Friday, August 21, 2009

Travel Log, June 18-20, 2009

****Madrid pictures HERE****

[Written June 19]

We are relaxing in Madrid, doing exactly what we hoped so much to do: enjoy AC, views of the bustling city, and iced caramel machiattos. We are, in fact, in our second Starbs of the day. Don't worry--no McD's, but forgive us for being tired of cafe au laits and cafe con leches or branching out and perhaps losing the gamble that is ordering what you don't completely understand. SO GOOD.

[Written June 20]

Well, folks. Today is it. We are having our last Spanish meal at...Starbucks on Gran Via [I am sensing a theme] and are flying HOME in a few hours. Praise the Lord and al hemdu Allah.

This has been beautiful, weird, eye-opening, and crazy. My body has finally cracked--nothing sounds good to eat, nothing digests normally, and I am STARVING but can't eat. Even my coffee must be choked down. I will go home and drink beautiful NJ tap water and fresh grapes ONLY for at least two weeks. OH MAN I crave FRESH GRAPES [underlined three times].


Finally in the plane!!! Almost ready to fly out of Madrid, on the way HOME! After Starbs, we returned to Hostal Greco to check out. Our hostel was fab--it's a former brothel [actually, I wrote "formal brothel" in my journal, but I know what I meant], recommended to me by Meg and reserved for us by Alberto the Spanish PPL intern. The cute older couple who run it only speak Spanish--thankfully, in person, my Spanish is good enough to get by. :) Bueno. B and I had a double room and our OWN bathroom with REAL shower (not just a shower head next to a toilet). I was actually surprised to see two twin beds--not one queen. We had a lovely balcony, but as it was freaking hot, we stayed off of it.

We easily found the airport, Beth's friend Angela (returning to the states from nine months in Spain), and more coffee. The only hold up was at check-in: security was thorough, and needed details of our trip through Morocco. Took a while to explain...(I was pleased though--the guy saw my henna-foot and said "Oh, you've come from Morocco!" Si! :D)

Angela and Beth in the airport:
We found Angela!

Now, we sit. I tell you of Madrid.

June 18th, 2009

The flight from Tanger was fine. I slept. In Madrid, we found the metro, talked to a nice info guy, got a map, and navigated the train system no problem. It is like the DC metro.

Once at our stop (Tribunal), we began walking in the wrong direction. Using only Spanish, I got directions from a guy and we found our hostel. In spite of the reservation being made sans credit card number and only for "Jess", they expected us!

Yay Hostal Greco!
On our balcony, next to the hostel sign!

After a rest and shower (oh beautiful shower), we set off for an early-for-Spain dinner at 7pm. We certainly opened the restaurant. The fixed 3-course menu was fab. My jamon y tomatoes on toast, red wine, and cheesecake were fab. After, we found hostel, chatted a ton, and then zonked. Well, as much as we could with the heat and pounding partying from the bar next door. Sigh.

On the plane

Just watched "He's Just Not That Into You." It is insightful, appropriate kind of for now, and really funny! I like Putumayo's Israel CD in US Airways' music selection.

June 19, 2009

So, second day in Madrid. We got up around 9am and left around 9:30am for Starbucks. Oh how lovely! Sandwich de jamon y queso y un caramel machiatto. Mmmm. Then, armed with Top 10 Madrid, we set off on a walking tour of Center City. We walked along Gran Via and saw domed Metropolis, walked around Plaza de Cibeles and down Paseo del Prado. We saw the Prado and Catedral San Jeronimo, but didn't go into any art museums. We crossed to Parque del Rique and got ice cream bars (not Magnums :( ), which we ate on the grass, and compared Morocco and Spain. Conclusions: they are very different. :P We saw tons of cleavage, women in coffee shops, and healthy dogs on leashes doted on by people.

Breakfast in Starbs:
Breakfast: Starbucks

Beth in Plaza de Cibeles:


No Westies:
No dogs

Catedral San Jeronimo:
Me and Catedral San Jeronimo

Ice cream, farmer's tan, and non-Morocco-clothes:
Farmer's taaaan!!!!

We walked through the park to the Palacio de Cristal, passing by billions of fountains. The palace is just a big glass building by a pond. We admired two black swans and a host of turtles--most swimming, one sunning himself on the steps.


Inside the "palace", there was a person-sized stuffed rat and a panda hanging from the ceiling while rain/nature sounds played. Huh. We think it was "modern art"...

Inside Palacio de Cristal

We continued up to a great big pond by a huge monument to some king. We hung out taking pics for a while, trying to avoid taking pics of naked statues. That's hard, man.


Further up, there was a whole series of adorable whimsical creature statues:
Oh there's another!



We exited the park via the Plaza de Independencia, and found lunch along the way to Puerta del Sol. Surviving on Spanish, we ordered semi-blindly and got:

Me--cod (?), lettuce and tomato salad, empanadas.

Beth--fries, eggs, hamburger sans bun.
Beth got...french frieds, eggs, and meat.

Anecdote: We ate SO many fries and eggs in Morocco. On the flight to Madrid, we said we didn't want to eat them ever again. First night, Beth knowingly ordered fries, eggs, and sausage. She then promptly swore to never do that again. Very next meal (after breakfast): oh yes. Fries, eggs, and meat. Silly girl.

We also drank a tasty and refreshing cerveza.

Puerta del Sol was under massive construction. We did see the statue that I maintain is a bear kissing a mushroom cloud:
Famous statue of a bear kissing a mushroom cloud.

Right??? What ELSE could it BE??

Continuing on, we found Plaza Mayor, and wondered vaguely why Minnie and Tigger were available for pictures.
Bethy and Plaza Mayor
Why is Minnie in Plaza Mayor?

It was HOT by now, and we were dying. We made it to the Catedral and Palacio Real, where we actually paid and went in. We saw Charles IV art exhibit and walked through the lovely and gaudy palace rooms. (We couldn't take pictures inside.)

We chilled in the Palace Cafe for a while, drinking fizzy water and eating our 2nd ice cream bar of the day. Mine: a Magnum variety called Frac. HAHAHAHA. It was vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate coating. (Battlestar Galactica fans should know why that's funny.)
Fizzy waterrr!

We walked home from there and collapsed in the room for a while. Night's goal: TAPAS.

Who KNEW that bar hopping for tapas was so HARD??

We stopped in one that was rec'd by our book, but it didn't open for another 1.5 hours. We found a good one with great red wine. (Fyi, "rot" is "red" in GERMAN, not Spanish. Ahem.) We got a cheese platter and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). YUMMY.
Gambas al ajillo

Now, the first bar was open. [Remember: it was in the "Tapas" section of the guidebook.] We returned, entered, and were startled by a spiffily dressed doorman who popped out of a room and rang a bell signaling that we were walking up the classy wooden staircase. Huh. Another spiffy man greeted us and led us through a sophisticated fancy dining room, in which there was only one older couple dining. He lit candles on our table, gve us a roll, fancy butter, and the wine list and menu. WAIT. The menu has no tapas. The wine list has 57 Euro-[Huge Number]Euro wine bottles. Shooot. We decided to get only dessert, because we couldn't afford/didn't even want a full meal. (And were too embarrassed to just leave.) They stared at us as we investigated the wine list in horror. When two waiters brought us unsolicited appetizers, we had to stop and say "Ummm we JUST want dessert and wine."

They stared. "Oh no, Ma'am. This is a RESTAURANT. You must EAT. It is not possible to just get DESSERT."

'Scuse me? The dining room's empty, your desserts are 13 Euros, and you won't let us buy them? FINE. We slunk out. Whatever. Malish. Snotty jerks.

Next, for our final tapas attempt, we stooped to the other extreme. This bar had a leg o'pig hanging by the register. This bar had only two young women patronizing it. (Ok, it was 8:30--very early for Spain.) This bar's two tenders were smoking on the job.

We ordered red wine. For the record, it was not very good. Beth got another cheese plate, and somehow I thought "salmon with blue cheese" might be good in a dive bar. The salmon was not cooked, slapped on blue cheese, spread on hard toast. Beth laughed hysterically as I cut up the toast and removed each salmon piece from each bread piece individually. Well, I laughed hysterically when we waited for her cheese plate (after I received my salmon). just has to cut up CHEESE and put it on a PLATE. Right? We watched our server
1. take a shot,
2. drink an entire beer,
3. and go out for a smoke.

When it did arrive, it was mostly blue cheese, which she hates, and I had had plenty already.

Tapas fail:
Tapas FAIL.

Oh goodness. We left most of both dishes untouched. FINE, SPAIN. We admit defeat by your tapas.

Thankfully, we ran into MAGNUMS. Yes. We had a third and thankfully final ice cream bar of the day.

We enjoy Magnums.

By the end of the night, we compiled a List of Foods to Never Eat Again:
1. Fries
2. Eggs
3. Chicken
4. Ham
5. Ice cream bars
6. Bread
7. Cheese
8. Pastries
9. Muffins
10. Cafe au lait
11. Mint or other tea
12. Cooked vegetables
13. Melon
14. Potatoes

We think that leaves:
1. Broccoli (raw)
2. Grapes


We walked home through the red light district. They were really obvious. It makes me so sad for the women who are reduced to that.

We once again incoherently and hysterically chatted in the room and tried to process this trip. How WILL we explain it to everyone? Really? We tried to agree on our story, cause the truth is too weird. Once again, I say, al hemdu Allah for the land in which we understand and are understood, at least mostly, in spite of its and our faults. Going away is fun and refreshing, but home's best, folks.

June 20, 2009

This morning, we Starbsed. Nothing sounded good, so I went with a plain croissant. Eew. Even to that.

We packed, checked out, and you know the rest!

I did find it amusing, that on the US Customs form, I had to check YES, I WAS in contact with livestock. Oh DONKEY. How I heart thee. Not.

Now I am watching Valkyrie.


I love going through US Customs. At least the two times I've done it. They are so NICE. My guy said, "Hello, Darlin!" He asked how long I was gone, when the last time I was on that farm (from my customs slip), and said "oh that's fiiine" and crossed out the "yes" for livestock and farm and wrote "no". Then, "Safe travels home, dear!" YAY I AM HOME!

I hugged Angela and Beth goodbye, called Meg and Luc for a ride, and got a smoothie. Yea non-bread-or-egg-product!

I am determined to not sweat things. Life is hard. My life is pretty easy. The Lord is my Shepherd. He will lead and guide me. I need to work hard, be a good friend, and love people. I am infinitely blessed. Uncountably. Thank you Lord for my AMAZING trip, Please keep me from forgetting it, and let me continue to show Your love and use the resources you've given me so much of!!!

****There will be one more wrap-up post.****

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