After finally arriving in Madrid after a solid 11 hours of travel, I felt more than a bit out of place. My phone did not work because I didn’t have my pin number (for some reason in Europe you need to use a pin number every time you turn on your phone…strange). Once in the hostel I contacted Courtney and told her to come find me. I didn’t trust myself to walk around Madrid, in a country where I cod not speak a word of the language, without a phone and without a sensible understanding of my location in the city. It was more than a bit disconcerting.
I waited for Courtney downstairs in front of our hostel, which happened to be located in the main downtown area of Madrid. We could not have easy found a better location. We were down the street from the Plaza del Sole which had lots of night life, restaurants, shops and bars. The best, and craziest, part of our hostel, though, happened to be the Haribo store right underneath the hostel. For this of you who are unfamiliar with Haribo, it is a gummy candy company, with their most famous product being gummy bears!! Besides having an obsession with the candy, gummy bears are sort if the de facto “thing” of my relationship with Courtney. She calls me her bear, I call her my bear, and for Valentines Day I gave her a giant gummy bear. We love the things and the fact that there was an entire store dedicated to the candies right under our hostel made me laugh and smile.
Waiting outside my heart began to race. The excitement swelled in my chest as I searched the wave of people walking down the steer hoping that I would see her face. After about ten minutes I finally saw my familiar but oh too distant girlfriend sauntering quickly down the street as she searched the skyline looking for hostel. She didn’t see me but I saw her and practically ran up to her. Her gaze moved downwards at the last moment and she smiled. She ran into my arms.
Poor Courtney was fairly sick, so we took a long nap from about 7-9:30. Then we went out to meet up with some kids from her program for tapas. I was ravenous. Courtney’s group mates, including a friend of mine Jayson, had already eaten but they walked with us yo find some food. Not exactly having much of an idea of where to head we finally picked some little bar and got blood sausage and croquets. The sausage was delicious, but the croquets were eh. My first experience of Spanish food did little to impress me. After dinner we went to be instead of experiencing the famous Madrid nightlife because Courtney really needed sleep to get better. I didn’t mind much because I came to Madrid specifically to see Courtney, not to go dancing(even though that would have been awesome!).
At 11 the next morning we once again met with Courtney’s group, this time in front of the Prado museum where her program directors were giving them a tour of the wonderful art there…in Spanish! Addio mio! Oh well, if necessary Courtney could translate for me and if not I would at least appreciate the art. Surprisingly, though, I understood about 70 percent of the tour. I felt proud of myself granted that Courtney’s director spoke in quite elementary Spanish. The artwork in this massive museum, though nowhere near as good ad that in Italy, was fairly magnificent. The Renaissance hit Spain later than in Italy and it was interesting to see the different styles if Spanish artwork to Italian. Also, there were more modern pieces of art so I had the chance to look at landscape art instead of only religious pieces. Courtney and I stayed after her group had left, wandering around, trying to take all of it in.
We left around 2 and found a nice restaurant on the walk home. I originally planned on eating tapas again, but Courtney kindly informed me that tapas are generally an after dinner, pre going out or during going out food. So, instead, I ordered myself the roast suckling pig and a casserole of baby eels and shrimp. Casserole in Spain actually means cooked in oil or butter with garlic and spices an served in a small kind of clay ‘pot’. They were good, but a bit bland. Courtney’s Serrano ham and fruit salad was much better. Then the main dishes arrived and I gasped at the size of my platter which was a veritable pile of meat! Apparently lunches are the major meal in Spain. Oh well, when in Madrid! I happily ate the tender meat, but was slightly disappointed in its blandness. It tasted like American chicken with more fat. The smile pile of mushrooms and roasted peppers, though, were quite delicious. I guess you have to know the right restaurant for suckling pig but neither Courtney nor I had appropriately prepared for the trip by following my dad’s advice on where to eat suckling pig. It happens.
We then siestaed the afternoon away before going to watch the BC football game online at the dorm (actually a hostel) of Courtney’s two BC roommates, Meg and Tess, who are studying abroad in Madrid. After the game we got some fairly good tapas at a restaurant. We first tried to eat in a covered market type are which turns into an indoor food festival at night. There are restaurants and tapas bars and people selling food everywhere. There are no waiters and it’s quite hectic and expensive. Deciding that we would rather sit down and eat we moved on. After a nice meal with some other BC people who happened to be in Madrid we got some churros, which are like doughnut sticks. Yummy, but by then I was uncomfortably full! Again we called it an early night because Courtney still did not feel very well. Unfortunately we could not go to the discoteca with the girls, but I plan on heading back to Spain at some point with a healthy Courtney so that Meg and Tess can show us a proper Spanish weekend!
Leaving was hard. I had just reaccustomed myself to having Courtney around at all tomes and it felt good. I loved every moment that we spent together. My heart sank at the thought of once again not being with her. I could literally feel myself sinking in sadness. We walked to the subway not saying much because neither of us wanted to actualize the sad future which awaited us. Luckily, we knew that in 2 weeks we would reunite in Paris, so the sadness and emptiness would only be temporary. Man, I cannot wait for next weekend.
Overall my first impression of Spain was not the greatest in the world. I didn’t see much of the city but what I saw did not impress me. Madrid is crowded, loud and very smoky which really bothers my lungs. Worst of all, though, the food disappointed me terribly. Perhaps I’m spoiled when it comes to Spanish food thanks to Ibiza, the 5 star Spanish restaurant in New Haven with its tapas bar in Hamden, but the Spanish food in Madrid left a lot to be desired. There were few vegetables and overall the quality of that which we ate was neither special nor anything close to as good ad what I’ve been eating here in Italy. I’ve heard, though, that the food is better in Granada. Good thing I’m seeing Courtney there for Halloween!!!