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Madrid y Toledo Trip - Part 1
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
geekhyena
 Sorry for the long gap in updating - partially due to being busy and partially due to forgetting.  Will update more often, I swear.

In the meantime, let me tell you about my first foray into the world of traveling alone.  I spent the past weekend in Madrid and Toledo, and it was awesome.   Stayed in a hostel for the first time, went to a bunch of museums, and had an amazing time.  More detailed info below.

Thursday

Took the afternoon train up to Madrid.  Awesome scenery - Roman bridges, mountains, and lots of shaggy red cows.  Unfortunately all my pictures of said cows turned out blurry.  But it was awesome to see sheep and cows grazing amongst the ruins of old walls and houses.  My host mom packed me more food than I could eat, so I had plenty for both lunch and dinner, and some to save for Friday and Saturday.  Lots of nonperishable stuff, like oranges and some Fanta and dried fruit.  

Stayed in the hostel Residencia Musas.  www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Musas-Residence/Madrid/25547  Would definitely stay there again.  Good price (e40 for two nights on a weekend), nice and quiet, and I wound up sharing a room with 3 Brazilian girls who could not believe I wasn't Spanish (I get that a lot...).  Also, even if you speak Spanish, there is no way to understand Portuguese.  We had better luck communicating via what English they knew and plenty of gestures.  Nice girls, though.  Only downside to the hostel was that breakfast was just toast and really bitter coffee - but there's a churreria 2 blocks away that is really nice and cheap, so that makes up for it.  Also a bit loud at night and the hot water wasn't working in the shower, but not too bad.  

Friday

Got up early, got breakfast, and set out to see Madrid's big 3 art museums: The Prado, the Thyssen, and the Reina Sofia.  Got to the Prado just as it opened (after getting lost a few times - even with a map, Madrid is confusing), and enjoyed a lovely morning wandering around and seeing every single room.  Durer's Adam and Eve had finally been restored, so I got to see that, as well as Velazquez's Las Meninas, one of my favorite paintings.  Also got to see a wonderful collection of Goya's works, including La Maja Desnuda, one of my favorites, and his painting of Saturn eating one of his children, a painting that always scared the heck out of me as a kid (we had a mythology book that had that picture in it and I always used to flip past that page rather quickly.  It's very graphic).  I recommend Rick Steve's tour that he outlines in his guide to Spain - it allowed me to get background on the paintings I saw.  I also got a book of Goya's art, and one on the Prado itself.   Aside from having to dodge tour groups, it was very fun indeed and I had a wonderful time.

I spent the rest of my time before lunch at the Thyssen. Now I originally hadn't planned on going there, mostly because I'd never heard of it, but one of my professors recommended it and I'm glad I went.  It has a lovely collection of old paintings, from the Middle Ages clear to impressionists and some modern art, all arranged chronologically.  It also has some unique pieces - one of Hans Holbein the Younger's portraits of Henry VIII, a portrait of a young Catherine of Aragon right next to it,  several rooms of works by Dutch painters, and even some American art, too.  It was less crowded and quieter than the Prado, too, which was a nice, relaxing change.  Also got a book of its art, which was well worth it.

After having lunch at a restaurant recommended in Rick Steve's guide (noting that to him, 'cheap' is anything under e25 per meal), I headed over to the Reina Sofia, which is free to students.  Seeing Guernica in person is....powerful.  For one, it's huge.  And it's such a powerful piece - you can feel Picasso's emotions as he painted it - betrayal, a sense of loss, a sense of outrage that this could've happened, and overarching, a profound sense of pain.  It was very profound.  I also liked the large collection of Dali's art, and the propaganda posters from Franco's era.  A lot of the rest....I wasn't incredibly fond of.  At some point my brain goes from "this is art" to "is this art?" and that happens around the 'I think I'll just glue random stuff to a canvas and call it art' phase.  Also quite a bit of anti-US art from recent years.  

After finishing my museum jaunt, I wandered around Madrid a bit before heading back to my hostel for a siesta.  I asked the reception desk person where a good place for tapas was and was told to try El Tigre, which was about 20 minute's walk away.  I was not disappointed.  With my glass of tinto de verano I got a huge plate of well....a little bit of everything.  Jamon serrano with tomatoes, calamari, chicken wings, meatballs, and things I couldn't name but tried anyway and liked.  The potatoes in spicy sauce were really good, too - I could've polished off a plate of those.  While drinking my tinto de verano (which they pour from a rather risque-looking pitcher), I met a girl from Sonoma and her friend, who were thrilled to meet another American in the bar and invited me to sit with them.  Which was good because it gave me an excuse to get away from these Italian guys who had followed me to the bar after asking me outside if I needed directions, if I was alone, and if I was sure I didn't want to go off to a side street while they gave me directions.  (to which my answers were no, no, and hell no).  They wound up hitting on a group of girls on the other side of the bar, and I talked to Sara and her friend Melanie, who were up from Sevilla for the weekend.  Sara ordered a round of sidra for the three of us, and I ordered a racion of jamon serrano.  I didn't realize that the sidra the bar is famous for is also alcoholic...or super potent, until I'd drunk half the glass.  I got invited to go clubbing with them after we finished our food and drinks, but I declined.  I had an early train to Toledo to catch the next morning and I was feeling a bit lightheaded.

I walked back to my hostel, stopping in the main square to listen to a few musicians.  There was a group with a violin, drummer, and accordion that had a good beat and I listened to them for a bit, then listened to a bagpiper who was really awesome.  I did not know you could play Bohemian Rhapsody on bagpipes.  I chatted with him for a bit when he took a break - he was from New Zealand studying and bagpiped on weekends.  Tossed him a euro as I left, went back to the hostel, packed, and went to sleep.



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