I am back for a post following a few days away. The reason for the delay is that I didn’t take my computer with me the last few days. It’s too difficult to carry all of my stuff with me on my trips away from Barcelona. For that reason, I left my large backpack and suit bag in a locker at the Barcelona train station and headed out to Madrid for a few days.
To catch everyone up, I had an unbelievable time with Natalie and John, Mark, and Emily. Over the course of our time in Barcelona, Natalie and I drank wine on the beach, grabbed dinner in the Plaza Real, enjoyed venturing around town, notably to the Plaza de Espanya area (and her favorite, the Olympic park, ha), and more generally, had great times with friends.
When the time came for Natalie and John to leave, it was really a tough day. Go from being around your girlfriend and friends, and next thing you know you are on your own in Europe for 8 days. Since they day they left, I have embraced this, but that didn’t make it an easy start. After they left, I headed over to the Picasso Museum and enjoyed art from throughout his career, with a heavy emphasis on the beginning. I then traveled around town, stopping at various locations for Wifi as I waited to take the overnight train to Madrid.
After killing 6 hours of time, and avoiding some major rain drops, it was finally time to leave. As I sat on the train, feeling alone in Europe, I met a girl from France sitting next to me on that train, and we had a great time talking about our experiences, professionally and personally. If there was ever a night where I could use a random friend, this was it, and it was truly great. Despite this, the sleep (obviously) wasn’t good, but I woke up the next morning in Madrid and ready to roll.
I arrived into the center of town at 8am and it was absolutely dead. I needed to burn time before checking in to my AirBNB accommodations, so I did what everyone else would do, went to McDonald’s. The Spanish McDonald’s, at least the one’s in Madrid, were the nicest I’ve ever seen. I wish I had a picture to describe it, but I was busy conserving my phone’s battery as it was nearly the dead. The only detraction was that bums would walk in and beg for money… inside the McDonald’s…. multiple times.
While I was still waiting, I took a short walk to Plaza Meyor, where I once again found two people that looked like they spoke English, so I struck up a conversation by saying “Hablas ingles?” Well, they were from Georgia, so again, that worked out well to gain some comfort that morning in town.
After checking in just before my phone died, I set out to explore the city. I walked over to the Royal Palace and Cathedral as well as explored the attached park. The park was incredible, heavily wooded and nice peaceful paths. Since I was by myself, again, it was a good time to slowly walk around, explore and enjoy the shade. By the time I got out of the park, I was starving, so I found a place called the Museo de Jamon and bought a salami sandwich and coke for 2 euro? – insanity!
After a brief siesta, I set out to explore the Prado museum of art. This museum holds the royal family’s art collection including Goya, Velasquez, Rembrandt, etc. One painting in particular, Velasquez’s Las Meninas painting had special meaning since I saw Picasso’s version the day before and had little meaning at the time. After comparing the two works, I felt a much deeper appreciation for both. Overall though, I took my time going through it for 2 hours and decided I needed to head back the next day again. For dinner, my host, as well as the Let’s Go Europe book I have been using, recommended a placed called Lateral for dinner. I sat at the bar and once again made friends with a woman who sat next to me from Vancouver, Canada that is now living in Spain. As always, it was great conversation about her experience in Spain and her career plans, etc. It was a great night.
The next day, I spent running around trying to print my boarding pass for my Ryan Air flight to Rome – they charge 15-20 euro if you have them print it, so I needed to do this on my own. After that, I headed over to the Reina Sofia art museum, a more modern museum containing many Picasso’s and Dali. After seeing Guernica, another famous Picasso work, I was ready to head to the Buen Retiro Park, which was another huge park with a couple palaces. I ended up hanging out there for a while, once again enjoying the shade and weather.
I then headed back to the Prado to finish going through the museum. On the way back to my place, I noticed a ton of police in riot gear, which was a bit strange. But this was the first indicator that even compared to Barcelona, Madrid is the most insane party location I have ever seen – I’ll return to that in a moment. For dinner, I headed out for tapas and met a nice girl from Ireland and enjoyed talking to her about her work with the Irish tourism board. I hope to keep in touch.
I decided to call it an early night given my early train ride the next day. However, as I went to bed (at 1am) it was pretty loud, however, it was nothing compared to the noise to come. After waking up many times throughout the night to what sounded like the most raging party I have ever heard (not music, but seemingly hundreds or thousands of people yelling and singing), my alarm went off at 6am, and the party was still going strong.
At this point, I was getting scared, it sounded like a warzone outside. Was I really going to walk through the warzone? Well, by the time I showered and got outside at 6:30 it had called down substantially, however, there were still people out drinking in the streets. Quite honestly, its hard to imagine people of another culture partying as hard as it sounded in Madrid. Barcelona was loud, but Madrid was an absolute warzone.
After that, I hopped on the train back to Barcelona, which took 9 hours given that it stopped 50+ times and seemed to go no faster than 50 mph. Upon arriving back in Barcelona, I got a text from Mohamed, my Egyptian friend, and went back to the Box with him for dinner. Great to see a friend again.
Once again, I’m calling it an early night as my flight leaves for Rome at 6am tomorrow. I won’t have my laptop again, but I’ll report back shortly.