Madrid tours, which are free, but it never left the Puerto del Sol and only lasted about five minutes. The licensed tour guides were protesting against the tour, and then the police came and broke up the whole thing. Apparently, there's a huge dispute over these tours, because they take business away from tour guides that charge money--who say that the tours are illegal because the guides aren't licensed. The law says that only paid tour guides must be licensed, though, and these tours don't cost any money. So we walked right into a moral dilemma.

Speaking of which, we were asked whether or not we wanted to go see the bullfights, which kind of shocked me. I know that bullfighting is part of Madrid's culture, and that it still happens, but the suggestion to attend a bullfight still kind of threw me. I love Hemingway, but I could never watch an animal be tortured for sport. I'd much rather go to a flamenco show, which we did, and which was much less bloody (although I wouldn't want to get in the way of those stomping heels).

And then we missed our flight home and waited at the Madrid airport for ten hours. But it was a fitting ending, I think, for all our blunders!

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