La Puerta de Acala

La Puerta de Acala

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Exploring my new home!

So I've been in Madrid for a month now. First of all, its going by WAY too fast already. I am constantly reminding myself that I still have more than 3 months left. But I feel like its about time I get to know my new home! 

And that's exactly what I've been doing all week. Last Sunday, Carolina, Taylor and I went on a free walking tour of the city. Thanks to my awesome friend Katherine, I found out about this company called Sandemans New Europe. They have free tours in like 14 different cities and then special tours (for money) in each city. The other tours offered in Madrid are the Civil War tour, the Pub Crawl and the Tapas Experience. Im SUPER excited to do the tapas one because for only €14 (about $18) you get a free drink and tapas at the 3 different bars they take you. So that should be fun but getting back to the point lol...the free tour! It was really great. I had been to or walked past a lot of what we were shown but it was cool to have a guide explain the history and cool little stories about everything. And the guide was really awesome too! A little quirky but he was very entertaining, definitely knew his stuff and you could tell he loved his job, which was cool. They're free but at the end, you can tip your guide as much as you thought their tour was worth. Very cool idea and we ended up giving $20 because we liked it so much. Here's pictures from the tour. 

The first one is the Catedral de la Almudena, right next to the palace. The second is at the Puerta del Sol where a protest was going on! Walking through that one a tour with 20 other people was pretty interesting. I have no idea how our guide kept everyone together. And the last one is of a couple cool buildings but the one on the left is the Hotel Asturias, where me, my mom and my sister stayed the last time we went to Madrid! Memories! Haha.

So the tour was great. I'm really glad we did it and I cannot wait to do the others! Next up in our adventure of Madrid week was the world-famous art Museum, El Prado. I'm still not sure how I feel about classic art. Some of it is really cool and interesting but most of it is super boring. 

The 3 of us, along with our wonderful guide Encarna and our program director, wanted to figure out a day that wouldn't be too busy so we could see everything we wanted to with no crowds. The group consensus was a Wednesday morning. We were sure there wouldn't be too many tourists. We were so wrong...
This picture was taken on the way out, when there wasn't 200 people waiting on those stairs to get in
Actually to be fair, it wasn't really our fault. We just happened to pick the day that a super-famous painting was going to be released after months of restoration. The painting is called La Gioconda and is a copy of the Mona Lisa painted by one of Leonardo da Vinci's pupils, possibly also with some help from da Vinci himself. Before the restoration there was just a solid black background in the painting but after some scans and tests they realized there was more underneath. So even though there were a lot of tourists, it was almost all locals who were all of the sudden interested in art. And a piece of art that had always been at the museum. There might have been a line to get in but I got to see the Mona Lisa (kind of) without going to Paris. Winning. Also, saving haha.

Thank you Google!
By the way, the worst part about El Prado is that they don't let you take pictures! Not cool! My iPhone is not going to harm your precious art, I promise. Anyway, the three artists we focused on were El Greco, Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya. My favorite by far is Velázquez. Partly because he has several paintings of the Spanish Royal family's personal entertainers...who just happened to be midgets or anyone else with a mental illness or who looked funny to them. But he also did one of favorite paintings ever, Las Meninas. I think the reason I love it so much is that there's so much going on. It's also really, really big. Like, it almost takes up the entire wall. 
Google saving the day again!
After seeing what we came for at El Prado, everyone was pretty hungry and we decided to find some food! We walked around a little and finally found the Plaza de Santa Ana. It's actually one of my favorite places in the whole city. I'm not really sure why but the atmosphere is just awesome. There are always people there but not many tourists. It locals sitting at the cafes outside, playing with their kids in the playground. And everyone is super nice. As I explain a little later, I've visited a couple of the bars here and they're also full of locals. Mainly old guys, talking about politics or soccer or just life in general. I love that. 

The building above is called the Hotel Reina Victoria and is where all the famous bullfighters used to stay while doing a corrida Madrid. Its been since renovated and apparently the terrace is really amazing during the summer. Definitely making a trip there when it gets warmer. So there are several bars around the plaza but we went to a place called Vintoteca. They're famous for their tostas, which is basically a toasted piece of bread with your choice of topping. I got a tosta de jamón ibérico y queso and it was SO good. And of course, the croquetas were amazing. I had croquetas de bacalao for the first time and they were actually really good! Never thought I'd ever enjoy eating fish...

Something really cool that we learned on our tour is that Ernest Hemingway used to constantly hang out at bar at the Plaza de Santa Ana. Its called the Cerveceria Alemana. According to our tour guide, there's a plaque on one of the bar stools that says "Hemingway sat here blah blah blah". On my way to the Banco de Espana I decided to stop by and have a drink. First off, there are no bar stools. There's also no plaque. Or pictures. Or any mention of Hemingway. But I asked the bartender and he said that Hemingway did in fact spend a lot of time there but they never had a plaque or anything. Oh well. I had a beer where Hemingway got wasted. So cool.

They gave me olives with my beer and tortilla...haha...
Ok here goes my last little story, I promise! So Spain didn't always use the euro, obviously. Before 2002, everyone used the peseta. And for some reason I had a bunch of pesetas in my closet since the last time we were in Spain while they were still in circulation. The only reason I brought them is because I read somewhere you could go to the Banco de Espana in Madrid and change them for euros. My dad kept telling me to keep them because they were cool to have but...I didn't really want to listen to that logic since it was possible to exchange them for actual money. And thats exactly what I did. Apparently 9,000pesetas is almost 54euros. So you math people can figure out the exchange rate haha. 

One last goodbye!
I'm getting to know Madrid more and more everyday. And even though I carry a map every time I go, the best way to get to know a city is just to walk around. When I get bored, I just go into the city and explore. It's been hard to do since it's been so cold but now that it's warming up finally, I'm going to be able to do it a lot more. 

Hasta la proxima! 

Possibly one of the most photographed buildings in Madrid

1 comment:

  1. You know, I’ve read this in some place I couldn’t remember :P, “Whatever it is you wanna do, DO IT. There’s just so many tomorrows.” So why wait for 3 months if you can do it now, right? :) Plus, I don’t think you regret any of it. A walking tour is kind of new to me, but it sounds like fun. Big time. In that way, you sure won’t miss the beauty of the place. :D What stage are you in now with Madrid?

    Christian Traughber