The French school system gave us a week off for winter break this past week, and so one of my friends and I disembarked on a 7 day journey through Spain and London (for good measure). In order to fit everything in that we wanted to, we had to leave from Lyon at 8am on Friday which means that we had to leave our houses at 6am. This usually would not be a big deal, but both of us were really sick and so we were miserable the entire day as we trudged around Madrid, taking the occasional photo and eating our weight in McDonalds food. The entire day, we sort of traveled around the city, seeing the occasional tourist attraction but for the most part just being in a sick haze.
Luckily, we were able to go to the Prado museum which holds a bunch of extremely old and impressive art, which was fun to see and an easy thing to do since we both felt like death. However, right across the street from the Prado was a huge church, and so we were walked into it and were instantly taken aback by just how much gold was in there! One of our friends from Brazil told us before we went to Madrid that they had all of South America’s gold so to get ready for everything to be elaborate and gold but I didn’t really believe it until we went to this church. For a better representation of what was going on in there, see below:
After walking around the church a little bit (it wasn’t that big, so it did not take that much time, but we had to take a while to marvel at all of the gold in it), we headed over to the Prado Museum, which we found out was completely free for students! Hurray! You were not allowed to take pictures in the museum, so I pretty much just avoided that, and then we went back to the hostel where we watched Disney movies until we fell asleep.
The next day we were feeling better, so we made it to the free walking tour which met in Plaza Mayor, which is an extremely old square where the king and queen used to live and where they also used to have executions. Cool. When we first arrived, we were met with our super cool tour guide, Sebastian, and also a bunch of random street performers who I really did not like. They were all wearing janky outfits of cartoon characters like Spongebob and Mickey Mouse. It felt like an even creepier Mann’s Chinese Theater.
Also, before I go on, here is a picture of the Plaza Mayor. The part that is painted is the part of the original building, and the other non-painted parts were built after a huge fire burned down all of the rest of the parts of the building down.
On this tour, we saw a bunch of the sites, like the Plaza Mayor, Sol Square, a bunch of churches, a few really old restaurants and bars, and also the cathedral below. This cathedral was built in 1993 and is a very important square because it incorporates the Catholic Church (the cathedral), Muslims, with the walls that were built by the Moors, and also Judaism with the Star of David fountain right in the middle there. It is an homage to the peaceful living that the three religions had when the Moors were living in Madrid, and as Sebastian added, is also the ugliest cathedral in Europe!
Also on the tour we went to Madrid’s royal palace which had a very cool fountain / statue / thing outside of the front of it which apparently is a person who died of old age and not in battle (as the statue would express). Their castle was modeled after Versailles because the king at the time really wanted to compete with France, since they were gaining a lot of power during that time period, and also because his son or cousin or something (I’m lost because all of the royal families are somehow related) was in the French governmental system at the time. Their castle in Madrid is actually bigger than the one in Paris, but their gardens are much less spectacular because a huge war broke out while they were doing the gardens. Instead of being placed next to this castel, most of the gardens were built about 20 minutes outside of the city at another castle. Below is a picture of the fountain that is placed in front of the castle, which you can sort of see behind of it.
We also headed towards an art exhibit which was also an open space for the public to go and study / work. They had a bunch of cool things there, including an actual paintings exhibit on the top floor which featured work about cities in general and featured mostly Spanish painters. On the other floors, there were things such as chairs (apparently that is art), video displays, and an exhibit on fashion. It was a really cool thing to stumble upon, and allowed us to kill an hour before we went to go have dinner later in the day. Here are a few pictures from the place:
The building also had some really cool stairwells, which you can see me posing in front of below:
At the end of that day, the same thing happened where we went back to the hostel and passed out as we watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the best Disney movie ever; sorry Bonfrisco). Luckily we did not have to be up at any certain time the next day, so we woke up around 11am and then were ready to face the day~~ This day we went to the Sofia Regia museum where we saw the huge Picasso painting, Guernica. But we were not allowed to take any pictures of Guernica (not even with an iPad, as the man next to me found out), so we left after that to get some very much needed coffee with one of my other friends who had shown up later in that day. And then we went to Lateral, a really amazing tapas place! Unfortunately, we ate too quickly in order for me to get a photo of the food while it was out, but I did manage to get a great photo of all of the empty plates.
Also, their placemats were super cute!
After that night, we went back to the hostel and waited for our 6:30am flight, where we took at 70 euro taxi (yep….that happened….the metros weren’t open though, so we did not have a choice!) and then got lost through the airport as I dragged my 80 pound bag across the entire airport. When my friend and I sat down on the plane, we instantly fell asleep. Even slept through the take off and landing. Whoops. But it was all worth it because we woke up in one of my favorite places: Barcelona! Stay tuned for my part two of winter break post on Barcelona soon! Hopefully I will be able to write it today, but no promises because I am still extremely tired from this past week of non-stop traveling and may just spontaneously fall asl………………..