Sunday, March 11, 2012

No hablo ethpañol

«there and back again, an Iberian tale: part 2»

Day 5

And so the saga continues, as night turns to day, we find our heroes pressing onward, to sights yet unseen (except the Madrid airport . . . we were literally just there).

So our afternoon flight to Madrid went smoothly. Everything in order. Made it to the hostel. A bit sterile for my taste, but better sterile than feral. Went for dinner. Em and I got some AMAZING veggie plates with goat cheese (which we attempted to replicate a few nights ago in her apartment with ferocious success).

Then that night Adrien and I went out "on the town" with a large group from the hostel. We ended up meeting 2 other students from Beijing and South Korea who were very friendly. And, you know, I'm all for meeting new people and chatting it up real nice and stuff, but in the back of my mind, and the front, and also both sides, I couldn't help but remember that part in HOSTEL when the 2 main characters made friends with 2 other Asian students from their hostel, and then they got tortured and their eyeballs sucked out of their heads. (You know, it's probably best if I stop there.) Let's just say, 24 hours was NOT enough time to get over that trauma, and it was pretty much all I could think about.

Day 6

Holy Toledo!

After meeting a French guy named Julien from the hostel the day before, we decided to throw caution to the wind, hop a bus, and join him in exploring the old Spanish capital of Toledo! Toledo is old-timey. Toledo is tranquil. Toledo is heavily armed with swords and battle axes.

Such a diva


The Knight Bus!! (cred: Emily)

(cred: Emily)

Then we found a very nice overlook area with a swing set and reposed there for maybe half an hour.

This picture makes me smile. (cred: Adrien)

(cred: Adrien)

(cred: Emily)

(I'm stealing a lot of photos, y'all. Just bear with me.)

They actually were doing pull ups.
My angle is deceiving.

So then that night, after bussing back to Madrid, we decided to attend a private flamenco show organized by our hostel. The guy came by at about 9 and led us to this run-down looking tavern thing. Let me paint a picture for you.

So you walk into this room. I don't think it was very big. I don't even really remember anything about it, what it looked like, what was in it. Probably things. But I couldn't tell you because all of my focus was immediately zeroed in on the large trap door in the middle of the floor.

"Yeah, the flamenco show is just down those steps."

Sure it is, psycho killer. Sure it is.

We descended into the crypt. Like every other horror movie ever. And we soon found ourselves within the jaws of a nicely lit, yet slightly claustrophobic, cavernous cellar. There was a bar and a little stage and mannequin legs hanging from the ceiling.

No, this is definitely normal.

But everyone just grabbed a stool and waited patiently for the show to start, completely unaware that this is exactly how The Exorcist started.

Once I accepted the fact that I wasn't going anywhere, I joined the others in making conversation with my seat-neighbors. Unlike the other 30 or so 20-somethings in the chamber, my seat-neighbor was a 60-something year old grandmother from Vancouver named Martha. She was quite fascinating. She told me about how the Olympics didn't actually have that much of an affect on traffic when they were in Vancouver.

(This has been "Good Story, Marth" with Martha from Vancouver.)

Then the flamenco show started. This is where it's gonna get a little tricky for me to describe. Because the show was so much more amazing than I had anticipated.

For those of you who may not be Spanishly well-versed, flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance, music, and song that originated in theee . . . . eeeighteenth century? We'll go with that. In the eighteenth century.  Basically it's a very energetic spectacle with a LOT of emotion involved--usually performed by one or more dancers, a singer, and some guitar players.

The version we saw was a single female dancer, 2 flamenco guitarists, and a singer. And it was totally improvised; that's what got me. They would feel the music and move so fluidly with one another. I don't really know what I was feeling, but I was definitely feeling something. It was just unreal. And the setting, creepy-factor aside, was very intimate and pleasant once the show started.

Nikita actually managed to snag some photos during the set. I had significantly less forethought. Thanks, facebook.

Though I can't imagine they live like kings doing this for a
living, I guarantee you they wouldn't be doing anything else.

Day 7

The next day we set out early-ish for a free guided tour around the Madridian hotspots.

We started in Plaza Mayor.
Or Platha Mayor as the Spaniards so adorably pronounce it.

So this statue has an interesting history. Apparently a few hundred years ago, Plaza Mayor was a foul mess of gut-wrenching odors, and no one could figure out why. They scrubbed the square clean and spotless, but, alas, the smell persisted. Then something history related that went way over my head happened, and some anarchists decided to bomb the middle of the square, ie. the statue. (Maybe in response to the stench?) When they did, hundreds of dead rotting corpsy birds were sprayed all over the plaza.

Basically, every year, when the winter months came around, birds would seek shelter from the cold inside the horse statue's mouth.

They would crawl deep inside and come face to face with hundreds of years worth of friends, family, and distant ancestors all dead and rotting in unison in this Trojan Horse of a grave.

Out of fear, they would try to escape, only to realize their wingspans were too wide to fit through the opening once more. Their fate had been determined the moment they stepped inside.

Fellas, the way to a woman's heart is roof culture.

Ian, our guide, taught Adrien the basics of flamenco.
"You pick the fruit! You taste the fruit! You do not like it!
You throw it away!"

The bear and the tree--Madrid's symbol

Our three "Spanish kings." (cred: Nikita)
Julien, Steph the "loser," and poor poor Adrien the "lame"

Then, we headed back to the hostel, just completely exhausted from our three-hour tour ("a threeeee hour tour"). Once back in the room, we chatted with Nicole from Australia for about 2 and a half hours while some of the girls slept the exhaustion away.

That night, we left to meet up with Emily's cousin from Ireland who works in Madrid for dinner. Our new friends Natsuki from Japan and Stephanie (number 2) from Quebec joined us.

To get to the restaurant, a very crowded metro proved way too complicated, letting our inner tourists shine brightly and awkwardly. Basically there wasn't enough room in one metro car, so Adrien and I ran to another, getting there just in time. Once we finally got to our destination, we clambered out, looking around for the others, slightly overwhelmed and extremely confused. Then we saw them. They were stuck in the metro, sandwiched and unable to get off. 

At first I wasn't sure if maybe we got off at the wrong stop, so my legs and my head were caught in a battle of "get back on the metro!" and "don't do that, are you stupid!" All I remember was Emily's face, wide-eyed and panicked, as the metro slowly crept away toward its next destination.

And then there were none.

We eventually got them back, and made our way to the Tapas restaurant where we spent a lovely evening sharing appetizer-like portions of Spain's finest delicacies (or so our waiter verily convinced me). It was such a fantastic experience. Instead of the typical "this is my food, don't look at it" restaurant mentality, it was so fun to pass the plates and share both the food and our time together.

Day 8

We decided to hit up some of the museums, to add maybe a more cultured and sophisticated experience to our otherwise savage adventures. After trekking through a veritable sea of 70 year old women,

we finally made it to the Prado.

Here's my opinion on the Prado. I'm glad it exists. I appreciate what it is. But I don't want to look at it. There are simply TOO MANY PORTRAITS. I started to get sleepy and cheerless.

Belathketh (cred: Adrien)
the Prado's only saving grace.

We then went to the main park area to play "Where's Julien?" by the lake.

(cred: Emily)

Then it was off to the Reina Sofia (modern art), on the way spotting some guys from our tour and inviting them along.

This museum was a bajillion times more interesting than the Prado. And we saw GUERNICA by Picasso (@McCall, Sam, and Dejong). It was very impressive.

So basically,

Prado : Reina Sofia :: Louvre : Musée d'Orsay :: Uffizi : Bargello

Blurry. It probably didn't get switched
off manual . . . Adrien.

That night I couldn't sleep. We had a new roommate. And this roommate was raised by foghorns. It was a real-life orchestra of snoring; at one point I swear 3 people were going at it, creating an uncomfortable chordlike harmony. A snore chord.
I was forced to sleep with my arms stretched over my head to
better squish the blankets into my ears. For several reasons,
this did not help.

Then Natsuki started mumbling Japanese. And I cried little invisible tears til I fell back asleep.
Day 9

After Adrien left for his earlier flight, we spent our last day in Madrid wandering around in a groggy half-sleep, collectively prepared to just go home. So we shopped a little, and, if you know me even a little bit, you'll know that shopping is just not my thing. Never has been. I guess I'll just never understand how you can go into a store, try a bunch of things on, not buy anything, and still think you're having fun. But, I guess everybody's got a thing.

And we prevailed. A little worn and weary, but definitely ready to hit the road.

People in Madrid are slightly

However, the adventure was not over. We were running a little behind as we set out on the trek to the stop where we would catch the bus to get to the airport. So Nikita and I, not charged with lugging the communal suitcase, sped ahead a little, somewhat unknowingly. After a bit we realized Emily and Steph were no longer with us. So we waited.

Where were they?

After a few minutes, we saw them power-walking toward us with tense, huffy, exasperated looks on their faces. Apparently while they were walking, a woman had reached her hand in Emily's backpack and snatched her wallet. Thankfully, Steph saw it happen and sounded the "alarm."

Little did this woman know, Em is fierce. She immediately dropped her bags and took off after her, adrenaline pumping, blood boiling. She raced over to the woman who was fumbling with a clasp on the wallet, snatched it back with a powerful "THAT'S MINE," and walked pointedly in the other direction. You go, girl. You go.

We then spent another unseemly night in the Geneva airport. I don't like how comfortable I was walking through the terminal with no shoes and a toothbrush dangling from my mouth. Geneva airport, I need to take two steps back and reevaluate our relationship.
Day 10

After our upgrade to the homemade red chair beds, the night was slightly less sleepless than 240ish hours prior. We awoke to the sound of a rooster snoring, so we picked ourselves up and crawled to the gate, where I peeled and devoured a grapefruit I'd been carrying with me since I left Nice 10 days ago.


All in all, this trip was an amazing time with some really great friends. As a relatively first-time group traveler, the experience was so different from any of my more solitary vacations. Although it took us a million years to make any decisions, once we did, I was pretty much guaranteed a good time.

So thanks, you guys. I'm so glad I came with you.

And thank you Lisbians and Madruids. You guys are weird.

Amitiés :)

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