Today, I went to Madrid with my group. I realized halfway to the the plaza that I had forgotten my camera and could have kicked myself, but it was too late to go back for it. I missed a lot of great pictures, but Madrid is only about thirty minutes away by bus or train and I've already made plans to return next week and I will not forget my camera this time. In the meantime, I'm going to steal the group pictures from people who put them up on Facebook... Thank goodness for Facebook, eh?
We took the bus to Madrid. I realize after we got to the bus station that I had not been paying any attention to how to get there. Not a big deal though, I can look that up later. The bus ride wasn't bad. We were kind of packed in, but I had a nice comfy seat and only a few people had to stand. The entrance to the bus station was probably the creepiest thing of the trip so far. The bus literally drove down into this underground tunnel where the walls practically touched the bus on each side. On my side, at least, if the bus had broken down right there, I would not have been able to crawl out the window because I wouldn't have fit between the wall and the bus. It gave me this really creepy vibe, because there would be no way a bus could back out that tunnel and if we couldn't go forward, we couldn't go back and we'd get stuck. It was very Resident Evil-ish. Thankfully, the walls opened up into this underground bus station (too cool).
We took the metro, one level below the bus station. I was completely lost with the metro. I know we took number 9 and then changed trains at one point, but it was mostly just making sure that you didn't get separated from the group ("¡Chicos! ¡Aquí!"). The first place we went was to some arches. Now, remember that I don't know Spanish very well, so I had a lot of trouble understanding what he was saying, but after some later research and some help from friends, I know that we began our tour in La Plaza de la Indepencia near the arch called Puerta de Alcalá. The really great thing, is that Madrid has cow statues everywhere. It's like in Toledo, where we have all of those frog statues, they have some crazy cow statues. My favorites were the pegasus cow and the kid's cow. The pegasus cow is exactly as it sounds, the kid's cow looked like a 3-D version of what a kid would draw when you asked him to draw a cow. The four legs were spaced evenly under the body, one after the other, so when I originally saw it, I thought it was a caterpillar cow with a smily face and no nose. I'll definitely get a picture of it later. I hope they remain up until my parents and my brother and his girlfriend come. I think they would all love the cows.
We stopped at the park, Parque del Buen Retiro, which contains the Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Garden). The entire park was gorgeous and I know it will be even better in the spring when the trees are in bloom. There was a beautiful lake where you can rent paddle boats and there were all kinds of sculptures. There was a beautiful greenhouse looking building where they used to grow plants from the Philippines, but it now holds crystal. We saw teachers giving little kids tours of the park, including one holding up a book with a picture of a bunch of different birds and she was pointing out the ducks in the park. There was even a man playing a saxophone.
In the Park. I'm the only one with a winter hat on. Apparently, no one else's ears get cold like mine do. If I don't wear a hat, my ears hurt all of the way into my jaw.
We walked past a couple of major buildings, like the Prado and a really important school, where it is such an honor to teach there that the faculty is not paid. I have a really hard time remembering what other buildings he showed us between there (I meant to bring a pen and notebook, but I forgot that too...). The buildings were all gorgeous though. We don't have architecture like that in the states. Then we stopped at this jewelry shop, which I really couldn't understand why we were all piling into this really really expensive shop. It turns out, it has a museum in it. It houses the collection of a really famous jewelry maker/artist in Spain, whose name escapes me right now. He used odd objects to make his jewelry, like one of the handles of scissors. I was trying to explain that one of the pieces used "wing nuts" to the tour guide of the museum and our tour guide, but neither had ever heard of that before and I didn't make myself clear (windmill...? no, wing nut). In the basement was a museum of clocks, old antique clocks from all over the world. Some of them were really beautiful, like the one that also had a model of the sun, earth and moon and what they all look like in relation to one another during the year. It was amazing.
Then we made our way to the puerta del sol near the Tio Pepe sign. Our guide explained how it is kind of like Times Square on the New Year, jam-packed with people watching the clock count down. He said that at 12:00, everyone eats 12 grapes, one at each gong of the clock.
Near the puerta del sol is the Plaza Mayor. I love the Plaza Mayor. It is one of my most favorite places in the entire world. It was filled with people today, including street performers either dressed up or playing. A man was playing a Chinese violin, which sounded beautiful, but looked weird. The street performers were dressed up as a toy soldier from Toy Story, Don Quixote, a pirate, one of the characters from Alice in Wonderland, a rock??, and more. Anyway, we had our lunch in the Plaza Mayor. I ran to the McDonalds to get a sundae because I haven't had ice cream since I left. It was a really bad idea because the sudden influx of that much sugar gave me a horrible headache, that I still have even though I napped for almost three hours. My head is killing me. Anyway, I gave the pirate 20 cents. It was fantastic. He pretended to look around with his hand over eyes until he spotted me. Then he bowed and handed me a gold coin out of his treasure chest that he was holding (it was a piece of chocolate wrapped in gold foil). Also in the Plaza, I fed the birds. There were pigeons, but there were more of the tiny birds and one of them ate out of my hand and it was such a fantastic moment in my life. I have to live somewhere where I can feed the birds every day.
We then walked to the Cathedral. It was huge and very beautiful. It sits right next to the royal palace, which we didn't go very near, but looked at through the gates. Then we made our way back to the metro to make our way to the train station. I wasn't feeling very well by this time and it was a very long ride home, especially because we had to pack ourselves into the train and it kept stopping and going and making me even more sick. Finally, we returned. I sat in the Plaza Cervantes for awhile because it was so beautiful outside. The sun was out and it was almost warm enough to just have a coat or just have a hoodie on, instead of both.
When I got home, I pass out for almost three hours, but when I woke up, I still had my headache and I felt really sick. For dinner, I ate a little bit of pasta, my mom made me some chamomile tea, and I took some Tylenol and a pill that my mom gave me, although I don't know what it was. I feel like one hundred percent better, although I'm very tired all of the sudden. Maybe it was the tea. I might nap until I call my brother to wish him happy birthday. He's 25 today.