After a quick nap on the short plane ride from Barcelona to Madrid, my Dad’s friend from college, Elena, picked us up at the airport to take us to her house where we were staying. On the way, we stopped at an enormous art museum called the Prado. After a whirlwind tour of the majority of the enormous building, led by the ever-moving Elena, we gratefully followed her to a bar near the museum where we enjoyed a beer and some tapas.
Finally, we reached our destination, and were greeted by Pedro (Elena’s husband, and another friend of my Dad’s), and their children. Jaime, the eldest, had come to America years ago and stayed with my family for two weeks. Alex, the second oldest, did the same a few years later. Elena, the youngest and only girl, hasn’t come to the U.S. yet. She’s named after her mother and it’s actually pretty confusing to figure out which person they’re referring to when they say “Elena.”
After a delicious tortilla espanola (a type of quiche made with eggs and potatoes) we went to the park with Alex and his dog, Mocha, to meet some of his friends. It was rather entertaining attempting to communicate between their broken English, Morgan and Haley’s broken spanish, and my Italian. After a long day, we returned home to rest up before a full day in Madrid.
In the morning, after a big breakfast, Elena took us to the big park in Madrid so that we could work our way back across the city. We all commented on what a luxury it was to be driven around in a car. At this point, we’re so used to getting to a city and having to figure out the bus or metro system to get anywhere.
In the park, there was a crystal palace that was absolutely amazing. There were a lot of elderly people sitting in rocking chairs and reading in the bright Madrid sunshine inside the palace, which looks out on a pond that’s full of turtles. The turtles pull themselves up on to the sides and sun themselves. showing off for the tourists.
As we walked across the city, we stopped for coffees and enjoyed the external beauty of the buildings all around old Madrid. After some confusion and getting a bit off course, I finally relinquished my map to Morgan, and promised to actually enjoy the city instead of navigating constantly. We eventually found our way to the market (with a few stops in the local shops for a bit of shopping) and wandered around all the different stalls to find some lunch. We all ate a delicious hodge-podge of sweets and tapas along with fresh juice.
As the day ended, we went to see the Royal Palace and the Cathedral, before heading back to Elena’s brother’s bar to be picked up. Elena made a delicious potato salad for dinner, along with bread and sausage, and we were extremely grateful to have food to eat at home. After a quick rest, Alex’s friends came over, and we joined them in watching the soccer match between Madrid and Germany. We all laughed as Alex heated up a frozen pizza and brought out beers. It felt just like hanging out with college boys in America.
The next day, we wanted to see something a bit different, so Elena helped us plan a trip to Toledo, a small town outside Madrid. Toledo is known for its vast array of religions, and we were able to see a synagogue, a mosque, and a monastery, all of which were beautiful, before racing back to the train station to avoid missing our train home.
That night, Pedro and Elena prepared an enormous dinner of two different kinds of Paella, chicken and seafood, along with guacamole and salad. We all stuffed ourselves with delicious food and contentedly discussed our plans for the rest of the semester. Alex announced that he was going to meet his friends, and invited us along. We went with him for a bit, but it got quite cold. Morgan, between her broken Spanish and Italian, tried to say that she was cold, but somehow ended up announcing that she “fried too many eggs.” On that note, we headed home for one last good night’s rest before our flight to Paris.
The morning was hectic as Elena gave us one last tour of the city before we caught our flight. We exchanged hugs and farewells at the airport, with a promise to return some time, and headed off to our final destination: Paris!