It's going to take a while. But better late than never, right?
Anyways, Madrid. When my family was here at Christmas, we spent a day and a half in the city. But due to a couple of factors, namely it being the end of our whirlwind tour of Spain, we didn't do many of the "must see" tourist destinations so I've been meaning to go back ever since.
|Waiting in line for an hour.|
[We actually only got to spend 3 hours at the Prado which, sad times. But I'm going to do the museums on my next visit and I can get in for free with my ID because I'm here on a student visa! Yay technicalities!]
Noticing a possibility for snow in the forecast for last Saturday [which didn't pan out, but now it's supposed to snow tomorrow...boo], I quickly booked one night at a Madrid hostel. I am also currently hosting a Flat Stanley from a friend's elementary school class and I figured pictures of the palace in Madrid would be pretty cool :)
Looking at bus schedules, I learned that there was a strike going on. About half of the normally planned buses between Madrid and Soria aren't running at the moment. No big deal, I thought, I can always try the ride-sharing thing if I need to. [Spoiler: this didn't work out so well.]
Because of the strike, I meant to buy my ticket ahead of time just in case, but since Fridays are super busy, it completely slipped my mind. When I got to the bus station Saturday morning, the first bus was already "completo."
Crap. I sat down in the waiting room and sent a message to a ride-share guy that was leaving in 45 minutes. And then, miraculously, someone returned their ticket and I got a seat.
My first stop in Madrid was the Apple Store. This has a ridiculously long backstory, but basically: parents bought me a new [used] iPhone for Christmas since my dad's old one is too old for most apps. Previous owner was a jerk and had neither unlocked nor erased/reset the phone before selling it. I can therefore do nothing but use the alarm, take pictures, and play Solitaire.
So my dad suggested I go to an Apple Store to see if they would delete his accounts for me. They wouldn't.
Which was really annoying to learn after an hour on the Metro and the 1.50 euro surcharge I had to pay because the store was in a mall waaaaay outside the city center. I was consoled by purchasing the most delicious pita sandwich I think I've ever eaten.
The rest of the afternoon was fantastic. I dropped my stuff off at the hostel and headed out for sightseeing. I first stopped at the Sabatini Gardens which my family and I had missed despite being about 500 feet away from them [right next to the palace]. These are a fairly new addition, having been built where the royal stables used to be.
After admiring the view and successfully giving someone directions to the Cathedral, I headed over to the Templo del Debod. Basically, the Spanish helped the Egyptians save some ancient temples, and to say thanks, the Egyptians gave them one.
So there's a legit Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid.
The park around the temple is also beautiful, so I wandered a bit before getting in the line to go inside. It was pretty windy, so I was debating the value of waiting in the cold just to see this little temple. But I would say it was worth it, especially since it was free. The carvings that were still preserved on the walls were incredible! Plus now I can say I've seen a little piece of Egypt, even if I never make it there myself.
I stopped for dinner at a pizza place I had passed earlier because I have been craving pizza like crazy. I was good and went to a little Spanish restaurant and refrained from stopping at a Domino's by the mall for lunch. I got one slice of "canibal" pizza - basically meat lovers, none of them being human - and the "pizza of the day" which was cheese with a Spanish cucumber-like vegetable.
Also it was 3 euros. I am cheap, especially when it comes to food.
Sunday morning, I was woken bright and far too early by some crazy 6 a.m. partiers on the street. And then only half slept the next hour and a half because everyone in the hostel snored so loudly. I swear, all the snorers in the city were staying there.
But they offered free breakfast, which makes up for a lot.
|Catedral de la Almudena|
I walked back to the same part of town to visit the Cathedral and Palace. By this point, I've been inside so many Spanish churches that they all start to blend together. The distinguishing factor here was the modern stained glass windows and the decoration of the ceiling. It's a painted ceiling, but really just in patterns and bands of color, which is not very typical.
|Also, look at that organ.|
[The Valencia Cathedral had some similar murals commissioned by Rodrigo Borgia, AKA the Pope with a bunch of kids who maybe had a fondness for poisoning people.]
I also visited the Crypt, which was beautiful but appropriately somber. Unfortunately, the Cathedral Museum and access to the cupola are not open on Sundays, so I'll have to go back another time.
Then the Royal Palace.
|Oh, the Royal Palace.|
I was so disappointed in December when we arrived 1 minute [literally, one minute] after they stopped letting people in. So this was my primary goal for the weekend. I timed it perfectly - I walked up and bought my ticket with no line whatsoever. There were a few people waiting when I walked past to go to the Cathedral, and even more when I was leaving, so I was really happy with how that turned out.
I skipped the 4 euro audioguides and just stalked a couple of tour groups for extra background information on all the rooms. I'm going to borrow a couple of pictures from Google to show y'all since photos aren't allowed inside.
|The throne room. The lions were part of a table that burnt in a fire. So they added the tops of their heads and here they are.|
|The Gasparini Room. Embroidering the walls [yes, embroidering] took 55 years, about twice as long as constructing the whole palace.|
|The Banquet Hall, created so one of the King Alfonsos could throw a big wedding party for his daughter. Before, it had been 3 rooms: the Queen's breakfast, lunch, and dining rooms. [The King had his own three rooms for eating.]|
|The Royal Chapel. They've got Saint Felix's mummy on display here because Queen Isabel II liked him so much, the Pope gave him to her as a present.|
I stopped for some mildly expensive churros y chocolate on my way back to my hostel, since I never could find a street vendor selling them. And then, disaster struck.
First, I realized that all but the very last bus to Soria were booked. This would have been okay, but I was really looking forward to Skyping with my family that evening and getting home at midnight was therefore not ideal.
Second, none of the ride-share drivers would return my messages/calls. I realize I should have arranged this more than 24 hours before, but really. There were four rides being offered, so I expected at least one of them to call back. Giving up on that, I bought a bus ticket online, thanking my lucky stars that the guy at the hostel desk let me use their printer.
Third, I lost a mitten.
And not just any mitten. My beautiful, orange, wool, handmade in Peru mitten. My super warm, combination glove/mitten. I love those mittens. I had been wearing them in the chilly morning and put them in my purse after going to the Cathedral, so it could have been lost anytime after that. I had to work to hold back tears.
I had a cup of tea to console myself, accidentally wandered through a new part of Madrid, headed back over to the tourist area to see if, by some miraculous chance someone had found my poor mitten at the palace or the churros restaurant [they hadn't] and then...waited. I bought a light dinner at the Corte Ingles, people watched in the Plaza del Sol, and stopped to listen to street musicians.
Eventually, it got to cold to sit around outside, so I hopped back on the Metro to wait in the bus station for about an hour and a half. [At least I finally finished Anna Karenina because of that wait.] I blessedly slept the whole bus ride, startling awake about two minutes before we pulled into the Soria bus station, and managed to Skype with my family after all.
|Palace and Cathedral, seen from the Templo del Debod park.|
So while as a whole, it was really a good experience, that poor lost mitten really tainted the weekend. [And the bus hassles. But those at least resolved themselves.]
RIP, dear little mitten. I hope you're enjoying yourself, wherever you ended up.