Not all who wander are lost
I don’t think I understood what a European adventure was until I was walking cobblestone streets, smelling the scents of patatas bravas, queso de cabra, and other tapas deliciosas while marveling at beautiful architecture.
However, experiences like that aren’t complete until you find yourself running around ungracefully in an international airport.
Yesterday I landed in Madrid, only to find that I was about a mile walk and a bus ride away from the terminal where I was meeting my group. I brought two suitcases, a guitar (in a massive 50 pound case, no less) and a backpack, which sounded like a great idea until I realized that no, my guitar does NOT balance on top of my suitcase when pulling it, nor do the suitcases stack neatly on top of one another.
So, now visualize me sweating and fast walking through an international airport, refusing the help of helpful passerby’s, because ya know, I just wanted to do everything myself. So then I gave up on that when someone let me use their luggage cart for free and I ended up finding the shuttle to the other terminal, which happens to be several miles from where I had landed.
When I found the group, I was greeted by some of our program directors, Marta and Juan, who are ridiculously nice and speak slowly in Spanish which is counter-regional. Which is great because everyone here talks SO FAST. But estoy aprendiendo! I am learning.
In Madrid, we stayed at Hotel Moderno, a really nice place that had air conditioning AND a delicious breakfast that was already paid for us. I don’t think I knew what real espresso was until I came to spain, because there are some incredible cafes all up and down Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and other parts of town.
El Prado and El Palacio Nacional. El Prado is a world-famous museum including works from some of the greatest artists of all time. I can’t decide if my favorite part was going into “the dark room”, where Goya, a famous painter, was going through a sad and very introspective time in his life. The paintings were disturbing, yet extremely thought provoking. However, I am blessed to have taken Civ Arts (Civilization & the Arts for the non-grovers reading this) where my phenomenal professor taught all of his students to really look and begin to appreciate the complexity, philosophical and theological implications of art. I actually got to see Diego Valezques’ Las Meninas, or in others words, his art work titled “The Ladies of The Court”. It is really something else to see a lecture come to life- to see a projection of an image materialize into something so tangible you could almost touch it.
El Palacio Nacional was so intricately and beautiful decorated I am still overwhelmed just thinking about it. There was a room decorated only with delicate tablets of intricately designed porcelain, many rooms with marble floors, silk tapestries, hand embroidered chairs, banquet tables that sat 150 or more people, and enormous crystal chandeliers. I found myself wondering what it would be like to live in the neoclassical time of the palace, telling a servant my order, tasting la sopa fría de tomate, and dancing with royalty.
But there is nothing better than the present time, right?
Did I mention how good the food is? And nobody has made me eat mushrooms or fish yet!
The first thing I ate in Spain (besides the swiss chocolate when departing the plane) was a tapa (a small portion of food typical in southern Spain especially) was a kebob of honeydew and ham. But the ham here looks more like prosciutto than regular deli ham in the states. It is thin and more dry, but is rich with flavor and is served with pretty much everything I have eaten here. They actually have several stores names “El Museo de Jamon” with a deli counter, but also places to st, legs of ham hanging from the ceilng, and the vibrant group of regulars who know exactly what to order.
(The above picture is of Madrid, right as I was arriving from the airport)